What is Patent Leather?
Patent leather is that leather that almost doesn’t look like leather. It looks like a shiny plastic, glossy. This is something where it’s built in to the actual shoe and this is where it looks like a mirror.
Now, where do I see this? I see this in black tie, I see this in military dress, and I see this in children’s shoes, so unless you’re in one of those three descriptors, unless you are wearing black tie or you’re in a military uniform such as dress blues in United States Marine Corps in which we would actually wear that, or even with our Alphas, and the other places for children.
Now, why do we see it in each of the areas? Well, with black tie, it’s pretty much one of the official shoes you can be wearing. The other one is the opera pump. I’m not going to get into what that is, but it’s basically a slipper. You can go look at it. I talk about it on my website, but patent leather is something that you can wear — and it’s not cheating. It’s just something that has gone with black tie and with formal wear for decades and decades.
It used to be that you actually wore your classic oxfords and you just polish those and polish those and made them look great because you could get a similar shine. You need to know how to spit shine it and get that really nice gloss on there, but it’s a lot of work. Some people want to sometimes go with the patent leather. Again, unless you’re fitting one of those three descriptors, do not go with it.
Why do you see it in children’s wear? Well, I think it’s basically — and this is sort of a form of cheating — it’s when parents want to show that their children are dressed up. I’ve got three kids, so I know this. You do not want to be shining your kids’ shoes. Also, kids’ shoes, they grow out of those things really fast, so you want something you could put on their feet and it’s going to look dressy. It’s going to have that shine and that’s why you see them on kids’ dress shoes.