Our Ultimate Guide to the Spectator Shoe

One of our most popular men's brogues is our classic spectator shoe, the Gatsby. Available in our largest range of sizes, including various wide fit sizes and many different colour-ways it is no wonder. It’s where our vision of comfort and contemporary style first began and so we wanted to take time to celebrate the spectator shoe and learn more about its history, key features and how to style it best.

What are the key features of a Spectator Shoe

The Spectator shoe is also known as the co-respondent shoe and is one of the most recognisable of the two colour smart shoes. 

The key features of the spectator shoe are primarily its two-tone appearance. The two colours are created by using two different coloured materials for the toe, facings (pieces of the shoe with eyelets) and counters (piece attached to the heel), as opposed to the vamp (piece over the top of the foot) and quarters (the pieces which make up the sides of the shoe). These contrasting pieces will often be a full brogue in complete decorative decadence.

A labelled diagram of a Gatsby dress shoe

The classic wingtip shoe is the most natural style used to create the spectator shoe because of the exaggerated shapes and decorative nature of them. They are also already divided into these pieces in how it is constructed. 

It can sometimes be confused for another two tone shoe, the saddle shoe, however the saddle shoe is far more casual and characterised by the more decorative contrast panel being applied to the mid-foot rather than the heel counter, toe and facings.

Whilst it is most common for the spectator shoe to be obstructed of different leathers, they can also be made from panels of suede or hard wearing fabrics such as tweed. This way shoemakers have an almost limitless range of textures, colours and patterns to mix and match, keeping this style fresh and new over the last century and beyond.

A (Brief) History of the Spectator Shoe

The spectator shoe was first designed as a cricket shoe by famous English shoemaker, John Lobb in 1868. It was worn by sporting gentlemen who played golf and cricket and so then became popular with the spectators of such sports and thus was named ‘the spectator shoe’.

As fashion entered into the roaring, jazz-filled 1920s however, the spectator shoe began to garner an unwholesome reputation which earned it a scandalous new name. Its flamboyant appearance was seen as ungentlemanly and people claimed it was a shoe favoured by lounge lizards and divorcees. This led to it being nicknamed a ‘co-respondent shoe’, with a  co-respondent being the third party in a case of adultery. 

The image of the spectator shoe took a further knock as it was a favourite style of both Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson. Who were not particularly popular with many of the upper class in Britain at that time following Edward's abdication and Wallace’s own reported extramarital liaisons as a divorcee.

king Edward VIII walking his pug away from a plane dressed in two-tone shoes.

Thankfully we have long moved past such hang-ups around the spectator's shoe and now it is one of the most popular dress shoes, allowing men to have some fun and flaunt their style taste far more than its more serious cousin, the sharp black leather Oxford.

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