These hand stitched loafers were designed in the 1940’s by Henri Bendel, who received a knighthood from the Belgian government for keeping his production there and thus helping to preserve the native shoe industry. The company is now run by his son, John and very little has changed in the business since the sixties, when they introduced a new style and multiple widths.
Paolo Moschino Ltd stocks two styles of Belgian Shoes, Midinette for the ladies and Mr Casual for men. The key to the shoes’ success is their indisputable comfort, which is achieved through their simple, hand- finished construction. Each insole is hand sewn, over a light filling of “piano hair” (similar to the felt that dampens piano keys) by women, who work out of their homes in the Belgian countryside. They make the shoes inside out, before sending them to a small factory in Izegem, for turning and finishing. Each shoe has a tiny bow, placed near the top of the vamp and is tied by the sole Belgian woman who is qualified to do so.
The understated, chic aesthetic of these shoes has awarded them many fans; from the late Andy Warhol to photographer Mario Testino, model Rachel Chandler and the president of Manolo Blahnik, USA, George Malkemus, who buys six pairs of Mr Casual at once: “They are the symbol of understated elegance. When I can’t be barefoot, I’m wearing Belgian Shoes.”
As the antithesis of flash, the Belgian Shoe line has never been more in demand. Now that consumption is less conspicuous, a new generation of fashionable traditionalists have been drawn to the brand. Younger consumers that are seeking out quality, comfort and something just that little bit different. They are the perfect unisex lounge shoe; ideal for everyday use, long-haul flights and transcend from casual day-wear to smart evening-wear seamlessly.
The Mr Casual style in Black Velvet is the perfect complement to black-tie attire and there are several new patent leather styles available now, a favourite being the Midinette style in Burgundy patent leather.