The co-respondent is such a beautiful shoe. Made with a mix of leather and white buckskin or canvas, it is a summer shoe that leaps out from an outfit.
It makes a definite, rakish statement – and even has a rakish story behind its name. The shoe was so-called because it was the kind of thing that a co-respondent to a divorce petition would have worn, in the days when it would have been accompanied by a stained Mac and a battered brown hat.
It is a disreputable shoe, a characterful shoe. It is also known as a spectator, that name referring to its use in sporting activities – indeed, Lobb claims to have designed the first spectator as a cricket shoe in 1868. The most usual styles are a full brogue (wingtip) or a half brogue, in black or brown leather against the white buckskin. (The white should really not be leather, though these days it often is.)
Unfortunately, I believe it is destined to remain a bauble, an eccentricity, a foible. This is because it is trapped between the formal and the informal.
Back in the days when every discerning gentleman had a pair of co-respondent shoes in his wardrobe, they were a casual piece of footwear. They would be worn with cream trousers and an open-necked shirt. Even with flannels on the sports field.
Today, trainers are worn on the sports field and the dominant casual trouser is the jean.
And in my opinion, they look wrong with jeans. The clean, white buckskin and contrast of the colours is too smart for jeans. As a quirk, they are fine – just like trainers in luminous colours, you give up any hope of harmonisation in favour of making a statement. But suede shoes work far better with jeans; the roughness of the materials brings them together.
Plus, if you opt for smarter (and so darker) jeans, they will be an even worse partner for the co-respondent. It was designed as a choice for pale-coloured trousers, after all.
An older gentleman can wear the co-respondent with his grey flannels and ascot, and look splendid. But then he probably doesn’t own any jeans. For the younger man, the co-respondent has no obvious or harmonious place in his wardrobe – it is too smart for casual wear, yet cannot be worn with a dark or lightweight suit. It wil only end up being worn with chinos and blazer, and even then could look like a costume.
This is the sad story of the trapped co-respondent.