Through history there have been silk laces, flat cotton laces, waxed flat cotton laces, flat nylon laces, round laces with a nylon core and much much more… Oh and buckles too. When I started wearing dress shoes several years back. The primary lace sold in stores for the plain black or brown dress shoe was the plain black or brown round waxed cotton shoelace that usually had a nylon core for strength. Now, they are fine for shoes… always in style, but for me they just don’t have that certain sense of … well you know, retro grandpa chic that’s just a little unique and what the general masses aren’t wearing. I’m not too eccentric with my wears, but I do like to tweak the details to just a little more outside the box of the regular guy in a suit and tie
A return to the flat, waxed cotton shoelace
I was quite enamored with old shoe ads in Esquire and Life magazines from the 1930s and absolutely had to emulate the look. Clean, dashing, flat and different were the laces on shoes style that were common for the last 100 years. When I decided to change up my style to match the laces I saw in the old ads, I found it was quite the challenge. Flat laces had just fallen out of style. I can guess why with my own experiences; through time, trial and error with different laces.
Flat laces that are all cotton tend to break down a lot faster than the current issue round lace with nylon core. In the early 1950s the US military kept with flat laces that were made of nylon for a short time for dress shoe wear, but those laces tend to just slide out of their knots so the US military also followed the public and went to the round cotton with nylon core laces.
But I still wanted the classic flat waxed all cotton, and… well they were damned hard to find. I’d frequent the South Coast Plaza mall and order special make Allen Edmonds now and again and constantly ask there about such laces, and at the Alden shop and check online and everywhere else that looked like they’d have an inkling of classic cobbling to their works until I walked into a John Lobb shoe store. They had the laces on their shoes and right there and then I asked to buy a handful of brown and black flat laces.
I’ve gone through all those laces as they do break rather easily, but they evoke a panache that I don’t think can be matched by just a plain round lace.
Over the last several years we’ve seen a return of more and more shoe designs from the early 20th century. Lots of spectators and ankle boots and now also, the flat waxed lace. There are a lot of unwaxed ones out there as well that are quite thick and wide and don’t really look in place on a dress shoe, but I’m happy we now have options.
If You’d like to get a pair I still suggest John Lobb and now Allen Edmonds as they have shoes in their lineup that require such laces.
A pair of Buzz Rickson officer shoe reproductions I purchased along with extra laces (in stumbling Japanese while in Tokyo). Unwaxed flat cotton
Special Make Allen Edmonds with their waxed flat laces from John Lobb