I’m going to start with a note of remorse about the loss of Slide & Swing, a swing dance shoe company with a beautiful lineup of shoes for everyone and a casualty of the COVID 19 pandemic. If you have not already, please wander to their corner of the web and check out the remaining inventory, perhaps pick up a pair and give a little to someone who is losing their business and trying to recoup costs. Cheers to all the beautiful shoes you’ve created, Slide & Swing.
In spite of a pandemic (or perhaps coming into the business as the world slid into a pandemic), there are even more swing dance shoe companies that have popped up on my radar in the last year or so. Let’s have a scan of the new offerings.
@comfydance_shoes on Instagram is offering swing dance and street shoes handmade in Mexico. It looks like they are offering two styles right now, one pair of ankle boots and one pair of low heeled t-strap shoes, both in an array of color options. Instructions are to DM for more information and that’s all the information I have!
“Boun’Shoes started their small production of vintage-style dance shoes in January 2016 thanks to the collaboration of Fiammetta, a Roman Lindy Hopper, and a family of handcraft shoemakers based in Marche, Italy. They have been manufacturing shoes for three generations in the most famous shoemaking district in Italy. In 2019 Martina joined Fiammetta and launched the shop online.”
Unfortunately, the link to the website isn’t working on either Facebook or Instagram, so it’s probably best to reach out by private message/direct message. There are lots of lovely photos on their Facebook page, showing a variety of t-straps, Mary Janes, oxfords, and boots.
Swing Love shoes are made in Hội An, Vietnam, inspired by owner Châu’s search for swing dance shoes to fit her irregular feet and her fear of ordering shoes online only to have them not fit when they arrive. Taking advantage of the existing shoe making industry in Vietnam, Châu went on a journey find her perfect pair, with much trial and tribulation, and at the end of 2018, after finishing this journey, her friends suggested she should manufacture and sell the shoes she created. Châu spent two years learning everything she needed to know to launch this endeavor and the shoes are a showcase of Hội An’s shoemaker’s craftsmanship and Châu’s design ideas.
Swing Love is offering three styles – two oxfords (Savoy and Doo-Bee-Da) and one t-strap (Suzy-Q), all flats/low heel for those of you I know who are always on the lookout for flat dance shoes. Shoe color is customizable, just email them at email@example.com with your ideas.
That’s all for now – as we see the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, I hope you’ll consider your dance shoe needs and wants. Maybe it’s time to start breaking in a pair now so that you’ll be ready when we can dance again.
I attended my very first California Balboa Classic – aka Cal Bal – last month and I’d say I don’t know what took me so long, but I have another hobby that managed to conflict with this event year after year. I made the decision to choose Cal Bal this year and Cal Bal did such a great job welcoming me with open arms that I didn’t want to leave. It’s also the first event I’ve attended in several years that I was not hired as a musician, so there was ample time for dancing between DJ shifts, which I have sorely missed and desperately needed.
To set the vendor scene, you need to understand the layout of the hotel – this is a hotel event, but this is not your typical hotel. The Hyatt Regency Newport Beach is more of a complex, with lovely outdoor spaces connecting separate buildings, taking advantage of what are usually mild temperatures in southern California. The ballroom was a separate building within the hotel complex and to enter the ballroom, one had to walk down a little path and through a large covered-but-open-to-the-air space. It was a bit chilly at night, so the covered outdoor space had some temporary walls and heaters, as well as couches for sitting (basking) under said heaters, a snack station, a cash bar, and all the vendors for the event. Had the temps at night been a little warmer, the vendor location would have been truly ideal – during the day it was lovely.
Cal Bal had some great merch this year – you’ve already seen my post about the Kendra Dandy designed scarves and pocket squares, and there were also pins, bags, and tee shirt designs (one even featuring the Rendezvous Ballroom). I was elated to see a green tee shirt with musicians on it, so that came home with me! If you aren’t sure how to style your large Kendra Dandy Cal Bal scarf, Cleveland dancer and instructor Alexis Davila posted an awesome/adorable/creative video on Facebook of several different ways to wear it on your head – I believe you can still order one, it looks they are up on the Cal Bal web store.
At this point, I’m blessed that Re-mix Vintage Shoes owner Philip Heath knows me by sight and always gives me a little tidbit to keep me coming back for more. This year, the buzz was the production of a gold Opera model, which had previously been relegated to suede (which I don’t prefer to try to maintain) – since metallics are my go-to neutral, this was a delightful new development and I was excited that this particular model fit my particular feet, having never previously tried on any Opera model.
I didn’t notice the new addition to the men’s shoes (maybe a Fairway or a variation thereof? I’m not seeing it on the website) until Nicholas Centino posted the photo below of their gloriousness, but there’s a new two tone brown oxford with perforations that is so subtle and lovely. I’m also not seeing them on the Re-mix website, so pick up that phone…
Next stop in the circle of vendors was the new-to-me Swankys Vintage, who appeared to have mostly menswear and some women’s items, with a mix of Swankys reproductions and vintage clothing, with a very 1940’s/50’s California aesthetic in terms of styling and color palette. The reproductions were almost seamless with the vintage at first glance, the textures, fabrics, and colors were so spot on. Lots of clothing that evoked comfort, ease, and fun, as well as some really nice looking classics, like tweed trousers with a buckle back. It was so nice to see more of a focus on menswear, which tends to be minimal to non-existent in terms of vending at events.
I’ll also give an honorable mention to the gent who set up a mostly vintage men’s shop for Saturday night, who I asked for a business card and he said this was his last vending spot ever and that he was liquidating his collection and selling it to another vintage seller. It is hard work running these vendor spots/booths at events, carting around inventory, being present to run the shop, paying vendor fees and for hotel rooms, so my hat’s off to all the vendors – whether you’re still in the game or getting out, this is an important part of events and I’m appreciative of everyone who shows up.
I’m always excited to see Jenna Applegarth‘s Applejacks shoes at events, as I’ve probably learned more from her than anyone about the extensive and often frustrating process of designing, producing, and shipping dance shoes – I’m completely invested in this storyline and here for all subsequent chapters. Remember that this is a labor of love each time you buy a dance shoe made by swing dancers for swing dancers! I know several of us are eagerly anticipating the new models (I swear I saw green on Instagram), but the models out right now are particularly well-suited to Balboa. One of my friends noted that she didn’t necessarily know what she’d wear with the rose gold shoes, but that they felt so good on her feet that it didn’t matter. Good thing metallics are neutrals!
Next up in our tour of vendors was Swingbird Fashions, who I have previously blogged about in terms of an Etsy shop, but since that post this brand has expanded greatly and wonderfully. I am terribly sad that I was not able to meet the creator of these garments, Leea Kuronen from Denver, Colorado (it’s hard to be at your booth at every minute of the day, I completely understand) because I was smitten with everything – the colors, the fabric selection, and all the lovely details. There’s this one green dress with white soutache detail that is absolutely to-die-for – I saw both Teni Lopez-Cardenas and Heather Ballew had purchased one of these dresses and wore them in competitions that very weekend. It’s an I NEED TO WEAR THIS NOW kind of dress! Lovely trousers, skirts, blouses, and dresses all around – this corner of the room made me smile.
Across the room Loco Lindo represented with their line of crepe printed dresses, blouses, skirts, pants, and, of utmost importance, their Venice Beach clip dress, recreated from the one worn by Genevieve Grazis in said clip, she of the many gored twirly skirt. It’s honestly super gratifying to see a whole line of them on a rack, knowing the history behind the dress and the process of getting this dress reproduced – get your twirl on and your shuffle on, let’s do this! On a related note, I’m sad I missed the crunchy sound of shuffling on sand the Monday of Cal Bal where everyone met on the beach near the site of the former Rendezvous Ballroom – living that beach clip dream…
Sharing the space with Loco Lindo was Jen Gomez of Bandini St., who typically also shares a space at Camp Hollywood. It’s a great idea, to share space, share labor, and have that symbiotic relationship of pairing dresses with hair accoutrements immediately. This is probably going to be super personal to my preferences, but I was particularly happy to see pairs of hair flowers that were an ideal size (Goldilocks here, not too big, not too small…), flat – but with enough texture to be interesting, and a color gradient so that it goes with various shades of whatever color it represents. VERY SPECIFIC. I need to go through my closet to see what I might need, as these are available on the Bandini St. Etsy shop in several colors.
Finally, we’ve reached the lovely Saint Savoy booth at Cal Bal, with a candy colored array of heels and flats. While their Riviera model remains the most popular and is available in a wide array of colors, I heard lots of talk about their oxfords for women being particularly comfortable. A few other notes: 1) I’m pretty sure their Grace shoe in Neptune is one of the most beautiful dance shoes ever made. I own a pair and I only wear them for singing because I would Gollum-style freak out if anything ever happened to them; 2) I’m having feelings about their The Whip oxford in Mulled Wine because I had a pair of Doc Martens in high school with a similar color gradient and broguing (a whole different level of nostalgia); and 3) it was nice to see their Grand Prix t-strap dance flat in person – loving all the variety in heel heights, thank you, more of this from dance shoe makers, please. 🙂
And that’s a wrap – I hope I haven’t missed anyone! I loved all the vendors, thank you again for your time and energies in attending Cal Bal and creating products with the swing dance community in mind.
One of the common complaints I hear about women’s swing dance shoes offerings is that they can’t find something flat and cute to wear with dresses. For a variety of reasons, heels won’t work for certain dancers and, depending on the day/circumstances/conditions, a pair of cute flats may be the only cure for what ails. Charlie Stone burst onto the scene a few years ago with their flats catering to dancers, but subsequently changed their business model and the soles of their shoes to rubber to accommodate a larger, less niche market. Other companies have offered oxfords and boots, but I know that I am not alone in preferring something that pairs traditionally well with dresses and skirts and doesn’t necessitate socks (I’ll deal with the foot funk fallout later!).
It’s always exciting to receive international packages in the mail and, from start to finish, Groovy Fox has delivered the goods. I opened my package and discovered a sealed envelope, with a thank you note (very classy, thank YOU), a welcoming solicitation for feedback and the means to do so, and a polite request for tags on social media; another card in the envelope talks about their goal of providing comfort and quality footwear and gives a list of aspects of the shoe they have focused on, such as insole cushioning, flexibility, softness, the strength and slide of the leather soles, and ends with a note that you are encouraged to wear them on and off the dance floor. The flip side of this card details and diagrams the layer of viscoelastic gel throughout and foam layer at mid-sole in the insole of the shoe.
The next layer of my package included a burgundy shoe bag with the Groovy Fox logo on it, made from a quality material with a grosgrain ribbon tie. I travel a lot and go through a lot of shoe bags to protect my shoes, so I was very grateful to receive a quality shoe bag that looks like it will wash well.
Finally, the shoes! On the heels of discussing my Dorothy complex in September’s post on Kitschy Witch, I was delighted to see that the red shoes I was anticipating were actually a delicious, shimmery ruby color. I may have died a small death of joy in receiving these shoes, the reveal was everything. The leather is soft, but not so soft that it doesn’t hold its shape. I can see these molding to my feet in good ways after several wears, and with the placement of the stitching and perforations I also anticipate that they will give in the right places and also hold up in those places.
The soles are smooth leather – I don’t have preferences on suede or smooth leather soles, so I can’t give you much feedback either way, but I did solo jazz, Lindy Hop, and Balboa in these shoes and did not feel compromised with any of these dances. I found the cushioning to not be overt – I could still feel the floor a great bit, so I feel like this would be a good transition to make from Remix os Saint Savoy shoes if you are needing a flat that is lightly cushioned, but you still want to feel the floor. If you need additional cushioning, I can see ways that you could easily add ball of foot cushioning with the closed toe box. If you need a lot of arch support, which I do not, this shoe does not have that arch support feature, although the gel in the insole continues through the length of the sole. The heel is rubber, but not a sticky rubber, so it did not inhibit my movement in any noticeable way.
I found these shoes to be streamlined and comfortable, a classic t-strap with great proportions and lovely details. They immediately got a lot of attention at my local weekly dance, both because of the wonderful color, the styling, and the fact that they are flat, leather soled dance shoes. The price point of $132 is a great value for the quality of dance shoe you receive. I have also had excellent communication with Groovy Fox’s executive director, Georgi Evgeniev. 10/10 would recommend!
For too long, the Keds and heels divide was a painful reality, with very little in the way of dance shoes in between these options. With the explosion of new swing dance shoe companies in the past few years, the options have increased, but often the flats offerings were limited to oxfords. Knowing how much work goes into starting any company, it stood to reason that shoe companies would offer those items that are already a sure thing, but even then one of the most common complaints I hear from women is that they just want a cute, flat dancing shoe. With Charlie Stone stepping away from the dance shoe market by eliminating leather soles, where does that leave us?
What I hope I am seeing is a trend toward cute, flat dancing shoes. At All Balboa Weekend this past weekend, I saw Re-Mix Vintage Shoes’ brand new Giulia model, a flat sandal with a leather sole in Re-Mix’s impeccable vintage style and colors. I have owned other pairs of Re-Mix’s flat sandals with rubber soles and love them, so it is exciting to see their take on a flat dance sandal in colors that compliment my vintage clothing. Not to be outdone, I spotted Saint Savoy’s announcement that their Riviera shoe (one of my favorite Balboa shoes) will now be a flat sandal – nothing was lost in translation, the proportions on this shoe look so lovely and I imagine I will see a lot of this shoe pop up at events in the fall after they launch.
Thanks so much to dance shoe companies for listening – I am so excited to be able to direct newer dancers to more flat shoe options that are not only comfortable, but also beautiful.
When I have heard about Slide & Swing dance shoes I usually hear about someone coveting their boots, but now I’m on their website having a panic attack over their ART DECO GLITTER DANCE FLATS. Do any of those words make you salivate? Available in teal, copper, and a sort of burnt gold color – limited edition, so you know what that means…
The hits keep coming, folks – and for all the new swing dance shoe companies popping up, there is an equally eager audience of dancers wondering and hoping – “Will this be THE shoe?” Finding your perfect dance shoe is a process and everyone’s feet respond differently to different shoes, are shaped differently, have their own special needs, and there’s just never a one-size-fits-all solution, at least in terms of dance shoes.
I first heard about Swing Beauty swing dance shoes from instructor Jon Tigert, who I have seen at a number of swing dance events this year sporting a pair of green and tan dance shoes that he has been very happy with over the past months, explaining that he acquired them from this China-based company owned by dancer Mina Lin. Jon has wide feet and has been committed to a style of Stacy Adams shoes in a wide width for years prior to acquiring these Swing Beauty shoes – the new shoes look great on him and feel light on his feet, two excellent notes for a dance shoe. Jon posted on Facebook last night that he had acquired a second pair of Swing Beauty shoes in blue during a trip to Guangzhou to replace some shoes that were ready for retirement – I’d say acquisition of a second pair is a great recommendation! Jon was able to pick out his custom colors and, for wide widths, recommends that you reach out to Swing Beauty about customization options/sizing questions beyond the color customization listed on the website (and even the color custom chart, as compared with the photos on Facebook, looks like just the tip of the iceberg – if you can dream it, maybe they can make it?).
For all the women I am hearing who have wide feet or are looking for the perfect pair of oxfords or need flats (or all of the above!), here’s another option for you. There’s also a boot and a low heeled oxford.
The website looks fairly straightforward, with step by step instructions on what to do – your first step is essentially to send them an order inquiry, rather than putting something in a cart, which gives you the opportunity to ask a lot of questions (if needed) and to inquire about what custom options you seek. To get ideas, you can check out the Swing Beauty Facebook page, which I am sure will expand to give you more options as they create more custom pairs for dancers. The prices look great, ranging from about $107 to $140, based on today’s conversion table.
I have probably been remiss (and definitely very late to the game) in mentioning Toms as dance shoes, I see them often on dance floors – not quite as often as classic Keds, but enough that my curiosity was piqued. I usually dance in heels or wedges, so it took Toms producing a pair of their signature alpargatas in chambray with embroidered music notes for me to break down and decide to give them a chance. I was worried that my foot shape would not work with the alpargatas style, since loafers and similar slip-ons are the death knell for my feet, but these shoes are soft and don’t hit me at those same problematic loafer areas. So now I’m hooked – give me your soft canvas shoes, Toms!
Today Toms launched their Snow White collection (and if you know me, you know that I was Snow White in the kindergarten play, but also bring me all the 1937 style, please) and so I have yet another excuse to buy a pair of Toms. This is in addition to the previously released Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty collections already in circulation. I love the soft, muted colors on all of these – a little interest, but generally reading as neutrals. Maybe you need a princess pair, or maybe you need some fairies, scurrying mice, and helpful dwarves in your life…
I love a sale and I love it when I find new products tailored for swing dancers – here, we have Saint Savoy Dancewear, a swing dance company founded by Rani-Patricia Dirnhofer, a Vienna-based dancer who grew up in Spain and uses her connections there to collaborate with Alicante shoe manufacturers to create this line of men’s and women’s dance shoes – from oxfords to t-straps, flats to heels, brogueing to cutouts…there’s a lot of variety here! Additionally, Saint Savoy is running a sale until November 30, 10 Euros off any pair of dance shoes…
…but what about these shoes, you say? Let’s take a closer look:
It seems all dancers struggle with finding that perfect pair of shoes – Rani-Patricia shared this struggle: “While hunting for stylish dance shoes, we searched through countless websites from all over the world. The meagre array, several bad buys, and a lot of research brought us to the idea of starting our very own company.” What is remarkable is that people are actually doing this, starting companies and making these shoes – clearly there is a demand!
So if you could come up with a dance shoe company, what specs would you include? Saint Savoy touts the following:
– Sustainable production: “We hold the manufacturing methods of our products to high ethical standards, and select the materials used according to durability and sustainability. We proudly ensure that our shoeboxes are made from recycled paper, plastic packaging is minimized, leatherwork follows German PCP Regulations, and working conditions for our shoemakers are fair – more ways in which we join traditional and contemporary.”
Here are some favorites from the Saint Savoy line of shoes for men and women (ladies, note that there are flats and low heel options) – don’t forget to place your orders before November 30 to get the discount!
I can thank Raleigh dancer Tiffany Linquist for the tip about Charlie Stone Shoes, which is presently a placeholder “coming soon” website, but the corresponding Facebook page for this business indicates that this is a swing dance shoe company – “Swing dance shoes designed for comfort, support and good old fashioned style. Online store coming soon!” Further inspection of the Facebook page shows a single style of footwear – a flat t-strap shoe with cutouts/overlays at the toe, in either black or red/cream. A new dance shoe company for swing dancing that makes flats is very promising news, indeed!
Via Tumblr, I find that the company is is based in Australia and Singapore and run by a dancer named Samantha Szetu, who also has an adorable blog called Style and Swingouts. Charlie Stone is set to launch in September/October 2014, with the signature t-strap style – check out the specs on this sweet dance shoe:
– Free shipping worldwide (what what!)
– Handmade with 100% quality leather
– Hidden heel elevation
– Wide bottom sole for maximum traction
– Soft leather bottom sole
– Supportive insole
One of the most common shoe questions I get is where to find dance flats that are dressier than Keds – I think Samantha had a similar issue, based on this statement from the FB page: “I love lindy hop and adore fashion, but often the two don’t get along, particularly when the songs are fast and the night is long. So I decided to make a shoe that worked for me, so whatever the floor type, my fashion choice, song speed or time of night, I would always feel confident and comfortable.”
Check out this video of some of the Singapore dancers giving the shoes a test-run (or test-swingouts!). Looking forward to the launch! If you’ve already tried a pair of these kicks, please leave us a review in the comments section. 🙂