Ad Campaign – Active Modern Shoes, 1943


Fascinating… inspired detail… perfect cut – all help Active Modern Shoes cast a real spell of loveliness upon your feet.

And with the built-in comfort that only Selby Arch Preserver hidden features can give, you won’t want to fly through the air – you’ll love walking.

I imagine that ad writers had a really hard time when it came to pushing the merits of wartime women’s shoes.  Due to the  scarcity of dyes, by 1943 American shoe manufacturers were limited to six colors: navy, black, white, and three shades of brown.  Shoes were made in sturdy styles that were  meant to last and to provide support for the feet of the female workforce.

I know that there will be some disagreement, but to me these are old lady shoes, possibly because in the 1960s old ladies were still wearing similar styles.  I can imagine that the older woman stuck with this style because as the ad points out, they were comfortable.  Look at all that toe room and the nice sturdy heel.  But I really do fail to see the this style would “cast a spell of loveliness” on anybody’s feet.

And is it just me, or does that black model actually look a bit like a witch’s shoe?


October 16, 2013 · 8:03 am

25 responses to “Ad Campaign – Active Modern Shoes, 1943

  1. Rebecca

    I’ll take one of each please!
    Thanks for this Halloween treat!


  2. Diana Coleman grandmother wore the black lace ups. They and the Endicott Johnson’s in a recent blog, all made with counters from my families company in Auburn, Me. Sadly, all done abroad now.

    Diana Coleman

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Seeing ads like this makes me wonder how the lace-up oxford got its reputation as an old lady’s shoe. Clearly younger women wore them as well. Maybe older women wore nothing else?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lynn, I think that after the war was over, styles moved on, but women of a certain age must have appreciated the comfort of the oxford. According to Jonathan Walford, shoes like this were made through the 1960s because there was a demand for them.

      I think of the women in my life who wore them. They were in their sixties and seventies in the 1960s, which meant they would have been forty or over in 1940. I’m in that demographic today, and I can attest to the fact that I’ll spend the rest of my life in comfortable shoes!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Diana Coleman

    Wondered if you would know what counters are???That is the stiffening part that goes around the back of the heel. When sling backs first came in style in the forties, my father was NOT happy when I bought my first pair. At that time, counters were made of fiber. Shoe manufacturers seldom, if ever, produced the whole shoe , but bought the components from other manufacturers and put the shoe together . This is what kept the shoe business in New England prosperous for many years.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I actually like those! But of course I also understand having associations with things like you mentioned. For me a lot of 40s clothes are a little ruined for me because, being a product of the 80s, I saw A LOT of shoulder pads and while I know that the 80s drew inspiration from the 40s, it’s difficult for me not to see the 80s in some true 40s pieces.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have always had a very soft spot for this style of shoes. In the 90s, I bought a beautiful pair of black patent sturdy-heeled lace up oxfords at Ann Taylor. Where did they ever go??? I miss those shoes and wish now I had never gotten rid of them, no matter how worn they might have become. Old lady shoes all the way!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Susan G.

    Three comments:
    1) In 1943, shoe rationing meant that each woman & child was allowed to buy just three pairs of shoes per year. Women certainly had an incentive to buy shoes that could be worn every day, be resoled and repaired, and which would last for years.
    2) Learning about shoe ‘counters’ from Diana Coleman — another reason to love this blog! Thanks.
    3) Perhaps because I grew up in California, to me “old lady shoes” are those white, perforated leather, lace-up heels shaped like the ones pictured here. Maybe because I am an old lady now, I think the recent fashion for “gladiator” heels with wide straps guaranteed to make ankles look thicker and legs look shorter are an even more puzzling ‘fashion moment’ than these ‘sensible’ — but matronly — shoes from the 1940s.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for this post and the discussion. I think a lot of the appeal with “old lady shoes” is that they’re a walking shoe that can be worn with skirts or dresses; an alternative to us today (but a necessity back when). I first became a fan when I came upon a “comfort shoe” store selling out a lot of old stock in the 1980s. I would kill for the black patent leather high-ish heel walking shoe I scored, and then wore to shreds. A walking shoe AND a rain shoe AND it was shiny gorgeous. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t you wish you had bought every pair they had in your size? I think back on a few favored pairs of shoes from the past and think that.

      I actually have several pairs of recently made oxford flats, and I love them. But I wear them with slacks, or if with a skirt, with dark tights. There’s just something about the look of them with a nude leg that makes the foot look very heavy.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I understand your associations with the shoes Lizzie but I kinda love them. But them… I am a bit of an ‘old lady’ sensible and not very fancy shoe wearer. 😉

    Thanks for sharing the ad, I love this line “you won’t want to fly through the air – you’ll love walking” so cute!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m another one who loves a sturdy, comfortable oxford. I do own a pair from the 1940s which are quite comfortable but in the unfortunate color of ‘taupe’ which does make them less appealing.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Paradise Platform Shoes, Late 1940s | The Vintage Traveler

  12. Ruth

    I, too, remember my grandmothers wearing similar shoes when I was a child in the 60’s. I always loved them because my dad’s mother had such tiny feet and they almost fit me! It would be lovely to wear shoes like those now that I’m an old lady and need comfort more than anything. Don’t even wear more than an inch or so heel because they feel so wobbly. My grandmother was daring in that she had a pair of red patent leather shoes that were my particular favorite. I played Dorothy and Oz in them whenever we went to her house!.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ruth

    I just remembered my mom’s mother had white or beige ones because she lived in San Francisco, rather like Florida in weather.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: Women’s Shoes: Sturdy, Comfortable and Tailored for Spring, 1936 | witness2fashion

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