I love correspondent shoes. The opportunity to step aside from the usual myriad of black wholegrain or chestnut calf and add some colour to one’s ensemble is a precious one. I can’t help but think however, that they more often than not, get a rather poor deal. Not only are they hard to come by, but they hardly ever make an appearance in the world of fashion, or even out on the street.
Perhaps this is because they’re commonly considered too loud for everyday wear, or even ‘too difficult to pull-off’. This is a problem which has haunted the correspondent ever since its emergence in the 1910s. A spot of history might be in order here; the correspondent shoe represents an early 20th century development upon the spat.
The spat was a suede, nubuck or sometimes canvass overshoe, commonly worn over shoes in the mid to late Victorian and Edwardian era. Spats would commonly be made in a lighter colour to the shoes they were worn with – often in soft grey, taupe of white. Once spats fell out of fashion, and shoes began to be worn without them, shoemakers experimented with using lighter contrasting colours in the leather panels of the shoe itself, and thus, the two-tone correspondent brogue or ‘spectator’ as it was originally called, was born. The exact origins of the shoe are unknown, but John Lobb, the famous English footwear maker, claimed to have designed the first spectator shoe as a cricket shoe in 1868.
However, despite their English association with cricket, In the 20s and 30s many gentleman considered the correspondent too flamboyant to be in good taste. The popular myth that perpetuated was that the shoes were worn by bounders and rotters who commonly became involved in divorce cases resulting from affairs. Hence, the name ‘correspondent’ which was coined, operated both as a pun on the two-tone colour scheme of the shoe, and as a pun on the relationship status of those people whom the upper crust associated with wearing the shoe. Wallis Simpson, Edward VIII’s inamorata was famed for wearing female correspondents, and Edward was dubbed a ‘correspondent’ by society accordingly.
This is an association which in today’s society has fortunately been long lost. Indeed, we ought to shirk off the idea that correspondents are un-wearable, and embrace their frivolity and flamboyance. There is something uniquely striking and sylish about a chestnut calf brogue with navy blue suede panels, or else an antique brown calf correspondent with snuff-suede body. And, let’s be honest, correspondents certainly make for a talking point. Very rarely, even when I’m mooching around the West End do they make an appearance, and certainly, I can expect to receive at least a couple of compliments on them, each time I wear them out.
Furthermore, I’d suggest that they’re fundamentally pretty easy to wear – the fact that they have more colours in them than otherwise, means that in reality they’re pretty simple to match to the rest of your outfit. Think about it this way, the base colour of the shoes will most commonly be a conventional brown or black, and if the other colour in the shoe is white, or another shade of brown (or an equally easy to wear dark blue or green) then the shoes will go with almost anything – there’s no reason why these shoes can’t be matched as conventionally as any other plain shoe. I would recommend experimenting with correspondents unreservedly, they really are good fun, easy to wear and – as the workings of history have testified – they’ll make you the talk of the town!