The Wholecut Dress Shoe

Wholecut balmoral from Barneys New York.

Wholecut balmoral from Barneys New York.

This week I discovered a new breed of shoe that I never knew existed before thanks to a reader who asked if wholecut models were suitable for formal wear. For the edification of other footwear philistines such as myself, wholecut shoes have uppers that are constructed from a single piece of leather and so are virtually absent of visible seams.

Despite my ignorance of this shoe style, finding the answer to the reader’s question was quite simple: I just had to look to the crème de la crème of formal oxfords introduced in 1934:


Made of patent leather with minimal stitching and laces of flat silk ribbon, this suave innovation conveyed the swank of the pump while providing the practicality of a lace-up.  I had assumed that such a shoe was lost to history but now I realize that it still exists in a new form: just replace a patent–leather wholecut’s standard laces with silk ribbon and voilà.  In fact, because formality in footwear is defined by elegant minimalism, the streamlined Barney’s model shown at the top of the page arguably trumps the 1934 model thanks to the absence of a stitched border around the lacing.


This Oliver Sweeney wholecut blucher  isn’t quite as streamlined as the above balmorals.

I have consequently updated the Guide’s footwear section to place the wholecut at the apex of the formal shoe hierarchy.

Coincidentally I’ve also just finished creating a Vintage Footwear page for those who are interested in the glamorous shoes of yesteryear.


  1. Anonymous

    Those wholecut shoes just need to make their toes more discrete, i think.

  2. William Wright

    I’m thinking that when I’m working again (been looking for ten months now) and can afford them, I’ll buy a pair of them. They are much nicer than any of the shoes I now have and I believe they’ll really dress up my tuxedos quite well. Thanks for bringing them to our attention!

  3. Stuff

    Did this post cause everyone to buy those beautiful Barney’s balmorals? Perhaps; they appear to be all out on their website. Too bad: any wholecut shoe at $350 is a pretty good deal, and a steal at $149, the sale price.,default,pd.html

  4. David V

    I’ve always thought that whole cuts were a better choice than the closed laced oxford.
    If I didn’t already own two pair of opera pumps (one calf, one patent leather) I’d have gone for calf whole cuts.

  5. shaftoe

    The wholecut dress shoe is fine, but for me the classic opera pump is sublime for it lifts everything several notches up. Long live the opera pump!

    1. David V

      couldn’t agree more!

  6. Cygnus

    I remember leaving the Barney’s link on another post about silk laces.

    Here it is:


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