It’s that time of year again: the holiday party season. Dressing for the holidays can sometimes be a chore and is fraught with self-doubt and discomfort. It need not be the case with your footwear at least.
Every man should have a go-to formal black shoe in their wardrobe – but the rules are changing and a ‘formal’ shoe no longer means old school patent leather and uncomfortable hard leather soles on winter streets.
Not that patent leather is bad – it’s just a bit too cliché and pedestrian for most men.
Patent leather is a full grain leather that is lacquered to give it a glossy appearance. One of the first references to patent leather is in the 1793 British periodical The Bee – so it is really a British staple.
In November 1799, inventor Edmund Prior, of Holborn received a patent for a method of painting and colouring all kinds of leather and, in January 1805, inventor Charles Mollersten, of Hackney received a patent for applying a chemical composition in the preparation of hides, skins, and leather to give "a beautiful gloss".
However, patent leather owes its real popularity to American Seth Boyden.
In 1818, Boyden received a piece of German-made patent leather from a local carraige manufacturer and used that to investigate the possibility of creating a version of leather in the United States that was treated in such a way that the material would be more dressy than normal work boots, but retain its shine and durability. Reverse engineering European patent leather, he discovered a way to produce his own patent leather using a series of coating treatments based on linseed oil. The new shiny leather began commercial production on September 20, 1819.
The irony is that Boyden never 'patented' his process.
Later, the substitution of plastics modern patent leather are often synthetic and made from plastics that mimic the effect and feel of leather. The plastic alternatives are also indestructible but noticeably cheap – and seriously bad for the environment.
A good black leather Derby with a hint of dandy grosgrain trim is an excellent choice for this time of year and won’t make you look like you just came from the office (which is usually the case). There is nothing more depressing than a dull work shoe to denigrate your attempt at festive holiday dressing. What’s the point of the new Velvet Jacket – a la James Bond – if your shoes are as dull as dishwater?
The Martel+Ram classic Black Calfskin Derby lace-up is a great option, not only for work – but it will take you straight into the evening with minimal fuss. The lightweight Vibram Morflex sole will also give you better grip on wet winter streets and a bit of bounce for dancing!
The alternative to the standard black lace-up is a highly polished loafer. A slip-on loafer adds a bit of louche casualness to any evening attire. It’s smart enough for the office and easily makes the transition to evening if there is a bit of extra shine.
The Martel+Ram Black Gloss Calf Penny Loafer is made from a polished ‘spazzolato’ calf which basically just means ‘brushed’ in Italian. This high shine calf is indestructible and always looks good due to the lacquered top-coat on the black base. It’s easy to care for and not afraid of a bit of rain. The collar of the loafer is trimmed in a black grosgrain ribbon which is an elegant, elevating detail from traditional evening shoes. Again – the lightweight Vibram sole will also keep you stable on inclement winter streets as well as comfortable dancing on the tiles.
Embrace a bit of Colour
Dressing for a holiday event is the perfect time to step outside your comfort zone and try a bit of colour. Not crazy holiday sweater colour, but something more elegant – like a bit of rich burgundy.
Like the wine of the same name, Burgundy goes with everything. If you normally were dark colours, like black, navy blue and charcoal grey, than a classic Burgundy Calfskin Derby will fit easily into your daytime wardrobe and provide a nice bit of pop colour to a traditional dark evening suit.