"Gunboat" shoes with suits. An American Phenomenon?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by dreamspace, Apr 10, 2013.

  1. dreamspace

    dreamspace Senior member

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    Scrolling through the various WAYWN threads, both here and other places, I can't help but to notice that lots and lots of posters are wearing big,hideous(IMO) and shapeless wingtip shoes. Thick soles, very round lasts, big visible welts and overly brogued. In my understanding people just call them gunboats?

    Either way, I've almost never seen shoes like that here in Europe, especially not in conservative business settings.

    Is it just an North-American thing?
     
  2. Percy Trimmer

    Percy Trimmer Senior member

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    Before I knew much about such things and long long ago (the 70s) I was always surprised by the thickness of the soles on American shoes.
     
  3. upr_crust

    upr_crust Senior member

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    The OP is correct that the local slang for shoes as described is "gunboats", and it does seem to be an American idiosyncracy to wear such footwear with suits. (I've seen pictures of Vass Budapesters, which are very much in the same style realm as "gunboats", but are intended to be worn with "country" clothes, if I am not mistaken.)

    As an American, I know the phenomenon well, but have no taste for the look.
     
  4. msulinski

    msulinski Senior member

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    I have a pair of "gunboats" but only wear them with odd jackets, not suits.
     
  5. Fuuma

    Fuuma Franchouillard Modasse

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    No, very common in continental Europe. Now you know.
     
  6. Alcibiades

    Alcibiades Senior member

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    Technically, "gunboats" only refer to long wingtip bluchers, such as the classic Alden versions. In these, there is a line of brouging that runs essentially parallel to the welt and sole of the shoe along the side, as seen in this example:

    [​IMG]

    There are also heavy, brouged wingtip bluchers (some people call them "shortwings," but I don't like that term) with brouging pattern that connects to the sole. People don't call these "gunboats" even though they can look as substantial as longwings sometimes. This is an example from a styleforum member's tumblr

    [​IMG]

    Of course, there are also balmoral wingtips. These are an example of a pair on a sleeker last and a single leather sole (as opposed to the double that is common on wingtip bluchers):

    [​IMG]

    I wear all of these with suits. There is debate on the Alden thread about whether longwings are appropriate with suits. Some wear them with suits, others don't. I think longwings in classic colors (black and color 8) and darker soles are the easiest to wear with suits (though my favorite suit longwing right now is a ravello version with a dark sole)
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2013
  7. JayJay

    JayJay Senior member

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    I used to wear gunboats with suits, but decided a couple of years ago to wear my sleeker, nicer dress shoes with suits. Since then I've gotten rid of all my gunboats except for a couple of pairs that I wear with casual clothing.
     
  8. SiegfriedFuerst

    SiegfriedFuerst Well-Known Member

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    They were a post WWII phenomenom deriving from the concept of solid masculinity that evolved in the post war era. Florsheim released the first large run, double soled longwing in 1959 and it fit in with the aesthetic of the time. Broad shouldered suits, nuclear families and heavy steel/chrome cars. Since then I think it's stuck around because it's what people's fathers wore and what people grew up with. Once introduced widely enough, a pattern is hard to change.
     
  9. mimo

    mimo Pernicious Enabler

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    They are called longwing or sometimes royal brogues in England. I think it's a matter of personal proportion, and taste of course. Perhaps on a small or slight man, a heavier shoe looks like more of a caricature of itself, more of a statement, and therefore more casual for it.

    But as a thicker set man, with a large head and neck and resultant "presence", I find a heavier shoe doesn't necessarily look "country" or casual on me. Of course, brogues are country shoes in origin, but since they ceased to be functional (i.e. the brogueing for decoration, rather than actual drainage holes in the shoe), I think they also ceased to be exclusively casual. In the same way that brown shoes are now acceptable with a suit, there is no reason why a brogue should not. The last shape is important too. Mine are reasonably sleek, with a classic English toe rather than the heavier Austro-Hugarian "budapester" deep and round toe box. Even in a wider fitting as mine are, I think they're an elegant enough shape for city wear.

    I love my double-soled derby brogues with a suit sometimes. Paradoxically, I think they are the only derbies I would wear with a formal suit - a plain toe "blucher" always looks a bit scruffy to me. But hey, we all have our own style. This one works for me.


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2013
  10. RogerP

    RogerP Senior member

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    +1 to everything mimo said.

    On the personal preference point, a shoe which may me praised by some as "sleek and elegant" may strike others as "delicate, bordering on effeminate".

    I don't presently own a pair of true gunboats but they do hold an offbeat appeal for me. I know I will get a pair sooner rather than later - and they will likely be Dinkelackers - which will no doubt immediately kick the crap out of all my other delicate prissy little girly-shoes. [​IMG]
     
  11. Quadcammer

    Quadcammer Senior member

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  12. jrd617

    jrd617 Senior member

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  13. MyOtherLife

    MyOtherLife Senior member

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    Gunboats, like most anything else, were borne out of necessity and used the best materials available at the time of their origin. You won't feel every stone on an unpaved road if you are wearing double layered soles. You can easiy wear them in winter and inclement weather. Gunboats were created in the days when things were made to last. Unlike their thin soled dainty counterparts, gunboats are perfect for long time pavement pounding and easily serve most mens needs.
    Thin soled dainty shoes are better suited for pressing gas pedals and walking on carpets or finished floors. :stirpot:
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2013
  14. jrd617

    jrd617 Senior member

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    ^ Good for kicking shit too
     

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