While the term “quiet luxury” has become overused, there are some companies that still have that sense of old world charm about them. These brands remain steadfast to their principles and eschew hype culture, which, in turn, only adds to the mystique and reverence of the brand itself. One company in particular has succeeded in gaining a steady following with minimal advertising and no collabs: Belgian Shoes.
While Instagram’s menswear crowd has only just begun to shine a light on Belgian Shoes, the brand has had a longtime following for the better part of the 20th century. Stars like Audrey Hepburn, Ponzi schemers like Bernie Madoff, and NOAH founder Brendon Babenzien have all sung the praises of the minimalist loafer that hugs to the foot and adds just the smallest bit of casual refinement to any outfit. Now described as “the secret handshake shoe” of the country club and downtown set by Town and Country magazine, it’s a shoe that is too subtle to be considered flashy, but noticed by those with an eye for substance, style, and quality.
The History of the Belgian Shoe
The earliest record of the Belgian Shoe, as it is called today, was from the 1930s by designer Henri Bendel, whose family owned an eponymous NYC-based department store. When the family sold the store in 1955, they opened the Belgian Shoe boutique, which focused on Henri’s designs that melded artisanal European production with American style.
The defining moment for Belgian Shoes came in the 1950s with the introduction of the “Henri” loafer. These loafers, known for their sleek design, supple leather, and meticulous hand-stitched detailing, swiftly gained recognition and became the brand’s signature product. As the 1960s and 1970s rolled around, Belgian Shoes ascended to greater prominence, as the American jet-setting crowd began to desire and celebrate European design more and more.
Throughout the decades, Belgian Shoes remained steadfast in its commitment to craftsmanship. Each pair is made by hand in Izegem, Belgium, and provides not only style but also unparalleled comfort and a shoe that’s built to last. While the Henri loafer remained iconic, Belgian Shoes expanded its product line to encompass a variety of classic and timeless designs, including the Traveler, Lui, and the Mr. Casual. Each style includes a variety of leather options, including ostrich, suede, linen, and even a camo print.
It’s easy to understand why the shoes became so popular. They’re handcrafted to last, and the leather molds to your foot after wearing them a few times. Plus, the comfortable heel support allows for easy all day wear with various styles and motifs to fit each personal preference.
Which leads to today, in which Belgians continue to remain a popular option for those who are looking for a shoe that withstands longterm wear and balances the casual aspects of a loafer with a more composed personality to the shoe itself.
Styling Your Belgian Shoes
Styling your Belgians doesn’t require too much thought. Instead, lean into the subtlety of the shoe and use that to your advantage. Style your outfit without throwing too much attention to the shoe itself, as it will invariably be noticed by everyone. If you need some pointers, here are a few starting points to get you going.
Formal Styling: For a formal look, pair your Belgian Shoes with a well-tailored charcoal or navy suit. Opt for a white dress shirt, a silk tie with a subtle pattern, and a matching belt. Ensure your trousers have a clean break at the shoe, and choose a contrasting sock color to add some playfulness to the shoe.
Business Casual Styling: Create a smart-casual outfit by wearing Belgian Shoes with slim-fitting, dark denim jeans. Pair them with a well-fitted, tucked-in dress shirt or polo in a solid color or subtle pattern. Add an unstructured blazer and a dress watch to complete the look.
Summertime Styling: Even a leather loafer can have some fun in the sun. Embrace the warmer seasons by combining Belgian Shoes with light khaki or beige shorts. Choose a lightweight, short-sleeved button-down shirt in a complementary color or a subtle print. Skip the socks to keep it breezy, and finish the look with a woven leather belt and a casual watch.
Sunday Styling: For a laid-back weekend look, wear your Belgian Shoes with a light, relaxed fit jean and a neutral crewneck sweatshirt. A baseball cap and a pair of aviators keep the styling low-maintenance but high impact.