As a child my memory is only of patent leather shoes called Mary Janes. These were flat heeled with a little strap over the instep, fastened with a button. They always had to be shiny which was accomplished by applying a coat of vaseline and rubbing vigorously.
In the 1930s getting your first high-heel shoes was a rite of passage for a girl, like getting his first pair of long pants was for a boy. I was a freshman in high school before this event occurred. Those navy blue, sling-back pumps with perforations and open toes are still a clear memory, as is the struggle to learn to walk without tottering and wobbling. It really is an art to balance on a little surface such as a high heel when you first start out. I guess we could have been called “fledgling high-heelers.”
At one point in high school snow boots became the rage. These were a high shoe boot with laces made for outdoor wear (the precursor of today’s shoe boots). I recall asking Mom for a pair as “everybody has them.” This phrase never made an impression on her, however. She felt that they were impractical since you needed to carry shoes for indoors. Practical was the operative word in her vocabulary, and consequently, carried over into mine when I became a mother. But at that time I hated the word.
College days produced penny loafers and saddle shoes. The loafers had a pocket across the instep where a penny could be placed. I am not sure of the story behind this, but perhaps it meant you would never be penniless if you wore them. They are still in style today, 60 years later, which proves my theory that styles come back and some never totally disappear.
In the late 1930s and 1940s saddle shoes (white crepe soles with a brown or black saddle) were the signature of my generation, but they had to be “dirty” saddle shoes with plaid colored shoelaces! When you simply had to buy a new pair, it was a traumatic experience to go to school and have to face the kidding and jeers of your peers. Moms frowned on your purposely dirtying your new shoes, so it had to be a gradual process. Usually, a week would do it.
Fashions change and recycle. It is a satisfying thought that other generations enjoy some of the same styles as we did: Mary Janes, penny loafers, saddle shoes, sling-backs. Perhaps, we were the ones who introduced the shoe boot, not Nancy Sinatra and her “Boots Were Made for Walking.”
Picture One: Mary Janes
Picture Two: Saddle Shoes
Picture Three: Penny Loafers