White Trousers Pairing: White Shoes vs. Spectators

I’ll admit it: White trousers and white shoes versus White trousers and spectators is perhaps one of the more recherché debates we have begun. For a start, hardly anyone wears white trousers so the audience is, at the top end, very narrow. Secondly, even fewer own (or plan to own) white or spectator shoes. Both of these facts are unavoidable, and regrettable; white trousers are a classic, summer wardrobe staple. Every man should own a pair, and not be afraid of the consequences of doing so.

Yes, the world is a dirty place and yes, white is possibly the worst colour for concealing marks and stains but there is something brilliant about wearing white cotton trousers on a sunny day. They have a sporty preppyness and an implied optimism (no one who wears white trousers looks like they’re worried about the world).

White shoes divide opinion. They have historic form as one of the leisure shoes of summer. However, they have developed a rather tacky image, thanks to the fashions and tastes of the latter decades of the twentieth century. When I say ‘white shoes’ to friends of my age, they think not of an inter-war well-dressed gentleman aboard a steamship but of a middle-aged hustler at a 1970s disco hellhole. It is perhaps for the same reason that some white trouser aficionados choose spectator or co-respondent shoes; for them, the white shoe, logical as it seems with such a trouser, is not quite right.

I can, to an extent, sympathise with this viewpoint. Whenever white trousers and white shoes are done these days, both the trousers and shoes are in a punishingly bright ‘whitewash’ white. The best ‘white’ for trousers, or shoes, is actually off-white; the warmth in the tone is less severe and far more appealing. Secondly, ‘white on white’ does tend to get rather extravagant in modern ensembles.

Ignoring the excellent Laurence Fellows artistic suggestions, the aesthetic advice from some quarters seems to be that if the trousers and shoes are white – why not make everything white? The result, however tasteful the attempt, is Liberacean and ghastly – not to mention golf-caddyish –  and I am left wondering why a blue blazer or chocolate brown linen jacket with a club stripe tie and folded linen pocket square were not recommended. Particularly as this ‘white fest’ is clearly what people envisage when I advise them to wear white shoes with white trousers.

Spectator (or co-respondent) shoes are certainly more than acceptable for the man who cannot be rid of the image of Wayne Newton in an all white ensemble. Though at least as eyecatching as white shoes, they have a well-defined appeal that is not ‘tainted’ by unfortunate fashions. The inter-war aesthetic of them is unmistakable, but it is also their sportiness and the mixture of light and dark leathers that softens the punctuation to the white trouser.