To celebrate black patent leather day today, take a look at our pair of wet look ‘fetish’ court shoes with a seven inch heel. The shoes are size 11 and, therefore, it is assumed that they are for the male ‘glamour’ market. They date from around 1975.
The shoes were purchased by Northampton Museums for its collection (the largest shoe collection in the world) in the 1980s. Unfortunately there is no further information as to whether the shoes were worn and by whom.
Patent leather was not used for footwear until the 1790s though there were earlier examples of what would be called japanned shoes mentioned from 1725 and 1750. Japanned probably referred to shoes with a high polish rather than something made of patent leather.
The full process of producing patent leather came into being in the 1790s. It coincided with the craze for a high gloss, secret recipes for blacking and rumours that Beau Brummel’s valet cleaned his boots with champagne!
Prince Albert is wearing black patent leather shoes in a print from 1840 where he can be seen dancing the polka with Queen Victoria.