Vintage Bathing Shoes: 1930s? 1940s? 1950s?

A lot of the fun of collecting anything is finding out about the things one has selected as worthy of their collection.  Sometimes this quest for knowledge is easy, thanks to Mr. Google.  But there are other times that I finally give up and consult an expert.

Above is a pair of rubber bathing shoes made by the United States Rubber Company, the company that also manufactured Keds sneakers.  Before the mid 1920s, bathing shoes were generally made from canvas, but by 1930 the old style had been replaced with the new rubber models.  They were, as one can imagine, much more practical, being waterproof.  Rubber bathing shoes remained popular throughout the 1930s, but by the 40s, more people were going barefoot in the water, and wearing sandals on the beach and at poolside.

At first glance, these shoes seem to be 1930s bathing shoes.  The style and the shape of the toe indicate a mid 30s to 1940 manufacture.  The box graphics and fonts also look 1930s.  So why am I questioning the dating?

The problem lies within the sole.  This wavy sole, made from what looks to be rubberized cork, is commonly found on shoes from the 1950s.  But were bathing shoes even still being made in 1950?  For help I turned to shoe expert, Jonathan Walford.

I felt a lot better after Jonathan emailed back that he found them to be confusing as well, saying that he did not associate the wavy soles with pre-WWII shoes.   And he did confirm that rubber bathing shoes were made into the 1950s.  His mother had a pair that she wore in the early 50s at the family beach cottage because of sharp shells and slimy seaweed.

It was Jonathan’s feeling that these shoes are most likely 1935-1940.  I agree with him, but I’m still looking for a source that clearly shows this type sole on a 1930s shoe.  The problem is that in ads, catalogs, and fashion spreads, the sole of a shoe is usually not shown.  I’ve seen a few maybes in late 30s catalogs, but nothing definite.  And as always, your thoughts are welcome.

I got these great shoes from Carol at Dandelion Vintage.  She runs what has to be one of the oldest online vintage stores on the Web.  She has nice things and excellent prices.  Thanks, Carol!


Filed under Shoes, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

8 responses to “Vintage Bathing Shoes: 1930s? 1940s? 1950s?

  1. Liz…I appreciate very much the way you “think out loud” when analizing dates and authenticity of items….like you did on the soles of the shoes. Like a detective at work. Thanks, I like that.



    Wonderful and I am one of those people that wears these on the beach 🙂

    Liz I have to tell you how much I am truly enjoying finally reading “The Coat Route” about 1/2 way done and having a hard time putting it down when life calls! I thought I would finish it on the plane but I fell asleep for 4 hours !


  3. Christina

    Rubber was an important commodity throughout WW11 in the US had restricted civilian use from 1942. There is a good example online of a women’s sandal – not rubber- with ripple sole (British) dated 1942. I had a pair of blue rubber moulded beach shoes in the late 1950’s in England. I think that late 1930’s or 1940 might be right.


  4. Wow! Those are really nifty! And how wonderful to know Mr. Walford, to help answer some of your questions!


  5. Pingback: Five 1920s Bathing Suits | witness2fashion

  6. Pingback: How To Make Edwardian/ 1920s Bathing Shoes With Cork Sole | Sew historically

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