Tag Archives: saddle shoes

Reclaiming the Saddle Shoe

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Can I be this cute?

I know, I know, but hear me out.  I’m pretty sure my mom put me in saddle shoes at some point during my childhood and I ran around the playground wearing them with a dress in ultimate classic kid style.  When presented in high school with very limited options for women’s golf shoes, I was delighted that a saddle shoe was one of my options and made my selection accordingly.  Then swing dancing came into my life – when I started in 1998, retro culture was an amalgam of generic vintage pop culture, but as the smoke of the late 1990’s swing revival started to clear, it was became very clear to me that saddle shoes were associated with two things: 1) a caricature of the 1950’s and 2) newbie dancers.  As a budding Lindy Hopper, all I wanted was everything 1930’s/early 40’s and NOT to be associated with anything that would brand me as a newbie.   I wanted to be taken seriously as a dancer.  But deep down I still loved saddle shoes because they are adorable.

Flash forward a decade or so and I thought about saddle shoes again.  A green and white pair would be amazing and I found a retailer online that made them.   Vintage Dancer wrote this great blog post about the history of the saddle shoe, detailing their popularity between 1910 and 1960, clearly marking this as a period-appropriate choice for my swing-era-not-1950’s-caricature dancing activities.  And then I remembered how saddle shoes would be perceived and I abandoned that idea.

I don’t know when Gretchen Midgley and I were first talking about this, but saddle shoes came up in conversation and how I’d wanted a pair, but ALL OF THE ABOVE HESITATIONS.  Then I got a PM from Gretchen saying I needed to make this happen because saddle shoes would be a versatile addition to her fall wardrobe and she’s right.  Gretchen’s message was the kick in the pants I needed.  I AM LINDY SHOPPER AND I SHALL WEAR WHAT I PLEASE.

Won’t you be mine?

I ordered the green and white saddle shoes from Muffy’s, made from a last from 1956, which feature leather uppers and a Goodyear welted rubber sole and am so excited to finally have them after so many years of being worried about what other people would think about my dancing.  Silly, I know – but being perceived as a good dancer was and is so important to me.  I got to wear them last night to our weekly dance and I think they will take a little time to break in, but otherwise I am very happy with this purchase.

Would you like a pair of your own?  Vintage Dancer has a set of links to retailers at the bottom of the post and I’m also eyeballing a pair from Julia Bo customized to my specifications – has anyone ordered from this site?

If you’re worried about how to style the saddle shoe, Vintage Everyday has a great collection of photos of women doing everything from riding a motorcycle to sleeping in a barrel wearing saddle shoes, with photographs looking like they date from the early 1930’s through the 1950’s.

All this to say let’s be a little kinder, a little less judgmental about what we see on people’s feet.  I remember getting into a discussion on a chat forum in the early 2000’s about Bleyers, as I was still wearing mine for dancing, but someone there had branded them a shoe for newbies.  At that point, I didn’t consider myself a newbie, but I was embarrassed and mad because I had stuck up for this dance shoe that was servicing my feet and someone set out to belittle me.  I was either in school or working 3 jobs between stints in school at that point and I didn’t have a lot of money for dance shoes – hell, there weren’t even that many options for swing dance shoes at that point.  Perhaps this is also a lesson in humanity and humility – there’s a human attached to those shoes who just wants to dance.

Classic browns here, but Julia Bo has many more color combinations – order on Etsy or from website linked above.

Johnson Shoes

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

"A Brogue" oxford in brown and snake

I’ll keep the shoe theme going for another post…I stumbled upon Johnson Shoes in one of those lists of vintage clothing and shoe resources where most of the links are no longer working. Fortunately, the Johnson Shoes link still worked and I discovered a wonderful resource for 1930’s through 1950’s shoes for men and women. Based in the UK, Johnson Shoes has been selling hand crafted shoes since 1983.

From the website: “We always carry black, brown and white dance shoes, but all our ranges come in all colours. Different soles are available according to your needs. Whilst some styles and colours are in stock due to the fact we offer high quality handmade footwear so it can take a number of weeks to produce your shoes. We offer quality not speed.

Whether you want to dance all night or be comfortable all day we make quality footwear that caters for your needs. Whether you choose from one of the many designs you see on our site or design what you want it’s all in with the price.

Johnson shoes are dance orientated. We have jazz, rock and roll, swing, balboa and lindy-hop shoes, ballroom, and latin shoes, 40s jive, ceroc, leroc, salsa and jive shoes.

You can choose from a wide range of materials including, leather, suede, nubuck, patent, pony, non-leather and a choice of soles, leather, eva, suede , crepe and non-leather. We do all the above footwear from size 3 including half sizes to a ladies size 9 in selected styles and up to mens size 13”

You had me at Balboa…

In addition to custom footwear, Johnson Shoes carries some styles in stock, which are sold through the Rock and Roll Products website. The styles available in stock are also the styles you can customize.

Here’s what I’m loving from the site (there are no individual links, for some reason – sorry!):

Penny Loafer in black and white (I remember someone bemoaning Aris Allen discontinuing their white loafers...)

"Telephone" heels in gold and silver - I can't even begin to tell you how much I am in love with this pair of shoes

White bucks to go with your seersucker suit

"Spanish" shoe in purple with teardrop cutouts

Saddle shoe in brown and beige

"Clio" heels in brown croc

Urban Outfitters, May 2010 Catalog

I got the Urban Outfitters catalog in the mail yesterday and was pleasantly surprised at the offerings. Lately I felt like Urban had gone astray, focusing on clothing items that look like something I could find at Goodwill and would never wear (as opposed to items I could find at Goodwill and would definitely wear) or it was just more of the same hipster garb I already had in my closet. However, they appear to be coming out of this sort of ratty, gross phase and are offering some really interesting pieces, including clothing and shoes that appear to be dance-worthy. I began dog-earring the pages of my catalog immediately and, upon closer inspection of the website there are even more pretty things for guys and gals, more than I am posting here. Here’s what I liked:

The catalog showed these shoes in black, with black fishnets and painted toes - very hot! They come in a hot pink, too. 😉

Chiffon lady dress - maybe to go with those pink t-straps? Also comes in blue and gray.

Loving all this chiffon - this one comes in a berry stripe, too!

Nice detailing on the puff sleeve - comes in several prints.

Chiffon drop waist dress.  I love that they have the models twirling in some of these dresses to show off the fluid skirts!

Art Deco inspired tank

Tap shorts!

For the guys, I liked these sneakers with a sort of cross-hatch fabric.

An interesting take on the saddle shoe, for men.

Classic Bass saddle shoe

Stripey socks! They also have argyle and plaid.

Straw fedora, comes in four colors.

Canvas saddle shoe sneakers at UrbanOutfitters.com

This is a brilliant idea:  take a vintage shoe style that may not be the most comfortable for dancing in its original form, or the most affordable when made in leather, and make a Keds-style sneaker replica.  Suede the soles and you’re set!  I wore these at DCLX for the first time and they were comfortable and received a lot of attention. 🙂

Find them at the Urban Outfitters website.  Not available in stores, for sale online only.