Saturday, March 21, 2009

The TWO-TONE shoe, once referred to as the co-respondent, is actually rooted in golf and tennis...

Think of a classic like the saddle shoe and memories return to the halcyon days of Duane Eddy, ivy covered campuses, cuffed chinos and Friday nights at the drive-in with Peggy Sue. But contrary to these Happy Days images, the two-tone shoe as we know it is actually rooted in sports--tennis and golf in particular. Designed back at the turn of the century as a "racquet shoe," it was, essentially, a classic lace-up Oxford style shoe made of white buckskin with a red or black saddle strap across the vamp, and finished with red rubber soles (hence the name saddle shoe).

Gene Sarazen was the first professional of note to walk the greens in white buck golf shoes trimmed in black or tan leather according to Esquire’s Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men’s Fashions. Sarazen styled his two tone shoes in the early 1920’s while in Britain. In 1925 the ever dapper Walter Hagen introduced the two-tone black-and-white wing tip to America at the swank Lido Club on Long Island in New York. The next year, Bobby Jones championed brown-and-white two-tone shoes, setting the pace for inventive color combinations to come, including tan with brown and black with brown.

In the early 1920's Ivy League students in the Newport, Rhode Island area took to wearing saddle Oxfords, boldly pairing them with generously cut, wide-bottomed Oxford "bag" trousers. These sartorially adventurous students, along with certain avante garde dressers of the period, were virtually the only men who wore the Oxford shoe and its many variations, including the brogue wing-tip, all of which were long considered radical new designs in men's footwear. Today, the Oxford style is worn on greenswards across the country.

An updated version of the classic saddle shoe, with traditional red crepe sole

The first suede Oxford stepped onto the shores of North America on the regal feet of Edward VIII, later known as the Duke of Windsor, in 1924. Though his sartorial proclivities were already legend on both sides of the Atlantic, fashion observers were aghast at his poor taste in wearing country "reverse calf" (as suede was then called) oxfords, calling them "a mark of great effeminacy." One can only guess what they might have made of his Scottish-born ghillies (oxfords without a tongue, laced across the instep and often wore with argyle hose and plus fours) or kilties (Oxfords with a tongue of fringed leather draped over the instep covering the laces and eyelets).

Fortunately, all of the above styles in footwear, particularly suede, are once again very much in vogue on fairways today, though trouser legs are mercifully less billowy. Even plus fours, Fair Isle sweater vests, argyle socks and suede shoes are back in style, all sartorial ideas championed by the once Prince of Wales. While images of Peggy Sue may be wonderfully nostalgic, it is to the dapper Duke to whom we must pay homage for popularizing what has become a universal style in golf shoes. A true hacker though he may have been, his handicap was no doubt lower than Duane Eddy. Or Peggy Sue for that matter.


  1. I keep wanting to buy a pair. I stare at them in the shop for what seems like hours on end. And on the web shops. But I just can't seem to bring myself to pull the trigger. Why?

  2. They take some getting used to, Taras, to be sure. But once you work them in and scuff 'em up a bit, you'll have no problems. It's that stark white color that is throwing you I assume. Try smudging them up a bit to give them a lived-in look. But be careful not to harm the leather. In earlier eras, British royalty often hired their man-servants who were their same exact size in order to have them first wear their new custom-made clothing. To be seen in a NEW suit of clothes was just not done in merry old England once upon a time. Stroange, those Brits. :-)

  3. The two tone brogues pictured, where can I buy them ?