Saddle shoes – definition
Saddle -Piece of leather on a shoe, usually in contrasting colour, stitched from forward shank, at one side, over vamp to the other side.
A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion: Historic and Modern by Mary Brooks Picken
A brief history of saddle shoes.
- In 1906 A.G. Spalding, the American sporting goods company, introduced saddle shoes as athletic footwear. The All American shoe was first advertised as a tennis shoe but gained more popularity among golfers before finally reaching mainstream fashion.
- During the 1920s and 1930s when sports such as golf and tennis gained enormous popularity with the middle classes on both sides of the pond, there was a need for a more relaxed approach to clothing. A reporter for the New York Times described the phenomena as follows;
Sports shoes and clothing are popular because they spell ease and freedom of movement and in name associate themselves with luxury and relaxation from the daily grind.
- In the 1930s the white shoes with contrasting black leather saddle became such a huge hit among American University students, both male and female, that they were immortalised on the June 1937 cover of “Life” magazine. I don’t think, that the sporting goods company could have foreseen such a phenomenal success for their sporting shoes outside their intended environment. The shoes had to be of course redesigned to make them more comfortable for everyday use. New colour combinations were also introduced. While white and black, as well as white and brown colour combinations, continued being popular, the new addition in the form of white and blue canvas saddle shoes became ubiquitous. A trend that was there to stay, at least for a while.
- The popularity of saddle shoes grew even more during the 1940s and 1950s. This can, at least in part, be attributed to some of the biggest names in the music and film industry; Elvis Presley, Katherine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, who were fans of that particular style of footwear. Teenagers often wore these two-tone shoes with white bobby socks, full circle or a pencil skirt or blue jeans. Truth be told, they were shoes for any occasion and looked great paired with any garment imaginable.
- The sales of saddle shoes dropped in the 1960s although they continued to be worn by young students and teenagers as part of their daily uniform.
- In recent years saddle shoes came back into favour thanks to the revival of tv shows such as Twin Peaks and Gilmore Girls. The hugely successful film Stoker (2013) starring Mia Wasikowska also helped to put the shoes back on the fashion map. Although anyone in the vintage community would say, that saddle shoes never really went out of style and will always be a part of the wardrobe of every vintage aficionado. They are definitely part of mine!
And if you are looking for the perfect modern saddle shoes, look no further!
I’m thrilled to have recently discovered the incredible 1950s-inspired black and white saddle shoes from SPITZ. The German brand is known for its superb quality and sleek design. Vintage style with a modern twist is how I would describe their glorious saddle shoes, which make them the ideal footwear. One that will go beautifully with true vintage, as well as the “inspired by” garments. The brand’s signature pointed-toe sneakers are incredibly comfortable due to their shock absorbable insoles. Comfort aside, the shoes look like a real work of art! In particular when you pair them with SPITZ luxurious Bobby socks designed for them by French couture house Gerbe and my absolute favourite accessory, the patent leather sock belts!
Now that I’ve found my perfect saddle shoes, here is how I styled them!
In the pictures, by Gregory Michael King, I’m wearing:
The 1940s inspired blouse from House of Foxy. I replaced the modern buttons with Art Deco ones
SPITZ patent leather sock belts
Gerbe Bobby socks designed for SPITZ
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