Let’s Make Some Men’s Shoes

…for real.

A couple years back we made a stab at developing a men’s historic footwear collection. We did a pump, a latchet shoe, and a boot all from around the 1780s-1810s. To be honest, none of the designs sold particularly well, but in hindsight I think we were a bit limited, and the designs were a bit off. As Matt, one of our lovely team members says, “if we’re not winning, we’re learning.” So we’re learning!

One silver lining of the first attempt at a men’s line was that the *idea* of it was well received. We’ve gotten a lot of requests for more men’s designs, especially as we produced all of the styles in both men’s and women’s US size ranges. Some other great feedback was on how high the men’s sizes should go, and in what variety of calf sizes for the boots.

So time to try again. For 2021, we’ve put together another collection in a more varied time range, size range, and color range. Here’s what we’ve got going on…

Elizabethan/Early 17th c, as yet unnamed (give us your suggestions in the comments!)

This is a great one for a men’s/women’s unisex design, as this was historically the case in the late 16th and early 17th century. Louis XIV is often credited with popularizing men’s high heels in Europe, but they were hot stuff a good 50+ years before the Sun King.

Ivory is a commonly represented color in French and English portraits, possibly because the aristocracy wanted to display their wealth and privilege by wearing white shoes. Black is the favored color among the Dutch and Spanish. Black and 17th century Dutch and Spanish fashion go together like peanut butter and jelly.

James I (1566 – 1625) by John de Critz, c.1606. (Dulwich Picture Gallery)
Elizabeth Vernon, Countess of Southampton (1572-1655), probably dressed for the coronation of James I of England in 1603
Militia Company of District XI under the command of Captain Reyniet Reael, known as ‘The Meagre Company’, Frans Hals, oil on Canvas, 1637

As with all our shoes from 2020 onward, we’ll offer a variety of darker colors, not just ivory, promise!

Louis & Nell 17th century shoes

By about the 1640s, toe shapes and heels were changing quite drastically. The mid-to-late-17th century silhouette is very square with a blockier heel. Heels for men and women got higher – this we will give Louis XIV credit for.

Shoes, 1660-75, The Met, 1973.114.3a,b
Fragment of a men’s shoe, mid-17th century, Livrustkammaren, 27525 (06:5493)

Toe shape is very important on this one, but I’m confident we’ll produce something lovely and perfectly wearable. The toe shapes on the original above are quite extreme and very long, but as always with AD shoes, we strike a balance between antiques and modern wearability.

Pompadour in men’s sizes, at last!

This is a must-do for us. We’ve made women’s Pompadours for years up to size 11 and more recently up to size 12, but we’ve had many, many requests from men for this style.

It’s our top-selling design for the theaters and it’s about time those poor male dancers at Company XIV get some Pomps that actually fit them!

Frederick & Elsie 1880s-1920s side-button ankle boot

We’ve had a lot of requests for late Victorian to 1920s side-button ankle boots. This design is ubiquitous for men’s footwear in this period, and it’s easy to see why. They’re so attractive and cover a very broad time range.

I got an original sample from Sam at Overattired and have used it for the last, heel, and pattern of our version. Here’s a pair from The Met that is spot-on as well.

Lawrence & Marlene 1920s-1940s spectator oxfords

Once the gentlemen were over side-button boots, they were onto spectator oxfords.

There are a lot of options in the market already for this style, but I’m hoping we can distinguish the American Duchess version with attention to detail in last shape, proportion, and quality, with vital input from Dandy Wellington.

I’m pretty excited about each of these designs, and that they’ll be available in both men’s and women’s size ranges. This is important for reasons beyond historical accuracy and choice. It’s inclusive of gender identity and size, with overlapping women’s/men’s sizes providing a wider fitting. Our planned men’s size range starts at 6, which is a women’s US 7.5. Men’s width is D.

The plan is for a pre-order this Summer with delivery in Fall. I hope you’re as excited about these styles as we are!

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  • John Gion

    May 31, 2021 at 8:06 PM

    Hello lauren,
    I absolutely love the men’s button ankle boot and the spectaters! Thank you! And thank you for creating this amazing company!

    John Gion

  • Allen

    June 2, 2021 at 2:31 PM

    Liking the Elizabethan in flat or mid heel. The name Gustav sticks with me. Hope it comes in a soft suede or nubuck version in brown or olive. Made in Portugal please!

  • Gill

    June 6, 2021 at 3:47 PM

    I love the button ankle boots! I’ve always loved the woman’s style one but I know I’ll never wear a shoe that is that involved to put on. (I consider American Dutchess shoes to be every/any day wear.) Will the buttons be bigger on these, so no need for a button hook?

    • Lauren @ American Duchess

      June 7, 2021 at 2:36 PM

      Hi! It’s true it takes a bit more time to get the button shoes on (though arguably only as long as lacing up boots). The bonus, and why this type of closure was so popular in the 19th and early 20th century, is because buttons do not come untied, meaning no bending over to re-lace one’s shoes.

      On the men’s style side-button shoes, the buttons will be the same size as on all our other button boot styles. If you have dexterous fingers, you can get them done by hand, but a button hook makes them infinitely quicker and easier to get on. We do make the button hooks as well, so you don’t need to go searching in an antique shop. 🙂

  • Cindy Joy

    June 11, 2021 at 2:22 PM

    I am so glad to hear of these developments and that you will start with a men’s size 6! You know that my woman’s size 8D feet with bursitis have been literally aching for some shoes from you that I can wear without pain. And some boat size shoes for my giant of a husband. I would love to see you do the Bertie in this size range as well. They were so nice. Onward and upward!

  • Chris

    June 12, 2021 at 6:56 AM

    Nice! I do hope that if men’s shoes become regular offerings at American Duchess you will remember those of us who haven’t been able to wear a D-width shoe since middle school. It would be nice to have historic footwear options other than bespoke. Have a good one!

  • Merle

    August 27, 2021 at 8:36 AM

    Since you’re planning to make men’s shoes in B and D widths, could you also expand some of the women’s shoe models to have D widths as well as B widths? I have read countless people’s comments saying “AD shoes look so beautiful but I have wide feet” or something along those lines. Personally I have swim fins for feet, but I think there’s a lot of people out there who would really appreciate D width Renoirs or Londoners.

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