Do Tuxedo Shoes Have To Be Shiny?

A tuxedo is normally considered a formal suit, the wearing of which is normally reserved for classy, formal occasions where everyone will be putting on their best for the glitz and glamour occasion. When it comes to the choice of formal footwear to go with your tuxedo, what should you be looking at to match the classiness of the suit? Is it a requirement that the shoes you wear with your tuxedo must be shiny?

A tuxedo normally has a certain level of sheen to it, which, traditionally, demands that tuxedo shoes should be shiny. If you are going classic, tuxedo shoes should not only be shiny but free from scuff marks and blemishes. Shoes buffed to a shiny luster will complement the tuxedo well and suit the formal occasion you will be attending. But shiny tuxedo shoes are not a hard and fast rule.

Not only must your tuxedo shoes be shiny, but only certain styles of shoes go well with a tuxedo. If the event that you will be attending requires the formality of a tuxedo, you will do well to put your best formal foot forward by wearing the appropriate footwear, not only for the suit but also for the occasion.

Why Do Tuxedo Shoes Need To Be Shiny?

Back in the day, tuxedos were worn to formal events, and the only people who attended such events were the high society, upper-class aristocracy. There was a clear distinction between this echelon of society and the working class.

Shoes were a particular status symbol n these circles, and if you had scuff marks on your shoes, particularly at a formal event, it was viewed with disdain since scuffed shoes were a mark of the working-class part of society.

Even though the stigma of scuffed shoes is no longer a high society taboo, that tradition of wearing shiny shoes with a tuxedo has continued.

As a result of this, shoes that are intended to be worn with a tuxedo are made from specific types of leather that will take a high gloss shine.

In times gone by, it took a lot of hard work to get these formal shoes to the required shine, and special methods were used to buff the shine into the leather. This task would not be done by the owner of the shoes, but by a servant who would be designated to put the shine on the shoes.

When I was in the military, we had to put a similar shine on our dress uniform shoes for parades and special functions with the top brass. It would often take us hours of hard labor to get a mirror-like finish on these shoes. The difference is that the military did not supply us with top quality shoes but expected the same shine!

There are easier modern methods to get the appropriate shine for your tuxedo shoes for that special event without having to spend half a day with spit and polish! Who has the time for that! The modern trend in high society these days is to buck the trends, which has seen a move away from the exclusive use of shiny shoes to complement the tuxedo. It is not unusual at modern formal events to see tuxedos being combined with velvet loafers, sometimes called smoking slippers or calfskin oxford style shoes.

What Style Of Shoes Should You Wear With Your Tux

The key to finding the right shoes to go with your tux starts with choosing shoes that are made of the right material and ones that are the appropriate style for complimenting your tux!

The Right Material For Your Tuxedo Shoes

As we have mentioned, modern trends are somewhat more lenient than the traditions of 18th-century high society, which gives you some room for personal flair in your choice of tuxedo shoes.

You don’t want to veer too far from the traditions and wear something that cannot be classed as formal since you don’t want to offend your host by wearing shoes that do not respect the formality of the occasion.

The materials you should be able to choose from safely for your shoes would be the traditional patent leather, which will give you the high gloss shine, or velvet, and if the occasion permits, even a good quality calfskin shoe.

Patent leather is a type of stiff leather that has been treated with an outer coating, which will take a high gloss shine very easily. It is much less work to get that sparkle in your shoes with patent leather than any other type of leather since the coating is already shiny and usually only requires a light polish and buffing.

Patent leather shoes are often quite rigid and hard and hold their shape well, but can be uncomfortable if worn for many hours, which require much standing.

Velvet does not shine but has a slight sheen to it that varies depending on how the light falls on it. This material was traditionally in the form of smoking slippers that men wore when they retired to the proverbial library for a cigar and a cognac. It has become acceptable to wear shoes made from this type of material with a tuxedo.

Calf leather is a much softer leather and makes a shoe that is much more comfortable to wear, especially if you are going to be spending a lot of time on your feet mingling with the well to do. Calfskin, however, does not hold a shine as well as patent leather, so don’t expect a high gloss finish with these shoes. You can get a shine on this leather that is acceptable for formal occasions, but they will never be in the same class of shine as patent leather shoes.

The Right Style Of Shoes To Match You Tuxedo

When it comes to the appropriate style of shoe to wear with your tuxedo, you really have two basic styles to choose from.

Going with a style that is too casual will detract from the formality of the occasion, so you need to choose one of the more traditional style shoes to combine with your tuxedo.

The traditional style of shoes that are worn with tuxedos are mostly pump style, sometimes called slip-on style shoes, or more commonly a pair of lace-up Oxford style shoes. If the event is extremely formal, the oxford style lace-up shoe would be more appropriate than the slip-on style.

Lace-up style shoes hold their shape better and fit a wider variety of foot shapes than the slip-on style shoes do.

From a less traditional perspective, you can also have a look at a loafer style shoe, which is leaning more toward the smoking slipper style of shoe. Often when this style of shoe is worn with a tuxedo, the material of choice is velvet rather than leather.

Choosing the color of your shoes will very much depend on the color of your tuxedo. The tuxedo is traditionally a black suit, but in these modern times, you get tuxedos in all kinds of color variations. For a formal occasion, however, your tuxedo should be black.

Appropriately the shoes to go with your black tuxedo should be black as well, especially if the occasion has no room for levity.

Generally speaking, a formal occasion is not the place for a man to make a fashion statement and stand out from the crowd. This role should be left to the stunning lady that walks in with you on your arm. It is her role to wow the room, and you are the supporting act! Black goes with anything, and for this reason, it is the color of choice for men at such formal events.


When planning your attire for a formal occasion, the shoes can make or break the look of your tuxedo. It is therefore wise to not leave your shoe choice to the last minute, but rather select your shoes at the same time as you pick out your tuxedo. This way, the shoes are sure to compliment the tux.

The choice to go shiny with your shoe choice or not will rest entirely on your shoulders and the level of formality that the event you will be attending demands.

However, if you are ever in any doubt, always go with shiny patent leather shoes, and you can’t go wrong!

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