Black shoes have gotten such a bum rap over the years. As my friend Pete over at Put This On once noted, switching to brown footwear has become something of a rite of passage for men who care about how they dress. Most enter the world of fashion wearing duck billed, corrected grain, black footwear – but in giving those up and switching to brown shoes, many seem to ditch the color black altogether. Maybe for good reason too. Brown patinates better and is easier to wear an increasingly casual world. They also say Southern Italians favor brown footwear – and who doesn’t want to look like a Southern Italian?
Lately though, I’ve been eyeing black slip-ons – mostly the horsebit, tassel, and penny varieties. Although it seems strange to have such a formal color on a casual shoe, black slip-ons also seem like they could be sleeker and more modern alternatives to their brown counterparts. You could wear them with brown linen suits, navy sport coats with tan trousers, or even just a cream sweater with patterned grey pants.
The most obvious place to start is the Gucci horsebit. On men like Richard Press (who actually wore the Barrie versions), they look classy. On men like Pete (who wears his with washed jeans), they look hip. Since I’m neither classy nor hip, those went out the window.
There are also black gusseted oxfords, which are sometimes called Lazy Man Oxfords. Those are said to be popular in Japan, where men have to take their shoes off in homes and certain restaurants. They only really look right with business suits, however, which I don’t wear terribly often.
I ended up going with a pair of black penny loafers from Edward Green. They have a nice, almond shaped toe with a machine stitched apron. A close second and third were these Alden Leisure Handsewns and English-made loafers from Brooks Brothers, but the Edward Green won out only because I wear this model in other colors with tailored clothing.
As for when to wear them, Voxsartoria gave me a good piece of advice: consider black loafers any time a black knit tie might seem appropriate. Again, I’ve been wearing mine with blue sport coats and brown linen suits, although I think off-white sweaters with patterned grey trousers also work for a more causal look. They might not be as versatile as brown loafers, but sometimes you want something that feels a little more sophisticated.