Women's Argentine tango shoe suppliers and brands
Comme Il Faut
Comme Il Faut are the giants of the Argentine tango shoe scene. They're sometimes called the Manolo Blahniks of tango shoes, because they're such a high-design brand. Each style is a limited edition (though how many pairs they make of each I couldn't tell you), and designs change regularly. I find you can tell when a woman was in Buenos Aires by looking at the shoes she bought there!
Comme Il Faut cultivate their reputation for exclusivity. They have a single tiny shop, on the second floor, in a tiny courtyard, off Arenales in Buenos Aires. The shoes aren't on display, except for a small case with perhaps five pairs. Instead, you tell the assistant what you're looking for, and she goes off to find you shoes to look at. The rumor is that they only bring the good shoes out for the women they like. I've talked about this with a lot of women, and this does seem to be the case. If you're stylish, and you speak Spanish, you'll get better shoes.
They have no website and don't do mail order. But the good news is there are lots of suppliers in the US and Europe who do, and with those you don't need to be a stylish porteña to get the best shoes! (You can find them at most festivals, too.) Comme Il Faut won't allow their suppliers to post full photos of the shoes on their websites – purportedly so that the designs can't be stolen – but there will at least be a description, and usually a thumbnail of a detail. If you email a supplier they will usually email you back a photo of the pair you're interested in.
Comme Il Faut almost always have a distinctive stiletto heel (there are rumors of other styles, but I've never seen any). They come in three heel heights: 3", 3.5" and 4". Those heights are measured vertically at the back, to the point where the heel joins the rest of the shoe on the outside. The soles are always plain leather. They only do women's shoes.
Comme Il Faut inspires real devotion in those who like them. I'm a good example – I personally won't wear anything else. For me, it's not so much about the style (though I do prefer the way they look to other brands), as the way they're made. I find them more stable than any other shoes I've tried (and I've tried a lot). But they're not for everyone. Some people don't like the stiletto, some don't like the look, some find them stiff. I find them just right – but different shoes suit different people.
The close competitors to Comme Il Faut are Neotango. They do have a website (an annoying flash website with lots of music – sadly that's usual for Argentine sites), and do do mail order, but they have a very limited range on the website compared to the shop. Like Commes, some people swear by them, and won't wear anything else. I find that they're softer than Commes – you can put them on and feel comfortable straight away, whereas Commes take a little breaking in. But I also find Commes last longer. NeoTango offer leather, suede (cromo) or half-suede (half-cromo) soles. They usually have stiletto heels, but not quite as thin as Commes. They also do mens tango shoes and practice tango shoes (dance sneakers). Update: there is now also a non-flash website for European customers, with prices in Euros.
Photo by Peter Forret.
Tango Brujo was only founded a few years ago, but their shoes have already got a devoted following. They have a reputation for being super comfortable, and are popular with a lot of nuevo dancers. Tango Brujo itself is a Buenos Aires-based dance school (an excellent one, I highly recommend it), but has a shoe and clothes store on the ground floor. The owners of the school wear Tango Brujo shoes, which is a good sign. It has a website (again, an annoying flash website), which has finally started selling shoes – but it's not always online, sometimes you only get a splash page. There are also some US and European suppliers, and there will be more as they become better known. They do both men's and women's shoes, and practice shoes (dance sneakers). They have a wider range of styles for women's shoes than most tango shoe places, offering both high-design stilettos and shoes with a lower, wider heel.
Darcos Tango Shoes
Another fairly big name. They have a big shop in Buenos Aires which sells music as well as tango dancewear and tango shoes, and other dance shoes. Their women's tango shoes aren't as flashy as Comme Il Faut, but most styles are pretty enough. They claim to be 'magic shoes', and are more generous with their padding in the soles than most other tango shoe brands, but I find they're sometimes not so well made – I've seen pairs where the heels lean, for example. They do men's tango shoes and dance sneakers as well as women's tango shoes, and dance sneakers and tango practice shoes in some of the craziest styles I've ever seen.
Photo by Peter Forret.
Tara Tango Shoes
Tara Tango Shoes are an American tango shoe maker. I'm told they have excellent customer service. They pride themselves on making the most comfortable tango shoes you can get. Style wise they tend to have a heavier look than brands like Comme Il Faut and NeoTango, but they're also often bright and colorful and cute. They sometimes have a slight platform sole, which sounds weird to me, but some people swear by it.
Susana sells handmade tango shoes. She offers a wide range of handmade ladies' tango shoes and mens tango shoes.
Greta Flora is an exciting new brand. They're high design, but have a distinctively different look from Comme Il Faut and NeoTango. They're very soft, pretty and feminine, and most styles have their trademark fabric or suede flower decoration. Addendum: I've now tried them for myself, and I like them a lot. They're very stable, with the same kind of support and shape as Comme Il Faut, but with more softness. They're also a slightly wider fit than Comme Il Faut, which makes them comfier for me. And the styles really are beautiful.