Category Archives: Shoes

Dunlop Beach Sandals, 1939

Some time ago I found a pair of 1930s beach shoes from France, so I guess it was bound to happen that I find a pair from Great Britain as well. I would have been happy with just the shoes, but they came in the original box which was just the best icing imaginable.

I spotted these on Instagram (that great enabler of collectors) in the feed of @wideawakevintage. If you are not following her, do please, as she finds the most amazing stuff. After nearly breaking my neck to get to her etay store, I found the shoes were still there and so I purchased them. It was not until the package arrived that I found the box was included.

There’s a real plus to buying from sellers who are obsessed with the history of things. They are on the lookout for ads and such to help with the dating of the things they find. And Michelle of Wide Awake really went above and beyond the duty of a vintage seller, as she not only found an advertisement with my new shoes…

she also found this photo for sale on Etsy with a woman wearing the shoes! I love how she has paired them with ankle socks and a dress, proving that beach sandals are not just for the beach.

Okay, these are not one hundred percent exactly like mine, but they are pretty darned close.

It’s always great to see something I have in my collection in the actual context of it being worn. Ads are great, but it takes a real woman to put these shoes in a real situation.

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Filed under Advertisements, Collecting, Shoes

Keds Display Ideas. 1940

It seems like someone is always trying to sell us something. With the internet and companies tracking our every click, we are subjected to targeted ads everytime we open a digital device. Websites we visit are covered with display ads.  There’s nothing subtle about it.

Stores have always known that to sell a product, the consumer has to notice it. Store windows have been designed to draw people into stores, and once in the store, displays are set up to attract attention. It’s true today, and it was true in 1940,when the footwear manager of sales at Keds sent out a portfolio of suggested ways to promote Keds in windows and in the stores that sold them.

As you will see, there was a central theme that stores were being encouraged to emphasize. Can you spot what the theme is?

All the displays were built around several counter display cards like the two seen above. I’ll guess that the cards were a part of the display package that included my display booklet. The above display was titled Gardening and Leisure.

Vacation and Camp features a counter card with hikers. I wonder where they got that little tent.

Keds are also great for leisure hours, but who in their right mind thought doing laundry in a wringer washer was part of leisure? It’s obvious that Mr. Adman never did a load of washing in one of those monsters.

The booklet also had suggestions for the Kedettes line of shoes. Kedettes was still made of canvas, but were a step dressier than sneakers. Here’s the consumer is reminded that Kedettes go well with one’s playtogs, like that playsuit.

There was even a display suggestion for the piece goods department.  I really wish these photo were in color. I’ve seen these shoes in vintage magazine ads and they are so bright and colorful.

There were also suggestions on how to pair Kedettes with hosiery. Somehow I can’t quite picture these comfortable shoes paired up with a girdle and stockings, but then I’m looking at this through modern eyes and a more casual mode of dress.

So, if you were so busy admiring the photos that you forgot to think about the common theme, it is washable, here spelled out in washing powder. So that explains the washing machine in the leisure display, and the tub of cotton suds and tiny washboard.  I can’t imagine putting these shoes in a washing machine, as was implied, as a gentle hand wash is all I’d dare expose my Kedettes to!

Added 1941 ad:

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1940s Vitality Open Road Shoes

I recently found this pair of wedge heeled shoes on eBay, and was really delighted when they arrived in my mailbox. I don’t buy a lot of shoes for my collection for various reasons, and I’m quite cautious when I find a pair I might want to add to my collection. These more than met my strict criteria.

Condition is a big problem with vintage sporty shoes. It’s fairly easy to find superb examples of evening shoes that date back to the early days of the twentieth century, but comfortable day shoes were often worn until they were done for.  This pair looks like they just came out of the shoe box, circa 1947.

How did I arrive at that date? First, I could be off a year or so in either direction. I have spent considerable time engaged in research involving 1940s and early 1950s fashion magazines. To me it’s really interesting to follow a trend from its first appearances in advertisements, to the days, often years later, when the trend becomes a has-been.

Wedge heels first appeared in 1936 in Italy with designer Salvatore Ferragamo, though they didn’t really catch on until WWII made practical heels more necessary. They continued after the war ended, into the early 1950s.

In trying to date my shoes I looked for two things: ads from the Vitality Shoe Company, and wedges that have a curved, rather than a flat sole. From 1945 through 1954, I found only one ad from Vitality.

This ad is from 1949 and it features three styles of wedge heels. Note that the pair on the bottom left has a slimmer and higher wedge. I noticed this happening around 1947, and by 1954 the old thick clunky-look wedge was gone.  Note also that Vitality calls these walking shoes the Wanderlust line. My thinking is that this line replaced the Open Road line. The last ad I found on-line for Open Road was 1946.

Vitality was part of the International Shoe Company of Saint Louis. At one time it was recognized to be the largest maker of shoes in the world. They made average price range shoes, so it is interesting to see how very well-made my shoes are.

I love the way there is a woven label inserted under the insole. That feature pretty much ended with the 1940s.

During WWII, shoe colors were strictly limited because the dyes used for leather contained ingredients needed for the war effort. I have read there were six colors allowed, but a Smithsonian article says there were only four: black, white, brown, and russet.

At any rate, these shoes could not have been made during the war years with the beautiful red and blue, and the trim of even more colors.  In my research, I noted that by the beginning of 1946, American consumers were once again able to buy colorful shoes.

After the war ended there was an increasing interest in style from the American West. Many service men and women and defense workers had enjoyed the “California lifestyle” during the war, and the Westernwear of Hollywood actors must have also played a part.

I can’t help but think that in today’s world, a cry of “cultural appropriation” might be raised against my moccasin/wedgie hybrids.  With their colorful but vaguely Native or Southwestern vibe, I can see how they could have been just the shoes for women who were ready to wear color again.

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Filed under Collecting, Shoes, World War II

Compared: 1920s and 1970s Boots

One thing I probably don’t write enough about here is how fashion is constantly borrowing from its past. Someone once said to me that fashion ran out of ideas about 1967. I’m not sure that is true, but one does not have to look far to see borrowed ideas.

Above is a pair of hiking boots from Abercrombie & Fitch, from the late 1920s or early 30s. I don’t think that at the time these boots would have been considered to be “fashion” as they were a functional item worn for a specific purpose, and definitely not meant to be on the city streets. They were a style borrowed from the boys, so to speak, as men had been wearing this type boot in the woods for some time.

Today the lines between fashion and function is very blurred, with people wearing their workout clothing on the street and their jammies on airplanes, but in the 1920s, the rules were more rigid. It was a very big deal when in 1924 a brave woman in Italy first wore her pajamas on the Lido.

These boots are from the 1970s, and I’m sure that the similarity to the 20s ones is obvious. You see the same lacing with eyelet over the foot, and hooks up the leg. The below the knee length is the same. Both are made of leather.

But also striking are the differences. The 1920s boot has a low stacked leather heel. The 70s boot has a fashionable heel, covered with the same leather as the rest of the boot. The 20s boot has a ridge around the top of the foot to assist with the shaping of the leather, while the foot of the 70s boot is made from two pieces of leather. The toe shape is different.

What I find interesting is that the 1920s boot is obviously built for function and the 70s boots is obviously built for fashion. But at the same time there is no mistaking the fact that the 70s boot was inspired by the 20s one.

Even when mixed up, it’s easy to distinguish one boot from the other. It’s just one most thing to look for when trying to evaluate a piece of older clothing. Always look for the influences.

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At Hood Rubber Company, Circa 1905

click to enlarge

Back in the winter I wrote about Hood Rubber. The company made all sorts of products that incorporated rubber, but the most interesting to me were the canvas and rubber leisure shoes.  After making the post, my friend Lynn of AmericanAgeFashion wrote to remind me that she had also written about the company because she had a wonderful old photo that showed some workers in one of the Hood factories. When I met Lynn in Charlotte a few weeks ago, she gave the photo to me to add to my archive.

The only person identified in the photo is the older woman who is standing between two men. She was identified as Grandmother King. In another pen was added “Hood Rubber Watertown”, and in pencil someone wrote “c 1910”. These identifications were added much later, as the pens used were ballpoints, which did not come into common use until the 1940s. My point is that the circa 1910 seems to be a bit off, as I’d put this at least five years earlier.

My guess is this is a cutting room. At the time, athletic shoes were either black or white, and that’s what we can see in the bolts stacked behind the workers. Even though this area has electric lights, the factory still makes use of the natural light by placing the work tables near the windows. And look carefully at the tables. They appear to be spread with the canvas, and you can see the bolts on the floor on the backs of the tables.

Old industrial photos of this sort provide a lot of information about everything from the types of clothing workers wore to the way factories were set up. They are hard to find, so I’m really happy to have this one and to add it to my records. Thanks Lynn!

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Filed under Collecting, Made in the USA, manufacturing, Shoes, Vintage Photographs

Hood Leisure Shoes and PF Flyers

One of the sad facts about collecting sportswear is that the clothes and accessories were usually subjected to hard use. For that reason there seems to be at least a dozen pairs of 1920s fancy dress shoes on the market for every pair of canvas sporty ones.  So even though the circa 1918 shoes pictured above are not particularly pretty or stylish, they are in really great shape to be sport shoes that are one hundred years old.

Hood is not a well-known brand name today, but at the time these shoes were made, Hood Rubber Products was a major player in the rubber products industry. The company was located in Watertown, MA, and was founded by Frederic and Arthur Hood in 1896. By 1920 they made a variety of rubber products and had a work force of over 10,000 people. At peak production, Hood turned out close to 90,000 pairs of shoes a day.

Click to see entire ad

This ad from 1918 shows my shoes, the Classic Oxford, though they have the lower heel shown on the Vassar Pump. I’ve seen many photos from the late 1910s and the 1920s showing women in tennis attire wearing this style shoe.

I found an interesting tidbit about how Hood wear-tested their new products. They used the children of employees, giving them shoes to wear for a year. After that time the shoes were turned in to the company where the wear was analyzed. Then new shoes were given out for the next test period.

In 1929, Hood was bought by a competitor, B.F. Goodrich. Shoes under the Hood name continued to be made, along with Goodrich’s own brand. In 1933, Hyman Whitman was granted a patent for an arch supporter, which was obtained by B.F. Goodrich and became the basis of their “Posture Foundation” sole.  This became the famous PF Flyer tennis shoe.

Above is part of a B.F. Goodrich ad from 1947. PF Flyers were initially a shoe for children, but the PF arch supporter was used in adult shoes as well starting in 1937.

What I did not know was that shoes manufactured under the Hood name also used the PF arch supporter. This is the insole of a pair of circa 1948 tennis shoes from the Jane Hefner estate. It has the PF name, along with the patent number of the arch support owned by B.F. Goodrich. I would have thought these were the Goodrich brand if not for the Hood trademark right above the “PF”.

Here are Jane’s tennis shoes. They are in quite a poor state, not because Jane wore them to death, but because of improper storage. The canvas is not worn at all, and the soles show no signs of wear either. I suspect these were bought because of a requirement for gym class. Jane was not an athlete! Her casual shoes were a pair of well-worn saddle oxfords.

In 2001 the PF Flyer name was bought by New Balance, which still makes the shoes. Hood stopped production in 1969, but the brand has been relaunched as a maker of men’s rubber-soled boots.

 

 

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1920s or 1930s Barefoot Dancing Sandals

People who have never attempted to sell online seem to have the idea that it’s an easy way to make a buck. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Selling old stuff online is hard for many reasons, but I’m only going to address one of them. And that is that there are so many old things than even experienced sellers run across objects they look at and just scratch the head in puzzlement.

The seller of the shoes above listed them as circa 1900 leather bathing shoes. I knew that was not correct, but what exactly are they? I could see why the seller thought they were bathing shoes, as they really do resemble them in some ways, but I’ve never heard of them being made of leather. After seeing the listing several months ago I forgot about the shoes, but the purchase of a 1929 gym attire catalog revealed the identity of the mystery sandals.

Of course that started a mad scramble to try and re-find the listing, but I had not bookmarked it, and so I was just out of luck. Or so I thought. Last week as I was searching for bathing shoes, these popped up again. Three clicks and they were mine.

The story is made even happier because I have a very similar pink and white gingham dancing romper as illustrated in the catalog, right beside the dancing sandals.

The dancing sandals look rather sad without feet to fill them out. I am so glad I spotted these and was able to add the proper context back to the object.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Gymnasium, Proper Clothing, Shoes