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What are Spectator Pumps?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Spectator pumps are a form of spectator shoe designed to be worn by women. As the “pumps” in the name implies, spectator plumps are formal, heeled shoes which are meant to be worn at fancy events. You may also hear spectator shoes referred to as co-respondent shoes, especially in the United Kingdom. Most shoe stores carry an assortment of spectator shoes.

Before delving into the specifics of spectator pumps, it may help to know what spectator shoes are. Spectator shoes are dress shoes which can be worn by either men or women, and they are distinguished by their two-toned color. Many spectator shoes are black and white, but it is also possible to find black and tan, tan and white, and so forth. These shoes became especially popular after they were spotted on the feet of the Duke of Windsor at sporting events in the 1930s, although they date to the mid-1800s.

In the case of spectator pumps, the two-toned look of spectator shoes is retained, but the shoes are given a more feminine twist. Although early spectator shoes were flat in both men's and women's designs, spectator pumps are given a heel which may be low to extremely high, depending on the designer. Often, the toe and heel of the shoe are sewn in contrasting colors, and the design tends to be very crisp, clean, and formal.

Well through the 1950s, spectator pumps were immensely fashionable with women in many parts of the United States and Britain. In the United States, the day of the spectator pump began to wane, but it experienced a resurgence in the 1980s, and a number of shoe manufacturers began making spectator shoes for men and women in the 1990s and early 21st century to respond to fashion trends which made the shoes popular once more.

A good pair of spectator pumps can go a long way, especially if you get a pair in relatively neutral colors. They can be worn with an elegant evening dress for formal occasions, or they can be worn to dress up day events, such as garden parties, church services, and daytime weddings. Most spectator pumps conform with office dress codes, for women who like a little pizazz on their feet at work, and many companies make very comfortable styles which accommodate a range of foot shapes and sizes.

When trying on spectator pumps, or any shoes, make sure to wear them with the nylons or socks which you would normally wear with them. Take the time to walk in the shoes, to gauge how comfortable they are, and consider using the services of a professional shoe-fitter to make sure that you don't need shoes of a special width or length.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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