The Subtle Pleasure Of A Spectator Shoe

I’ve always been a sucker for two-tone shoes. They were big in the late 70s, early 80s. To this day I remember a pair of gray and white pumps I bought in London – 1979. They sported classic ornamental holes, punched in the shape of stars. Sigh. The shoes of our youth.

You don’t see too many actual spectators around these days, except in vendors of the classic. J. Crew carries the Mona pump on sale for a few sizes at $169.

Brooks Brothers, unsurprisingly, offers a t-strap for $198.

And you can find vintage, in a size 8, for $28 at American Apparel, and elsewhere I’m sure.

But recently, in my search for oxfords, I happened across these Gravatis at Arthur Berens, the iconic Union Square shoe store. Aha! (And no, I can’t wear these with skirts but who said shopping and logic will always share a bed?)

I settled on black and brown, preferring spectators, and everything for that matter, with a low contrast effect. I’ll wear them with a black tee or sweater, and jeans, or my brown cords. Might even attempt a little purple. You know, go crazy. I’ll avoid simultaneous button fronts, as the combination would exceed my menswear comfort point.

But the salesperson told me that Gravati does a trunk show at Berens every year. And, if you attend said show, YOU CAN ORDER THESE IN ANY COLORS YOU LIKE. Hot pink and burgundy, or marine and olive.

Wow. That’s the sort of Advanced Style I might attempt, you know, if absolutely everything else on my body were navy blue.


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  • Lovely. My mother wore spectators.

    Have you ever gone so far as to wear Belgian loafers? They have gorgeous two-toned offerings (though not spectators) in Easter egg colors at the moment.

    6:42 pm
    Sandy said...

    Great idea, such beuaitufl colors.

    6:26 am
    Lisa said...

    I tried to buy some once, but they never arrived. Boo! I should try again. My aunt Priscilla wore them almost exclusively.

  • Great choice Lisa, I do love spectators and your style I would wear so much in Fall and Winter with slacks, cords, jeans, etc.

    Art by Karena

  • There must be a cosmic link between Cali and Scotland. I literally just had a pair of Bass black and white Saddle shoes in my e-shopping cart (opted for the tan and navy suede ones in the end). Old school….quality.

    6:31 am
    Lisa said...

    Let’s wear them in parallel!

  • You failed to mention that Gravati is one of the best made shoes for women…worth every penny!

  • You won’t be surprised to know I have a deep fondness for spectators! Love Arthur Berens, love yours, and loathe seeing you say that we can have them made in *any colors we like*, that is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. (Heh,heh,heh.)

    Sending you a smile Miss Privilege,

  • I love them, and in the cooler months they’ll look great with black tights and skirts or dresses. I do wear all my oxfords with button fronts, slouchy ones, or even a tee shirt and blazer. But, I always wear my hair down when dressing that manly!
    I love spectators, and I also love Gravati. Didn’t know they had their own store in SF.
    These are really especially nice because they have a bit of a heel. Hmmm…may have to attend the trunk show.

  • I don’t care for shoes with t-straps, but if you put that first shoe on a 1/2″ heel, I’d be all over it. Or rather, it would be all over my feet.

  • Wow choosing one’s colour combination at a trunk show sounds like fun.
    My daughter has a pair of shoes very much like your new ones and hers are made in Brazil and vintage.
    They are very smart looking shoes Lisa and I agree with kathy Peck about the black tights when you have cooler weather.

  • The heels on your new shoes are just too sweet. It’s not my usual style, but now I want to go find some!

  • Imo, Chanel masters the two-toned shoes. The other companies come way behind. They look great, if you have a long, slim foot. Best on ballerinas, some pumps too.
    Your new shoes fit you, for me – too masculine.

  • Here in Montréal one sees a lot of those Gravati style brogues worn with a skirt, both pencil and full, knee-length or just below the knee. (Somehow they look odd with a skirt above the knee.) Spotted recently in pale grey/bone, and navy/grey as well as the standard b/w. You also see them on cool women (often in their 40s up) with sheath dresses, vintagey shirtwaists and LBDs. I love the look.

    Try it?

  • Good choice.

    6:32 am
    Lisa said...


  • Gorgeousness! I haven’t worn a spectator pump in ages, and I can’t think of a single pair of two-toned shoe in my closet now.

    I am lusting after those Tatiana oxfords in a big way, and to think of having them in marine makes my heart skip beats. No fair.

  • New shoes! I would like them with a skirt or dress if worn with tights, I think. I love the narrow style of the shoe.

    I have some black/white specators not yet worn, waiting for better weather, if not necessarily Memorial Day.

  • I love the Advanced Style blog – it is so wonderful!

    And I really adore those t-strap Brooks Brothers… le sigh…

  • Wow, your “Tatiana” oxford is “good looking” for sure!

  • I’d definitely wear those with a skirt as well — although I can see in your climate you might be less wiling than I am to wear tights. . .

  • Am with Mette on this,Chanel is the master.
    I had a pair of sling backs white with navy toe, I wore them to death walking over Vauxhall bridge to work in the Summer.

    Now I prefer their pumps or flatties,cream with navy toe.
    The shoes look more Autumn/Winter great with either brown or black tights.Ida

  • Still think you need a pair of summer oxfords :)

  • With my first paycheck 27 years ago, I went to Lord & Taylor and bought 3 pairs of shoes, and two were spectator: navy and white, and black and white. Love spectators! Just bought a one inch sling back in navy patent and navy leather. Looking for just the right pair in shades of cream and tan for summer.

  • Oh, I love a spectator pump, but I don’t think I’ve actually owned a pair since, oh, say 1988. Still, they’re a good-looking shoe. In an uncharacteristic bit of trendiness for me, I bought a pair of very low-heeled two-tone oxfords for spring–they are cream and a very light gray, and they even have a little perforation detail, a la true spectators. So far, I’ve only worn them with skinny jeans and a long white blouse, and now you’ve got me re-thinking the whole button-up menswear thing! Aack! I was thinking maybe I could wear them with white jeans and a navy turtleneck. What do you think? Is 50 too old for white jeans?

    10:34 pm
    SewingLibrarian said...

    No, 50 is not too old for white jeans. I’m sure you can wear them well!

  • You protestations about stepping out in a too fashionable way always make me chuckle. I too had a pair of spectator heels in the 1980s. I was quite fond of them.

    I share another poster’s wariness about t-straps.

  • I would love to see this same shoe in the colors you describe.

  • They are, as a certain person would say, 11/10. Quite wonderful. Think I prefer the spectator adornment on a lace up shoe rather than a pump actually. And like you, the less contrast the better in my book! x

  • I was very disappointed with the shoes from J Crew (first photo). In the catalog, I don’t remember the material being described, but they looked like leather shoes in the picture. When I received them, they seemed to be painted with glitter that easily shed and looked very cheap. Didn’t think they were at all worth the money… I usually love J Crew, too. Beware.

  • I like the T-Bar option, really nice. I hadn’t thought about a pair of shoes like this before but that has changed thanks to your post x

  • I’m totally obsessed with all the two-toned pointy toe pumps right now that have the contrasting point! Totally going to have to splurge on a pair soon!

  • Ohhhh, yes indeed. When I was a little girl, my mother had a pair of green and purple spectators.

    She had the most amazing clothes which is one reason why I think I became a fashion journalist.

    I wonder whether it’s possible to find a pair with a smaller heel. I do have a pair of two-tone moccasins but I don’t know if that really counts.

    6:33 am
    Lisa said...

    Let’s say it counts!

  • I love spectator shoes! I used to have navy and white spectators with perfect one inch heels from Brooks Brothers that lasted forever, since I only wore them in the summer. Now you’ve got me in the mood for them again.

    I like your Gravatis oxfords. You chose well – they’re cute and they’ll no doubt be very useful.

  • Good purchase, would like them, too. I bought a pair of two-tone oxfords recently, a greyish brown with ocre. 1988 I was mad with a pair of italian dandy-style chelsea boots in three different greens. After 18(!!) months they got so reduced that I could afford them. I wore them until my shoemaker could not repair them any more…

  • I love a brogue but have never gone two-tone. Just acquired my first white pair, though, now waiting for the rain to stop!

  • Great post! I share your love of spectators and am thrilled to be seeing them a LOT this spring. As I recall, weren’t there rules? Something like, not wearing them after 6pm., wearing them for mostly outdoor functions (I think that one is obscure, like the one about only wearing brown alligator in the country) and not wearing them with dark hosiery. -N.G.

    6:33 am
    Lisa said...

    Rules? AAaack! Must go uncover them.

  • have you seen these? must be popular, only 4 sizes left. flats get extra points with me.

    7:09 am
    Lisa said...

    I love flats. My feet love them most of all.

  • I found a classic pair of slightly used brown pumps with a heel about 1 1/2″ stacked. I made them into spectators by creating areas for white. I have finished them and they are read to wear for Spring. I hope the will go well with a new bright green dress for around Easter…it was fun creating them.