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Everything you ever wanted to know about shoes, but were afraid to ask...

Discussion in 'All About Shoes 2004 Jonathan' started by Jonathan, Oct 31, 2004.

  1. Noir*Boudoir

    Noir*Boudoir Guest


    Thanks for this fascinating workshop, Jonathan; I never thought I'd pick up *anything* about shoe styles, but I think I'm slowly taking it in!

    I wonder if you have any opinions (dates? styles?) on these two examples of Oriental shoe styling.

    The first are from a source of general early to mid-20th century military & perhaps colonial wear. So that gives us a helpful margin of, oooh, from Cyrenaica to Ceylon... But these look perhaps a little more Arab?

    <img src="/shoeworkshop/indiafull.jpg" height=850>

    The leather is completely stiff and they've been stored squashed, although I guess both the flaring at the sides and the flattening of the back are what the style's designed for...
    <img src="/shoeworkshop/indiaclose.jpg">
    I haven't the foggiest about that motif.

    The second lot look Middle-Eastern inspired to me, and the style name, Selima, gives it away too:

    <img src="/shoeworkshop/gambaboth.jpg" height=900>

    I love the fact that someone scribbled 'Fetch Fish at 10' on the lid, as though the hostess was getting a few different things ready for a dinner party at the same time! I've been told Gamba is a good brand:
    <img src="/shoeworkshop/gambabox.jpg">
    The gold decoration is actually strings of fine cylindrical gold beads. And I couldn't get the extremely soft & thin suede to show up well:
    <img src="/shoeworkshop/gambainside.jpg">
    (they were made for Fortnum & Mason) any date suggestions?

  2. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Other questions that have come into my mind...


    Is it true that men wore high heels before ladies did (Louis XVI or maybe back to Louis 14? Maybe even part of the Elizabethan period but maybe i am wrong?)


    I know that this would be near and dear to your heart... :)

    the trend towards more comfortable, molded footbeds, "ergonomic" for the lack of a better term.
    I seem to equate it starting in the 70s, or very late 60s but when did it really start? was there an earlier precursor? Hush puppies were around in the 50s, but it didn't have the molded footbeds of say a Famalore or a Birkenstock.....so what were the origins of all of that.

    Here is a photo just for "the heck of it" (You don't have to date these, etc...)Here we have a pair of Keds clogs, 2 Birkenstocks both c 2000 Betula (non leather) and "classic style" (leather). Dr. Scholls sandals...the second coming (first round was of course in the 70s). Then we have 2 pairs of suede hush puppies, and rounding out the front is a pair of shoes that are identical in every way except color to my "glued to my feet" black patent leather driving loafers. these are just in camel patent leather.



    The last pair are in the picture because i was wondering when the when men's loafers started to become popular for dress over tie boots, shoes etc, and more importantly when did women's shoes really cross over into a very unisex look in the 20th century (aside from equestrian, work boots, and the like, but regular street shoes). Was it because of WWII/Rosie the Riveter utilitarianness? or did it start earlier or later...

    (case in point ...many but not all of those shoes in the photo above, if they were the right size and a man wore them, except the dr. scholls of course, no one would think he was wearing ladies shoes. okay, maybe the betulas, but i have seen many male nurses/waiters/any job on your feet in clogs.) I have seen many an older guy wearing shoes just like my patent leathers on sunday, etc., around town......
  3. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    Okay, the questions are getting harder now... I am glad this workshop is ending this weekend!

    FIrst of all, the mirrored heels are very cool because they also make the heel appear almost like a point. They are definately 1980s, early - mid 80s with that comma shaped or inclined heel. Princess Diana wore a lot of shoes like that, although sans mirrors.

    Well, what can I say about taking care of them. If you wear them out of doors you could blind drivers! Of course shoes always prefer to feel carpet beneath their soles. Pavement hurts and there are more chances for scuffing those fabulous mirrors! Of course, you could always put them way and let some lucky person in the future enjoy them! But that isn't any fun...
  4. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    Lin: Your white shoes are typical of those made in Eastern Pakistan and Northwestern India, where they are called Khussa.

    That type of wide cotton stitching visible on the soles is typical of workmanship from Afghanistan to India, but that type of shoe with the pointed toe and raised back are only made in Pakistan and India.
    The style was traditionally worn by Muslims and the back of the shoes is often broken down for easy donning and doffing. These look about 40 or 50 years old but its difficult to be accurate as the style changed so little over time.

    Your other shoes look to me like the uppers were made in Turkey or somewhere around there for the Western market and then the shoes were made up in England, as there is a European sole. They look like house shoes or slippers from the 1960s.

    The practise of Europeans importing shoe uppers from the Middle and Far East goes back to the early 19th century.
  5. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    Men did wear high heels, but they were never higher than women's. When heels are first introduced in the 1590s, they are generally quite low. They don't become really high until the mid 17th century and men's heels can get as high as about 3 inches, but they are usually worn in conjunction with thick soles of boots so they don't really have a lift higher than 2 inches. There are no extent pairs of men's shoes with heels higher than that. Men's riding boots actually have the highest heels before 1740 because men used to stand in the stirrups, rather than sit on the saddle.
  6. Noir*Boudoir

    Noir*Boudoir Guest

    (Thanks for the IDs! I was *right* at the wrong end of Asia with the Khussa - last days of the Raj, then? Either they were a slightly worn souvenir -probable- or their owner wasn't at all devout, as they haven't been smooshed down at the back properly from the slip-on-and-offage. I love the 60s slippers - I was going to sell one pair and keep the other - but I've since decided it's a shame to split them up...)
  7. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Thanks for the input, Jonathan. i think i still will be a little leery of wearing them until i find a duplicate pair even in carpet:) I know...i will have to go to a restaurant or an event where i wear other shoes, carry them in my purse, and only put them on when i am sitting down...but other than that they remain for display only. I did see an identical suede pair once, but just missed em.

    """Men did wear high heels""""
    thank you so much for the clairfication. I was thinking powdered wigs and tricornered hats...etc...

    Oh don't worry, I pretty much have asked what i wanted to ask, so I will concede the floor to others who may or may not ask sweeping multi part questions :P
  8. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    Ah yes, ergonomic shoes... a really BIG part of my love of the history of shoes.... ech

    Shoemaking changed in the late 19th century, as I mentioned before. Shoes became more structured, lefts and rights were introduced, as were shanks, thicker leathers and sturdier constructions. Before that date most women's shoes were made of soft, flexible materials with thin soles, so they would have felt like slippers on your feet. Once shoes become more structured though, the problems with foot discomfort began. While there were low heeled shoes available for those who didn't want high heeled, high fashion footwear there were concerns about breathability of the feet and cushioning of the sole.

    Dr. SCholls has been around since at least the 1930s, and I think they might even go back into the 1920s, providing padded insoles and corn cushions for those with problem feet.

    Ready-to-wear shoes can cramp and curtail the feet if they are not the proper size. There were, and still are, many women who try to cram their feet into a shoe that is at least 1/2 size too small.

    If you buy the correct sized shoe, and the appropriate shoe for the appropriate occasion, you will save you feet unecessary pain. Many young women clomp around in stilettos all the time at work. Save the 4 inch heeled stilettos for parties, not the office carpool.

    So, anyway, I digress...

    Around the time that the stiletto heel and pointed toe came into fashion the late 1950s there were some looking for alternatives, including plimsoles, sandals, and older women just went for the old Ruth Buzzy style black oxford.

    In Europe the Birkenstock was already popular, but only in the black forest, and Anne Kalso, a Danish (I think) shoe designer worked on creating the negative heel shoe. The Hippie movement in the late 1960s put a lot of sandals on a lot of feet and that generation moved into a comfort zone, expecting all shoes to be comfortable all the time. So the whole back to nature movement made a whole generation ripe for whatever hooey was thrown their way.


    Negative heels are NOT good for your feet, or your shins, or your calves, or anything. It was thought to be good because it stretched your calf muscle, but in reality it can cause all sorts of damage to your feet and legs from shin splints to varicose veins.


    The foot actually wants a heel, about 1 - 1/2 inches, it naturally falls that way. If you take your shoe off, relax your foot and then lift your leg, you will actually see the forepart of your foot drop a little, creating a lift of about 1 - 1 1/2 inches. This is nature saying PUT A HEEL ON.

    A heel better distributes the weight forced on the foot when you are walking or standing.

    So, the early 'ergonomic' attempts were hooey.

    Many doctors prescribe orthotics, which are very expensive but useful if you truly have problems with your feet and legs. They can somewhat correct knock knees, pigeon toes, and other issues like this but if you have sore feet and back pain, the chances are that you are not wearing the appropriate shoes for right occasion.

    When buying running shoes, or sneakers, or trainers, you can spend hundreds of dollars on style and fake science. What it comes down to is: a good fit, cushioning, support, and flexibility. The fit you have to work out in the store with the aid of a good salesman (if you are in luck because there aren't many out there -- most salespeople want to push the MOST expensive pair in the store because they get a commission, most salespeople are NOT trained in how to properly fit a shoe, so shop around for a good salesman first before you look for a good shoe or learn yourself how a shoe should properly fit). Flexibility is a no brainer -- bend the shoe. SUpport is part of the fit, but support breaks down quickly in sports shoes and the contoured insole will likely only work for about 6 months of wear. Cushioning is where most of the fake science exists. There are shoes out there with liquid, and plastic tubing, and air pockets and all sorts of silliness. Don't get taken in by the most expensive methods to cushion the foot. You just want a sport's shoe that will cushion impact when you run and none of these methods for cushioning are much effective after 6 months of regular wear.

    So, to answer your question, yes, the whole ergonomic thingy in footwear had its 'roots' in the late 1950s, but didn't really get to be a major trend until the early 1970s. They have been popular with granola munching tree huggers ever since, but in reality, they do little to improve your feet, in fact, they are really harmful to your sex life, and the negative heel is plain wrong on so many levels its not funny.

    If you want a pair of comfortable shoes, just go out there and buy a nice looking comfortable pair with a bit of cushioning, with a felxible sole and a good fit. If you have real foot and leg problems, go see a doctor and get a pair of orthotics.
  9. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Thanks for that indepth answer!

    I wanted to mention it on purpose because i knew it was near and dear to your heart :), but mainly because the whole idea is so enmeshed with modern shoe wearing culture - from as you say "granola tree huggers" to the kids of today who have to have a particular sneaker with air pumps in them.

    I think you might be referring to "Earth Shoes" with their negative heels.
    I did see a pair at a thrift so maybe someone heard you and got rid of them :)
  10. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    Regarding when men's loafers started to become popular for dress over tie boots, shoes etc.
    The loafer is essentially an outdoor worn slip-on shoe with no closures. The earliest of these was the tuxedo shoe which was available as early as the 1910s, but they were only for evening wear with a tuxedo to the opera, or more often at semi-formal dinner parties. Daytime loafers were influenced by the moccasin and sometimes use a moccasin construction (a soft leather shoe bad with an apron shaped vamp insert and an added hard sole. Moccasins were worn by North American men who adopted the Native American moccasin on the frontier and western front, as well as at home for slippers. The loafer version of the moccasin was introduced in the 1950s as a semi-casual style of shoe and began to be worn for more formal daytime occasions in the late 1960s. I would say it was probably the 1970s when the loafer began to take over from the laced shoe, certainly by younger men, and the loafer was 'designerized' in the 1980s when high end versions became the Wall street norm. They starting losing favour in the late 1980s and right now they are desperately unfashionable as far as I and many men are concerned.

    Women's shoes crossing over into unisexual looks come from sportswear, as you twigged onto with the equestiran and work boots. Low heeled laced oxfords and boots have been available since the 1860s, so its actually a very old look that comes in and out of fashion from time to time. Most recently, the Doc Marten black military style boot shod many women in the 1980s and 1990s. It came out of the punk movement and has finally subsided. However, running shoes health sandals, like Birkenstocks, and many comfort shoes are still around and both men's and women's versions look very similar but there is a difference. Women's shoes are generally made with narrower heels than men's.
  11. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    Yes, I did mean earth shoes... forgot to mention that.

    It was just so difficult to write that answer as I picked away at it while I watched 'What Not To Wear'... it was very painful...
  12. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    Oh, and by the way...
    """"Men did wear high heels""""
    thank you so much for the clairfication. I was thinking powdered wigs and tricornered hats...etc..."

    Think earlier than that -- the powdered wig/tricorn hat era is post 1740. Think more piratey... late 17th - early 18th century.
  13. I thank you for this great workshop, too! I'm also behind in digging out and photographing my mystery boots, so I'm pulling back to boots again.

    I bought these as "antique" on eBay. They were brown and I put black dye on them, without trying to condition them. They'll need an awful lot of conditioning if they even have a chance of surviving, though. I've already ripped the thinner-leather tongues on both boots. Ugh.

    From your explanations, I'm guessing these must be a good bit later than those you've shown so far. The toes are rather 'squarish.' They're very tall, comparatively. 20s-40s? Do I have a complete, Grapes of Wrath look, here?

    <img src="/shoeworkshop/laceup43.jpg"><br><br><img src="/shoeworkshop/laceup44.jpg">


  14. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    That's a pair of sport's boots Steph, from the late 1910s to mid 1920s. They use the moccasin construction which you can see from the apron inserted vamp. That is a style of construction reserved for sportswear at the time. Also they are higher than most fashion boots which is used for sports activity. SO they were originally sold as hiking boots, or skiing boots, or cycling boots -- something like that.
  15. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    Jonathan, I know you have a fantastic footwear collection. I'd like some pointers and suggestions about developing a collection.

    A few questions...

    In your collection, do you have "typical" wear of each period, or do you concentrate on collecting the best or most imaginative from each era?

    Are designer names important, especially in more modern shoes?

    If so, which designers should we be looking for to add to our own collections?

    And, a bit of a personal question: What one shoe that you do not own, do you desire most?

    Thanks again for conducting such a great learning workshop!

  16. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    Well, its not a 'fantastic' collection, but it is a good collection. Like the good curator, I passed on anything good I acquired to the Bata Shoe Museum while I was working there, so for 11 years I added very little to my collection.

    I tend to concentrate on the finest examples of everyday footwear that I can find. I have a few extraordinary examples in my collection but so often these were styles that were never popular, or one-offs for fashion shows or publicity photos/magazine shots etc.

    Here are some of my more extraordinary pairs:
    English boots, 1930s
    <img src=/shoeworkshop/d1.jpg>
    Cuban shoes with paper bows, c. 1820
    <img src=/shoeworkshop/D2.jpg>
    Perugia shoe, c. 1935
    <img src=/shoeworkshop/D3.jpg>
    Heeless high heeled shoes, c. 1960
    <img src=/shoeworkshop/D4.jpg>
    Perugia shoe, c. 1955
    <img src=/shoeworkshop/D5.jpg>
    English shoes with lipsticks on quarters
    <img src=/shoeworkshop/D6.jpg>
    Ferragamo cellophane woven uppers
    <img src=/shoeworkshop/D7.jpg>
    Porcelain heeled Rayne shoes 1977
    <img src=/shoeworkshop/D8.jpg>
    Lucite bauble sandals, late 1960s
    <img src=/shoeworkshop/D9.jpg>

    Designer shoes are difficult to assess because the shoes that are labelled Chanel, or Givenchy, or any of those Paris couturiers who sell shoes with their name in them are not designed by those ateliers. They usually come out of Italy. Many are made by the firm Rossimoda. The labels to look for are those by shoe designers. They will hold their value over time: Robert Clegerie, Manolo Blahnik etc. When buying older shoes, don't overlook important American designers like David Evins, Seymour Troy, and Beth Levine (herbert levine).

    Of course the holy grails are Andre Perugia, Pinet, Roger Vivier, and early Ferragamo (pre 1963, the date of his death).

    There are some that are totally into sport's shoes. I have NO CLUE why, and I don't care, so I can't help you there, but it's nice that there are people out there collecting them, although I think the prices they pay for some modela are insane. There are also collectors of cowboy boots that I know very little about, although the fancier and older, the better, and signed by makers like Luchesse and Tony Lama.

    Personally, the one pair of shoes I am looking for the most is a pair of paper mules by Beth Levine. she made some for sale in 1968 and they weren't popular. It works for me as not only is it shoes, but also paper, another item I collect passionately -- paper clothing of the 1960s.
  17. Oh, I'm glad I asked about the boots! Thank you!

    I'm wiping away drool over your primo examples above. I've never seen or heard of the heeless, high-heel shoe. Was it just 1960 specifically? The supports under the heels look like they wouldn't hold the weight at the heel area. Did someone not need to be a ballerina to walk in them?

  18. crinolinegirl

    crinolinegirl Alumni

    I LOVE those Cuban shoes with the paper bows! I can't believe those have survived all these years in that condition. Lovely, just lovely :)

  19. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    heeless high heeled shoes were around for a few years but they weren't very popular probably because women thought they weren't safe. I have seen examples that date as early as c. 1958 and as late as c. 1962. I have had models wear them and they say they feel a bit weird but they get used to them quickly. There is a bit of a bounce but they are quite sturdy as the sole extension behind the ball takes the place of the heel to balance the foot.
  20. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Are the 1820s shoes the oldest that you own?

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