Your Guide to Buying Vintage Mens Formal Shoes

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Your Guide to Buying Vintage Men's Formal Shoes

Vintage men’s formal shoes typically date between the 1920s and 1960s. In the early 1990s, the demand for vintage accessories began to grow and the trend still continues today. The popularity stems from an admiration of the style and quality of items from the past, and an increased public awareness of the benefits of recycling, reusing, and repairing as opposed to throwing items away. Vintage wear has been seen on celebrities and the best quality items are highly sought after. 

Vintage men’s formal shoes come in a number of styles. These shoes are made in a variety of colours and materials. Many vintage men’s formal shoes were originally worn for dancing. To help men to buy vintage formal shoes, it is useful to understand the various styles, how they are sized, and how to examine them for damage. Vintage men’s formal shoes can be found at vintage shops, charity shops, car boot sales, and online retailers such as eBay.

Styles of Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes

There are various styles of vintage men’s formal shoes that differ according to their design and their era. Deciding which pair will best fit a man’s outfit depends solely on personal taste and the era that he is interested in.

1920s Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes

The 1920s were the era of the flapper with short skirts and lively dancing. Men accompanying the girls on the dance floor for the Charleston wore ballroom dancing shoes. These were often brogues, which are closed-laced oxfords, where the eyelets for the shoelaces are sewn underneath the upper part of the shoe. Vintage brogues are often available in shiny black patent leather. Younger generations during the 1920s often wore two-toned plain leather oxfords, known as spectator shoes, in either black and white, or brown and white. Vintage spectator shoes typically have a toe and heel cap, and the lace panels are often in a darker colour than the main body of the shoe.

1930s Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes

Spectator shoes remained popular during the 1930s and were worn by film stars like Fred Astaire. His spectacular dance technique had an important influence in the dance community and on the shoes that men chose to wear.

1940s Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes

During the 1940s, full brogues, also known as wing tips, were the formal shoe choice for men. These shoes are characterised by their pointed cap toe design that comes to a widow’s peak in the middle, resembling wings. The toe cap is often perforated and serrated along its edges. The centre of the toe cap may contain ornamental perforations as well. Brogues without perforations are known as "austerity brogues". "Blind brogues" have a wing tip perforation and a plain toe. Although traditionally produced in black, vintage wing tips can also be found in two-tone colour combinations, such as tan and white, or tan and brown.

1950s Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes

Men’s formal shoes changed very little from the 1940s to the 1950s. Wing tips, known for their classic and elegant style, continued to be worn by men. Loafers were popular among the upper class. These shoes were easy to slip on and off and typically made in brown or browns with a white strap. White bucks also gained popularity during the 1950s. These formal shoes were made of laced suede or buckskin and featured a red sole. Two-toned suede buck shoes, cinnamon leather lace-up shoes, and brown rockabilly swing shoes were also worn.

1960s Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes

Men’s fashion changed radically during the 1960s, as did their shoes. Men were often seen wearing Beatle boots and Chelsea boots. Beatle boots were ankle length and featured a square Cuban heel and a pointed toe. These boots were originally made for the Beatles in 1961. Vintage Beatle boots are usually found in black leather and have a zip or elastic, making them easier to slip on and off. On the other hand, Chelsea boots are tight-fitting, ankle boots which feature a non-Cuban heel. These vintage boots are typically found with elastic on the side, allowing for easy wear. During the 1960s, coloured boots were often worn and were made in materials such as suede.

Sizing Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes

When buying vintage men’s formal shoes, it is best to ignore the sizing as vintage shoes were often sized differently to modern shoes. So, men should take their foot measurements and compare them to those of the vintage shoe. In order to get the most precise measurement, men should measure the length and width of their feet and compare this to the shoe’s insole and width.

Examining Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes

When buying vintage men’s formal shoes, buyers should always check the shoes for any signs of wear and tear or other damage that could affect the shoes’ ability to be worn or their appearance.

Wear and Tear for Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes

It is important to visually inspect all vintage men’s formal shoes either in person or from photos. Fabric and leather can both dry out and crack over time, compromising the shoes wearability and appearance. Buyers should be wary of any vintage formal shoes with deteriorating lining or frayed stitching. Lining is irreparable and must be removed from the shoes before wear. The shoes should also be carefully examined for any signs of scratching. While scratching on white, brown, or black leather vintage shoes is generally easy to fix, it may be more difficult to refurbish coloured leather shoes. Buyers should examine the soles of the shoes. If they are pulling away from body of the shoe, are significantly worn, or cracked, buyers should factor in any cost of repairs that need to be performed to return the shoes to a wearable condition. A tear on the seam of a leather shoe may be able to be mended, but is often an indication that the shoe’s material has been compromised.

Hardware for Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes

Buyers should examine the vintage formal shoes thoroughly to ensure that all zips and other fasteners are in good working order. Elastic is generally one of the first things to go on a pair of vintage shoes. Stretched out elastic should not compromise the shoes’ ability to be worn. Hardware can usually be repaired for a cost.

Finish for Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes

Before purchasing a pair of vintage men’s formal shoes, buyers should always check the shoes’ finish. If the shoes have a slightly sticky feel, this is a good indication that the finish is not in a good condition. The finish of the shoes cannot be restored. Therefore, it is best to avoid vintage shoes with this type of damage.

Where to Buy Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes

Most vintage men’s formal shoes are sold in charity shops, at car boot sales, and in vintage shops. Buyers looking for vintage shoes can also search online retailers. Buyers can find vintage men’s formal shoes through eBay’s online auction listings.

How to Buy Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes on eBay

To begin shopping for vintage men’s formal shoes, start at the eBay homepage. For all related item listings on eBay, type "vintage men’s formal shoes&" into the search field at the top of the page. You are free to browse all results or to narrow down listings by condition and buying format. Search terms can also be used to find specific items. For example, to see listings for spectator shoes, type "men’s spectator shoes&" into the search field. Check eBay’s customer support pages for additional information on searching with keywords.

Buy Vintage Men’s Formal Shoes with Confidence

Read the item listing for vintage men’s formal shoes carefully before making a purchase. Check the price of the item, as well its postage and packaging costs. Examine available photos carefully for signs of wear and tear. If additional images or information is desired, ask the seller. Sellers will usually be happy to provide additional information to promote a positive sale.

Feedback Ratings

Check a seller’s feedback rating before purchasing vintage men’s formal shoes. Ratings are determined by information provided by other buyers within the past year. This information, along with the number of transactions a seller has completed, can offer insight into the level of service that they provide. Upon receiving the shoes, leave feedback for the seller. This can help future buyers regarding the seller’s level of customer service.


Determining the difference between men’s vintage formal shoes and more modern versions of the shoe takes a little bit of know how. Vintage shoes are a growing fashion trend and replicas are becoming increasingly popular. Those hoping to invest in a little piece of history should familiarise themselves with the various types of men’s formal shoes and their features popular during each decade. This helps to ensure they are in fact purchasing genuine vintage wear and not reproductions. Vintage men’s formal shoes should be in good condition, without compromising signs of damage. All shoe hardware should function properly and the shoe’s finish must be in good condition. Buyers should take appropriate shoe measurements in order to ensure a well fitting pair of vintage shoes. Vintage measurements tend to be different to more modern sizes. With so many pairs of vintage men’s formal shoes to choose from, eBay can help any man to find a pair to complement his style.

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