Best Shoes To Wear With A Tuxedo
Tuxedos are all about simplicity and a lack of bulk. This is why proper tux jackets don’t have pocket flaps and “correct” tuxedo trousers lack pleats and cuffs. It therefore stands to reason that tuxedo footwear should follow suit, and it does.
Additionally, the black tie dress code is often regarded more as a uniform rather than just an occasion. Therefore, the dinner jacket and tuxedo tend to have less flexibility when it comes to expressing your personality. Nevertheless, there is still space for adding a personal touch.
There are four commonly accepted shoes that are considered appropriate for black tie ensembles: opera pumps, oxford, Venetian loafers, and slippers (sometimes called Prince Albert slippers). 99% of the time, these shoes should be black, with the remaining one percent being reserved for odd-colored Prince Albert slippers in velvet.
Does Tuxedo Shoe Rental Exist?
We are currently unaware of any instances in which tuxedo shoes can be rented à la carte. Nevertheless, they can be included in a tuxedo rental along with a shirt, studs, and other accessories.
If you’re curious about whether to buy or rent a tux, check out our page on buying versus renting.
What Are The Various Materials For Tuxedo Shoes?
If you’re not accustomed to black tie attire, you may be surprised to learn that there are several types of shoe that work well in these circumstances. Although we previously said that the tuxedo is effectively a uniform, this is one fun venue to pursue if you want to explore your personality.
Uppers for tuxedo-appropriate shoes can be essentially crafted from the three following materials:
- Patent Leather: A glossy leather that has been coated multiple times to develop a permanent shine.
- Calfskin Leather: One of the best-regarded leathers for most dress shoes.
- Velvet: A tufted fabric with evenly distributed cut threads that glimmer in the light.
There are certain caveats to bear in mind with all three options. Therefore, we suggest to read on to discover them and find out which best suit you. Afterwards, you’ll be able to easily choose your favourite among the best tuxedo shoes that we recommend.
Black patent leather is shiny and incredibly smooth (as an aside, it also has a tendency to scratch easily, so walk with care when wearing them). Through a process that consists usually of several glossy coats of acrylic, the result it a high mirror-like shine.
Its visual presentation is perfect with the dressiness of a tuxedo, and the shine they impart will certainly put a pep in your step.
With that said, black calfskin is sometimes acceptable, it just depends on the shoe style. We’ve broken down each appropriate shoe style by the material (patent, calf, or velvet) that’s acceptable for that style below:
- Oxfords: Black patent leather oxfords are the standard footwear for tuxedos nowadays. It’s common to use silk ribbon as laces for added formality. Note that a blucher is not appropriate for a tuxedo due to the added bulk of the open throat lacing system. This holds true even though black patent leather bluchers are sold ubiquitously.
Note that wholecuts and cap toe oxfords (though not quarter brogues) are perfectly appropriate with a tuxedo. In fact, try to avoid any shoe style that has any added ornamentation that distracts from its silhouette.
- Venetians: A black patent leather Venetian loafer is a slim, smart way to dress the feet when wearing a tux. The lack of laces allows the trousers to break gently, and the easy on, easy off nature of a loafer is always a bonus.
- Opera Pumps: An evening dress slipper with a silk or grosgrain bow at the vamp, opera pumps are known in England as “court shoes.” The last vestige of 19th century dress that gets worn with any frequency in modern times, opera pumps are very traditional while being simultaneously stylish and daring.
It takes a real man to wear bows on his shoes.
Calfskin Tuxedo Shoes
Calfskin is smooth, soft cow’s hide. When polished to a high shine, the below shoe styles are acceptable to wear with a tuxedo:
- Oxfords: If you happen to own black oxford shoes, it’s acceptable to wear them with a tux if they’re well-shined.
- Opera Pumps: Opera pumps also work in black calfskin. As with oxfords, ensure that they have a high shine to them.
- Slippers: Black slippers are an elegant, laid back way to dress the feet when wearing a tuxedo.
If you’re considering the above options, remember that they will require a thoroughly glossy shine. If you are short on time, you can seek a professional to do it for you at a modest sum. Alternatively, check out our guide to polishing your shoes for a detailed primer on how to do it yourself.
Furthermore, there is an added advantage of opting for this style of footwear for formal occasions. Particularly in the case of oxford shoes, you can wear them with your daily business casual attire as well as other events like weddings and funerals.
A Versatile Alternative
If you rarely attend black tie events, this might be the most practical solution as you’ll be able to garner added value for money from a new purchase. However, if you regularly attend such events, we would suggest investing in shoes specifically for black tie wear.
This is particularly worthwhile if you wear your black oxfords to death. After all, you don’t want to be attending events with worn shoes?
Finally, be careful to avoid running into the pitfall of trying to use any calfskin loafer instead of opera pumps. While styles such as bit loafers, tassel loafers, and penny loafers all look great on their own, some circles may regard pairing them with a tuxedo as a faux pas.
Similarly, monk strap shoes are often a tempting choice for black tie events. While it can be acceptable in certain environments, it’s generally not seen as a traditional tuxedo shoe and we wouldn’t generally recommend them.
Velvet Tuxedo Shoes
One fun thing about slippers is that you can start having fun with some non-standard shoe colors, getting into burgundy velvet, plum, bottle green, and similarly dark, rich tones. Of course, you’ll want to use your best judgement as to when you wear such shoes.
Below are some classic colors for formal velvet slippers, which may inspire you:
- Slippers: In velvet, slippers are technically correct with a tuxedo. They look best, however, when worn with a smoking jacket, which is also made of velvet and therefore has some design continuity.
You can certainly experiment with the freedom gained from velvet slippers. For instance, if you’re headed to a black tie wedding where you know the couple and their guests will be fun, funky people, throw on some gold slippers.
Of course, do check with the groom first to be make sure that you wouldn’t be literally treading on his toes. Meanwhile, if the event is more staid, like a gala or similar event, you’ll want to opt for more conservative footwear.
Finally, bear in mind that velvet slippers can be very delicate shoes. If you’re heading to an event during winter or in the rain, they may risk becoming damaged.
Therefore, you might consider putting them on just before arriving if convenient. Alternatively, you could take a taxi rather than public transport or even drive if you only have to walk from a parking lot to the venue.
What Are The Best Shoes To Wear With A Tuxedo?
Notwithstanding the aesthetic advice given above, what are the best shoes to wear with a tux?
It’s best to defer to your personal preference and/or the physical realities of your feet, which is to say that some shoe styles will fit you better than others. If you’re not sure about how shoes should feel, check out our guide to shoe fit.
Similarly, it’s worth considering your own personal style and daily appearance. Only you can really judge what best suits you.
If you’re more of a traditionalist, your best bet would be black patent oxfords. Meanwhile, if you’re more eccentric, opera pumps will do. Otherwise, if you have a high instep, you should avoid Venetian loafers as they can’t be adjusted. Finally, if you’re on a budget, shine up your black dress shoes and have yourself a night on the town.
How Much Do Tuxedo Shoes Cost?
Finally, your budget may be another factor in choosing the right shoes. As mentioned in the calfskin shoe chapter, you may want to invest in something that’s versatile for other occasions. However, if you’re attending many black tie events, we would recommend a dedicated pair.
Indeed, tuxedo shoes can be particularly expensive if made using traditional methods with quality materials. For instance, a traditional shoemaker like Gaziano Girling will charge something between £500 and £900. That said, you will benefit from superior craftsmanship, aesthetics, and longevity.
Nevertheless, there are affordable alternatives that can be bought online for a song such as the shoes we will present below.
Can I Wear A Tuxedo With Sneakers?
Below: N’Sync’s Joey Fatone “stylishly” sporting trainers with a tuxedo
We’ve been asked on numerous occasions whether you can wear sneakers with a tuxedo. Indeed, if you ever see photos of celebrities on the red carpet, there are always a few that are flaunting their edge by combining the two.
In fact, we noticed that it was a particularly popular search term on Google too!
While you probably can, you probably shouldn’t. Although nothing’s would stop you from doing so, it’s arguably the biggest sartorial oxymoron in existence. Additionally, some events may actually bar your entry into the venue for not respecting the dress code. However, this is rather rare these days.
Therefore, we would say no but we want to refrain from being elitist as it rarely rubs off the right way. Nevertheless, few who attempt this unorthodox combination of contrasting styles will be successful in appearing avant-garde.
If you decide to wear sneakers with a tux, however, at least go all the way throw on some opera pumps with your jeans!
Can You Wear Tuxedo Shoes With A Suit?
Well-shined black shoes with a business suit is one thing, but patent leather shoes with a regular suit may often be regarded as overkill. You can read more about this in our page on the difference between a suit and a tuxedo, but we’ll tell you here that tuxedo shoes aren’t going to make sense with a suit.
Velvet shoes especially with a suit would look affected, but it’s not impossible and we’ve met some debonair gentlemen in our time that have effortlessly combined the two.
If you’re uncertain, we don’t advise you doing so as this doubt can perceived it. However, if you’re determined, the confidence by itself can help you pull it off.
On the other hand, as we mention above, certain suit shoes pair well with tuxes. Just make sure they shine well!
How To Clean Tuxedo Shoes
The beauty of patent leather is that it’s exceptionally easy to clean. You literally just take a damp cloth and wipe the leather down to remove any dirt or stains. Be careful about scratching patent leather, though.
You can fill in scratches and scuffs on calfskin with shoe cream, but this won’t work on patent. A visible scratch is the aesthetic equivalent of totalling your car.
If your shoes are calfskin, you can read about caring for them (and other types of shoes) in our shoe care guide.
Our advice as it relates to tuxedo shoes is to go with patent leather. It’s appropriate for every black tie occasion, and it lends a flair to the ensemble that’s missing when wearing regular calfskin shoes. Tuxedos are for special occasions, so the shoes should be, too.
For more on tuxedos, see our other tux pages: