The opera pump is rare yet stylish type of formal footwear that’s also known as the court shoe. A loafer made from either velvet or patent leather, it’s mostly recognisable by its silk bow across the throat.

In this guide, you’ll discover the best opera pumps to buy online as well as how the wear them:

You can click on one of the links above to jump ahead to a particular section, or continue below to read the entire article from start to finish.

Perspective View Of Black Opera Pump

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Quick Buyer’s Guide

Just looking for a quality pair of Opera Pumps? Use the Quick Buy guide to head straight to the retailers. Alternatively, scroll down to discover each one and read more about the style.

Best Value

To Boot New York Broadway Opera Pump

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Unique Style

Paul Parkman Woven Leather Loafer

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Most Affordable

Calvin Klein Bernard Opera Pump

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Velvet Pump

Massimo Matteo Velvet Slip On Tuxedo Shoes

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Plain Toe

Vince Camuto Bravi Opera Pump

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Burgundy Velvet

Magnanni Dorio Opera Pump

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What Are The Best Opera Pumps For Men?

In this part of the guide, you’ll discover the best Opera Pumps to buy online. It opens with a menu so you can easily navigate between each one. Otherwise, scroll down to discovery them all!

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1. To Boot New York Broadway [Best Value]

To Boot New York Broadway Opera Pump
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A classic patented loafer by To Boot New York, the Broadway unfortunately doesn’t have a silk bow across the throat. Nevertheless, it does offer the desired formality and style of a classic opera pump.

2. Paul Parkman Woven Leather Loafer [Unique Style]

Paul Parkman Woven Leather Loafer
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While technically a tassel loafer, we couldn’t help but include Paul Parkman’s woven leather shoe. Despite its ornate use of woven leather, it’s a stylish loafer that could potentially be worn formally in the right circumstances.

3. Calvin Klein Bernard [Most Affordable]

  • Color: Black
  • Material: Synthetic Patent Leather
  • Pricing: $110 [Buy From Zappos]
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Calvin Klein offers a stylish opera pump that’s considerably more affordable. While it’s only made from synthetic patent leather, it’s a great option for occasional formal use.

4. Massimo Matteo [Velvet Pump]

Massimo Matteo Velvet Slip On Tuxedo Shoes
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Instead of the mirror shine of patent leather, you could always enjoy the comfortable gleam of velvet when attending formal events. Massimo Matteo’s is a popular option that has received rave reviews.

5. Vince Camuto Bravi [Plain Toe]

Vince Camuto Bravi Opera Pump
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A more affordable alternative to the To Boot Broadway above, the Bravi by Vinceo Camuto is made with patent leather uppers with a ribbon down the heel.

6. Magnanni Dorio [Burgundy Velvet]

Magnanni Dorio Opera Pump
  • Colors: Black, Blue, Burgundy
  • Material: Velvet
  • Pricing: $295 [Buy From Zappos]
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In some circumstances, it’s possible to wear velvet loafers in colours other than black. If this takes your fancy, we highly recommend the Magnanni Dorio, which comes in either a subtle dark burgundy or blue velvet.

Opera Pumps Defined

Opera pumps are an evening dress slipper with sometimes a silk or grosgrain bow across the vamp. They’re typically available in black patent leather or calfskin.

Pumps are one of the three commonly accepted shoes to be worn for black- or white-tie occasions, the other two being a black patent Venetian loafer and black oxford shoes in either patent or calfskin.

Opera Pump History: They Look Like Women’s Shoes?

Top And Side View Of Opera Pumps

Usually when we hear the word “pump” as it relates to footwear, we think of women’s high-heeled shoes. The funny thing is that the opera pump, while it resembles a women’s ballet flat, it does not resemble a pump in that sense.

Regardless, it has a distinctly feminine feel, but that’s only if you don’t understand the history behind the shoe.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries (known as the Regency era n England), rich European men would wear these shoes in the evenings. They originally had a silver buckle across the vamp, but Beau Brummel’s minimalist influence saw them removed and replaced with the bow we see today.

As the Victorian era approached, these shoes were adopted for evening events where music or dancing was a focal point (hence the term “opera pump”). They are still the standard for white-tie events and are acceptable wear for black-tie ensembles.

To this day, opera pumps are still worn with English court dress. This is why they’re also referred to as “court shoes” in the U.K.

Opera Pumps Today

Black Opera Pump On Green Leaves

Opera pumps, as Alan Flusser states, are the only men’s shoes to enter the 21st century pretty much exactly as they left the 19th. It’s the last vestige of a men’s court shoe, something worn in the presence of royalty at high society events. When you don a pair, you are literally walking around in history.

This was a time when men wore shoes with heels that we would consider to be pretty feminine nowadays.

Interestingly, this shoe never caught on with the masses the way other styles of the rich and royal did. If you think about it, it’s a bit of a miracle that they’re still around.

As such, they’re particularly rare in the ready-to-wear market. As you’ll have seen in the list above, most formal patent loafers tend to omit the bow entirely. However, if you’re looking specifically for authentic opera pumps, we recommending premium shoemakers such as Gaziano Girling.

How To Wear Opera Pumps

Black Opera Pumps With Brick Background

While they’re not at all versatile, pumps are stylish as all get-out.

Formality

Technically, pumps are standard footwear for white-tie affairs (tailcoat) and an acceptable option for black-tie ones (tuxedo). Therefore, they’re only appropriate with formal or semi-formal attire.

With that said, rules were meant to be broken. If you’re going to wear these shoes outside of the guidelines above, knock yourself out. You’d just better bring your dandy A-game, otherwise your look will fall flat.

Seasonality

Pumps can be worn any time of year so long as the sun has gone down for the day.

Should You Wear An Opera Pump?

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something, right?

Yes, you should wear opera pumps if you feel so inclined. It’s a very bold move, so you must be prepared to stand out from the crowd, who will surely be wearing black patent oxfords or loafers.

You may come off as eccentric or peculiar, and the less sophisticated among us may wonder about your sexual orientation.

You’ve got to have style, and sometimes having style is synonymous with having balls.

None of these are reasons to not wear an opera pump, to be clear. We are firmly in the camp that anyone can pull anything off with some know-how and a little je ne sais quois, but you should know that it’s a bit of a risk.

Generally, men who fancy themselves shoe or clothes enthusiasts or who simply don’t give a damn will be drawn to the opera pump.

Perspective View Of Black Opera Pump

Final Thoughts On Court Shoes

We are all for men expanding their sartorial vocabularies and doing what they can to develop their personal style. If you attend more than four formal events per year (one per season), we suggest that you pick up a pair of opera pumps in addition to a regular black patent leather oxford or loafer.

What Next?

Now that you have learned about opera pumps, check out some our related footwear guides for men:

Men's Opera Pumps Guide
Reviewed by Robert P, on .
"Shame to hear that opera pumps are so rare today. However, I'm happy to see these loafers proposed as an alternative!"
Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★

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