Patent Leather Shoes 101: What are they? When should you wear them?

Patent leather is a type of leather that has been finished to look highly shiny and glossy (as the picture below demonstrates). We owe its invention to Seth Boyden (of Newark) who invented the process back in 1818. He was looking for a way to distinguish regular leather shoes, that one would wear to work, with ones that would be worn to a formal occasion. When he invented the process, he used linseed oil-based lacquer. Today, most patent leather is finished using plastic coating.


(image courtesy of TheShoeBuff)

These shoes will definitely draw attention. Conventionally, you would wear them with a tux to a wedding or some other formal dinner. With this said, you could also wear these shoes with a patterned dark suit and you should be turning heads.

These aren’t the type of shoes that you would wear everyday since they do crease and deteriorate quite easily. If you do own a pair of patent leather shoes, you probably want to also invest in a pair of shoe trees:


Shoe trees will help your patent leather shoes last longer, absorb moisture (especially if you have wooden shoe-trees), and maintain their ideal shape. Patent leather is fragile so it can get scraped/scratched; in which case you should take them for professional care. If it does start raining while you’re wearing these shoes, it’s not a big deal since they can get wet. Generally speaking, most people think of “black” patent leather shoes; but, not all patent leather shoes are black. Consider the following pair of shoes from TheShoeBuff: