The Ballet Slippers for Men Tutorial

by David on November 2, 2009

Part 4 of the Men’s Dance wear Tutorials

View Part 1- Intro here
View Part 2 – Tights here
View Part 3 – Dance Belts here

Special Thanks to Katherine for helping me with the pictures and demonstration for this post!

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I got my first pair of ballet slippers after I had taken a few ballet classes.  I knew that I wanted to keep taking ballet, so it was time for me to invest in some apparel.  The first piece of ballet apparel I got was my ballet slippers.  I had been wearing socks for my first few classes, and it didn’t take long for my feet to start to get sore in class.  I went to a small dance wear store in the town I lived in at the time.  They didn’t have any men’s shoes, but they did measure my feet and order a pair for me.  They were a pair of white leather slippers.  When it came time to sew them, I had no idea what to do.  I know how to sew, but I didn’t know where to sew the elastics.  I didn’t know anyone who could tell me how to do it either.  So they ended up really crooked.  They look pretty funny, but it wasn’t too long before they got wore out and I sewed my next pair right.

Choosing Men’s Ballet Slippers

Ballet slippers are sometimes referred to as ballet flats or flat shoes, as opposed to pointe shoes or toe shoes.  Pointe shoes are the shoes that dancers wear when they dance on their toes.  These are for advanced dancers, and men are never really asked to do it.  Some guy dancers do dance on pointe, but only because they want to.  Many professional male dancers may never dance on pointe.  It is typically reserved for women, especially in performances.  Not to say you can’t do pointe, you just can’t do it right now, and will probably never be required to do it.

Ballet shoes, the flat kind that you will need come with a couple different styles of sole.  They can be either a split sole, or full sole.  This refers to the leather bottom of the shoe.  On a full sole it runs all the way along the bottom of the shoe.  On the split sole, there are two separate leather pads, one under the heel, and one under the balls of the feet.  The split sole are the most common shoes.  They may be the only ones you will find, but if you have a choice, you might as well go with the split sole and get used to using them.

Ballet slippers are usually made out of either canvas or leather.  Canvas shoes are very common.  They are lighter, softer, and cheaper.  Leather shoes can last a bit longer, but considering that canvas shoes might be a bit more comfortable, and are typically half the price, I suggest canvas slippers.

You can also choose the color of your slippers.  Black or white are most common.  You may decide based on what your studio suggests or what their dress policy is.  Slippers also come in tan, or you can dye a pair of white slippers almost any color you desire with some Rit dye.  Shoes also come in pink, but as you can guess, those are usually worn by the girls.

Sizing Men’s Ballet Shoes

Some companies size their ballet slippers according to street shoe size.  Some base their size on centimeters.  If you go to a store to by your shoes, they should be able to fit you, or will have you try on different pairs and help you find the right size.  If you order them online or from a catalog, there should be a sizing chart that will tell you what shoes to order based on your street shoe size.

Buying the Slippers

If you would like to order online, you can find your shoes in the Ballet For Men Store, Discount Dance, or Fuzi Dance to name a few places.  I stopped by the Fuzi warehouse the other day and they had many larger sizes of shoes for men, even in narrow, medium, and wide.

Sewing Your New Ballet Shoes

It isn’t really that hard to sew your slippers once you know where the elastics go.  You will need the following:

Sewing Supplies

Sewing Supplies

  • ballet shoes
  • sturdy needle
  • thread or dental floss
  • pen
  • marker

New Ballet Shoe

New Ballet Shoe

The shoes already have one end of each of the two thick elastics sewn to the back of the shoe.  You are going to put the shoe on, and cross the elastics over your foot to the seam that is in the middle of the shoe, by the arch of your foot.

Mens Ballet Shoe

Men's Ballet Shoe

(Ignore the copious tattoos)

Pull the elastics snug, but not too tight.  They should be stretched just a bit.  Mark on both elastics with a pen where it meets the top of the shoe.

Marking the Ballet Shoe

Marking the Ballet Shoe

Ballet Shoe Seams

Ballet Shoe Seams

See the seams here.  The elastics should be brought to this point on the shoe.  Take the shoe off and line the elastic up with your mark at the top of the shoe.  This time you want the elastic on the inside of the shoe though.  So the elastics should be criss-crossed, but they should not be twisted.  Sew one elastic to one side, by stitching the floss through the elastic and the shoe, but stay beneath the black trim on the top of the shoe.  There is another elastic running around inside there, and you might not be able to tighten the shoe later if you sew through it.

Stitching The Ballet Shoe

Stitching The Ballet Shoe

Sew both sides with enough stitches that it feels like it will hold really well and tie off the ends of your your thread. Cut off the leftover thread, and trim the excess elastic.

Trimming the Elastic

Trimming the Elastic

Once you’ve sewn and trimmed both sides, put the shoe back on.  The other elastics that cross at the front will tighten the opening of the shoe.  You want to pull those tight, but again, not too tight, just snug.  If they are too tight, the back of the shoe will dig into your heel.  You are going to tie a bow, just like you tie your shoe.  It would probably do best to double knot it.

Tying the Bow

Tying the Bow

Take the shoe back off. Turn the front part of the shoe inside out.  Use a piece of masking tape to tape the bow to the inside of the top of the shoe.

Taping the Bow

Taping the Bow

Turn the shoe back right-side-out.  Use the marker to write your name on the inside somewhere.  Also use it to color in the thread so it won’t be visible on the outside of the shoe.

Coloring the Stitching

Coloring the Stitching

Repeat all of this onto the other shoe, and you’re done!

If you don’t have time to sew your shoes, and you only really need them for practice or rehearsal, there is another way to make your shoes work.  You can tie the ends of the elastics together.  Put the shoe on and tie the bow like you normally would.  Tuck it in.  Take your elastic loop and twist it once to make a loop to slip over the front of your foot.  This will hold your shoe in place, but it won’t look as good as a sewn shoe, or be as comfortable.

Taking Care of Your Ballet Shoes

Your ballet shoes will get pretty sweaty.  You’ll want to wash them so they don’t stink too much.  They are easy to hand wash and hang dry.  It would be best to wash them and dry them inside out.  Keep in mind that it will take a day or two for the shoes to dry.  You could throw them in the washer and dryer, but like all other ballet apparel, this will cut down on their lifespan.  Washing and drying shoes can cause a rip or a fray to become a hole that will just keep getting bigger.

Replacing Your Ballet Shoes

How long your shoes last will depend on how much you are dancing.  If you are taking class or dancing everyday, they may be worn out in 2 months or less.  If you are dancing only a couple days a week, your shoes could last much longer.  You will probably need a new pair of shoes for each performance, so that they look nice and new on stage.  If you are just practicing, you can use your shoes until you’ve worn holes right through.  Once your toe shows it is probably time to get a new pair!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cactus Fantastic November 2, 2009 at 10:08 am

Would you believe that I just got my new shoes last night? My previous pair didn’t have the elastic included, so I hadn’t sewn it in before. I sat there trying to figure out exactly where I should line it up. Had I only waited a few hours…

I saw this video a few months ago and thought it might be something your readers would enjoy.

2 Last Will November 2, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Awesome article. I’ve been taking lessons for years and this is a surprisingly relevant article. I don’t think men’s ballet gets the attention it deserves. There are a couple high school football players in my class and they say the ballet workouts are tougher than the football workouts.

3 Catherine January 15, 2010 at 9:29 pm

This is a seriously detailed piece–and very well done! I think even female dancers could pick up a thing or two from this piece…nice work!

4 Amanda-Louise January 16, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I agree with the other comments… Excellent article. Very useful for boys… and girls… (and parents) alike.
Well done :)

5 Jonathan September 13, 2010 at 11:28 pm

This post is oober helpful! Thanks so much!!! I know this hasn’t been updated recently, but I just have a little advice. I’m 18 and I’ve been dancing for 12 years now, so through experience I’ve found that wearing footed tights have prolonged the life of my ballet slippers significantly! And lots of times, they stay a bit “fresher” too. Talking about scent that is. Haha. Just a little tip for ya! :)

6 BobbyRieg September 19, 2010 at 10:57 pm

I’ve purchased 3 pair of leather split sole Capizio shoes and they come with the the elastic loose – not attached at the back at all. Had to sew in 4 places per shoe

7 Lisa October 4, 2010 at 5:54 am

Thank goodness for this article! My son is 12 and currently wears a size 13 street shoe. In August I bought him a pair of 14 sansha canvas ballets. Two days ago he was complaining they were hurting his toes – ended up buying a 17 for him (18 is as high as sansha goes). I have been scouring the internet looking for brands that will accomodate his enormous, still growing feet. The Fuzi tip was just what I was looking for since they go up to size 16 street shoe and will make extended sizes beyond that. Phew!

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