The archetypal spectator is a high-contrast, two-toned affair, often made of calfskin and a breathable mesh or suede. John Lobb claimed to have first invented them, but it was the Duke of Windsor who elevated the style to fashion status, no doubt for their slick, jazzy balance of the formal and the casual. With this kind of pedigree it's not surprising to find the WASPish spectator a favorite of golfers, swells and the white shoe crowd in the Gatsby Era, with resurgences in the boomtime ‘50s, the Wall Street ‘80s and again today.
While on this side of the pond we not talking from Dimmesdales and Prynnes, we will declare the spectator pump a hot style for fall. Taking the best of the men's original – wingtip punching, bold two-toned leathers and suedes – and adding feminine touches – stacked wood heels, peeptoes, softer, more subtle palettes and ribbon – these new shoes co-opt the shoe's sleazy and dandy masculine legacy into a newly modern, feminine form. The look is an nod to wealth, scandal and prep of the traditionally male style to add some depth and complexity to your outfit.
So how should you wear it? Knowingly. Play off the naughty heritage and jazzy slicksterism of this look. This look is rooted in history; acknowledge it! Consider the shoe colors your ensemble's foundation. Your clothing will build off the shoe color. Use accessories to pick up the shoe colors for a put-together look. A period cameo would be a master stroke.
Since a lot of this season’s picks are color-on-color, you should also consider the texture difference. Pick up on the shoe's history by incorporating other traditionally male fabrics: pinstripes, high-twist wools, waistcoats, hornrims or a dashing chapeau.(This isn't to say you should go out looking like an extra from Express Yourself; a little goes a long way.)
Jeffrey Campbell Tombo in Ivory $148
The Tombo (available in three colorways) is a remarkable shoe. A chunky, four-inch wooden heel for height, and four-color (including insole) upper for spectacle. The Tombo has a fin-de-siecle boating flavor (think Becky Sharp at the Crystal Palace) with it's warm tans and bone ivory paired up with a smart fuschia lining. The grosgrain laces are a nice touch.
Try a fuschia dress or top to pull out the lining color, or push-and-pull the high-key colors with some dark jeans and a crisp white blouse. Boater's straw hat optional, but recommended (mostly for the grosgrain hatband).
Corso Como's Carson in Black/Bone $136
The Carson comes closest to the traditional black-and-white two-tone of old. Subtle shifts keep it feminine: the mellow ivory, a small peeptoe, the mary jane strap and a sleek, sculpted wedge. A small rhinestone is set into the center of the sole for a flashy walk in the sun.
Pair these with wideleg, high-waisted, wool pinstripe dress pants and a smartly tailored buttondown. Pop in some color with a skinny red patent belt.
Vaneli's Klodina in Brown Suede $90
This milk chocolate brown suede pump picks up style points with its burnished, perforated sawtooth panels. The Magic Shell gloss of the leather works great against the soft, chalky nap of the suede.
This shoes makes us think white, billowy dresses. Maybe a peasant top to play against those sharp edges. We also see small, bright pops of color in earrings, rings, dress patterns, working well. A judicious shade of dove gray or blue-black working marvelously with these.
Franco Sarti's Ability in Grey $76
The Ability is a t-strap translation of the spectator in soft, warm grey. A black sole and dark grey patent band define a cute peeptoe. Wingtip perforations across the patent and t-strap. The heel cup and 3-1/4" heel are also wrapped in dark grey patent.
This shoe is all about the perfect pedicure. The grey surround will compliment a range of colors and the patent's gloss will magnify your glossy toes. The cutway sides and t-straps promote long legs under a red, navy or white skirt. This would also work well with a slim-cut business suit with long-tailored capri pants, hornrims and a traditional calfskin briefcase.