A Brief History of Men and Ballet Flats

Medieval Times

Most historical references date the “ballet flat” back to the 16th century, although the idea of a shoe with a closed toe and open vamp probably existed long before that. They were called “pompes” when worn by nobility as a court (as in royal court) shoe but also in a more simplistic form by Tudor peasants. These were worn by both men and women, but fell out of style by the 17th century, when heels became popular.


There was another shoe called “poulaines,” which were similar to pompes, but had a long (sometimes very long) toe. However, these were mainly reserved for men and the length of the shoe reflected social standing: commoners could wear shoes no longer than 6 inches; a Knight was allowed up to 18 inches; and a Baron could sport a pair of shoes up to 24 inches in length.


Meanwhile, the first true “ballet” shoe made its first appearance in 1680’s France in the ballet school at the Royal Academy of Dance. At the time it was a high heeled shoe that would later be replaced in the 1800s by the ballet slipper we are familiar with today.

Modern Times

Alfred Guillaume Gabriel, the Count d’Orsay was a prominent French noble and a former soldier with the French military. He created the d’Orsay in 1838 as a military shoe. These flat shoes featured a cut out side that accommodated wider feet and the V-shaped vamp provided a snug fit. The style was later adopted by women and actually was initially considered “scandalous” because it exposed the arch of the foot.

The ballerina slipper continued to be worn by men and women ballet dancers. In the 1880’s an Italian immigrant to America, Salvatore Capezio, decided to design a better ballet shoe that would need fewer repairs. The result was a huge success, ballerinas loved Capezio’s shoe so much, that in 1910 Anna Pavlova bought a pair for each member of her ballet company.

In the late 1940’s, famed shoe designer Rose Repetto got some experience creating ballet flats. She gained notoriety in the ballet world after making pointe shoes for her son Roland Petite, but her most iconic design that brought the ballet flat into the mainstream by adding a hard sole and was inspired in 1956 by none other than Brigitte Bardot. She commissioned a pair of red ballet flats from Repetto to wear in the movie, “And God Created Woman.” Needless to say the shoes were a hit both on and off screen. The shoes went into mass production and sold extremely well. The following year in 1957, Audrey Hepburn, sported a black pair of ballet flats in the film Funny Face, helping catapult the ballet flat to closet staple status.


Opera pumps are similar in style to the ballet flat and are still worn occasionally in the west by men.


Some companies, including Repetto, are attempting to to market ballet flats to men. A few companies, such as Softstar Shoes, are marketing ballet flats as unisex shoes.


While the ballet flat has become a staple shoe for women, some designers have branched out and are incorporating the ballet flat in their designs for men. Some of the notable designers are shown below.

Wales Bonner



Telfar-SS16-028Telfar pic-63

Seok Won Jang


Michael Bastian


Chin Mens







4 thoughts on “A Brief History of Men and Ballet Flats

  1. i’m like and love it’s photos, but i’m interested to pointed toe cleavage ballet flats rather than regular ballet flats with round or square toe

    regular ballet flats for guy are interesting. But, pointed toe cleavage ballet flats are really interesting if it wear by guy

    are you interested to wear pointed toe cleavage ballet flats instead regular ballet flats


  2. I’m a straight male who has been wearing ballet slippers for decades. I have always seen ballet slippers, the kind the dancers wear, as very masculine. Articles like this one by FlatsGuy strengthens the fact that in their original ballet slippers were meant for males. I actually do not like ballet flats. I bought one pair and took them back next day. They just did not go well with blue jeans, black pants or anything else I wear. I may buy a pair of highland slippers as was recommended in an old copy of GQ Magazine. I was hesitant due to the multi lacing. But once on I am sure they will make a fine summer shoe for evening outings, and will be great to dance in at the Goth clubs I go to.
    I think the idea of ballet flats for males is great. Alternatives are needed in men’s fashions as at present things are too limited if you are male.
    I do hope we see greater advances in men’s attire in the near future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment and support. Don’t give up on ballet flats just yet. Sometimes you just have to find the brand and style that works best for you. But, in the end wear what make you comfortable!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s