Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Five Shoes By Evelyn Taylor

No, “The Five Shoes” is not a pop-musical group of the 1990s, but vignettes of five memorable shoes in my youth.

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


Pat said...


Thank you!

I am not sure I ever wore any of these shoes, but perhaps Mary Janes.

My favorite shoes are flip flops and sneakers, to be worn until falling apart, if possible.


Sue Kinsella said...

I remember the black Mary Janes that looked oh so "sophisticated" with little dress socks. Years later, I heard someone warn that highly polished Mary Janes gave a good view up a dress - is that true? That would have been devastating then, but who wears dresses now? Or, alternatively, for those who do wear them, today's dresses are so short that who cares anymore anyway? What a different time and culture!

CB said...

OH, Evie! I remember tha saddle shoes! How I longed for a pair but they were beyond our pocketbook! However, I am sure that the Lord "helped" me out as our neighbor had a daughter a few years older than I was and she was an only child and had feet as large as mine!!! She also discarded her saddle shoes for some other kind and I fell heir! My life was then complete! Dirty? Yep and never to be cleaned!! With that , my pleated skirt that I made and boxy sweater I was one of the gang! [ an important thing at that age!]