Tag Archives: swing dance shoes

Your Favorite Dance Heels Become Flats

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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Re-Mix’s Giulia sandal

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.

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Saint Savoy’s flat Riviera, beautifully done

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Jenna Applegarth’s Applejacks Shoes

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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The Greenwood

This post may be premature, but I have been eagerly anticipating Jenna Applegarth’s line of swing dance shoes since I first saw her post about this business endeavor on Facebook.  A lot of people ask me about shoes and visit this blog for information about dance shoes, but Jenna is THE source, the person I know who knows about all the brands popping up all over the globe because she is traveling to teach at these places and trying out the shoes, but also because she has excellent taste, she cares about the shoes, and gives detailed feedback about the fit, look, materials, and functionality shoes.

I say premature because the Applejacks website does not have any shoes listed for sale, but Jenna has slowly been releasing posts about her work and, this week on the Applejacks Facebook page, photos of some of the shoes she has designed.  I couldn’t wait, you all need to know about this, and be sure to follow the Applejacks Facebook page for release updates.

From the Applejacks about page:

“Applejacks shoes are designed by dancers, for dancers. We want you to not only look good, but to feel good. To be able to stay on the dance floor all night and still walk back to your hotel. Our shoes are designed to help your body stay aligned and balanced. Room for your toes, secure on your ankles and happiness on your feet. We believe that Applejacks represents a fresh take on comfort and design.

We know feet are as unique as personalities, which is why we don’t believe in “one size (style) fits all.” That means we know our shoes may not work for everyone. But that is ok, because we founded this company to help fill in the gaps from the other companies already in business. Fit the feet that weren’t being fitted 🙂 Which means if our shoes don’t work for you, that is ok – they may fit your friends and family instead! And you can always check out some of the other great shoe companies out there with a different fit.

We have a goal to help reduce unnecessary waste, maintain high industry standards and choose sustainable durable materials.  What that means for you:

  • Simple labels – It gets thrown away anyway, so we only label what we need to.
  • Minimal packaging – From the factory to you, we do our best to only use what is needed.
  • No shoe bags automatically – but 1 free for every pair on request!
  • Leatherwork follows German PCP Regulations
  • Fair working conditions
  • Non-gendered/Non-roled sizing and styles

We are still working on building our brand and identity. We appreciate your feedback, and we hope you travel along with us on our journey.”

I love this approach and I can’t wait to see more from Jenna’s company.  I also have some nerdy glee about the company name being so perfect with Jenna’s last name and being one of my favorite jazz steps.   Here are the three previews released this week, from L-R: the Greenwood in teal, the Seneca in rose gold/silver, and the Seneca in purple.

Royal Vintage Shoes Offers Leather Soles for Spring 2019

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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Lillian Mary Janes

Since their launch a few years ago, I’ve been a supporter of Royal Vintage Shoes, an offshoot of American Duchess, creating reproduction vintage shoes from the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s.  My one complaint was that these wonderfully crafted shoes with leather uppers did not have leather soles – until now!  For Spring 2019, Royal Vintage has made the transition to leather soles and I’m so excited about the offerings, all of which can be added to your dance shoe wardrobe.  The new leather soled collection will be available for pre-order on their website starting on April 25, 2019.  I particularly love the wedges, the heeled oxfords, and I’m delighted they are re-issuing their two tone Lillian Mary Janes (although I’ve already purchased the rubber soled version from a previous collection, womp womp).  Enjoy their “Foxtrot Summer” collection, aptly named to now cut a rug!

Made in Lindy – Swing Dance Shoe Review

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I can’t find a record of previously blogging about this company, but I was aware of Made in Lindy shoes through several Texas swing dancer acquaintances, who purchased Made in Lindy shoes and recommended them on Facebook a few years ago.  Fast forward to 2019 and former Texas/now North Carolina dancer Allison Lemley was wearing a pair of her Made in Lindy shoes at the weekly Lindy Lab dance, so of course we started talking about her shoes.  I took a gander at the offerings on the Made in Lindy Facebook page and fell in love with a red pair of Mary Jane heels with a heart cutout – I mean, just look at this cuteness!

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Made in Lindy is based in China and the orders are placed via Facebook page chat and payment through PayPal.  I had a very helpful exchange with Made in Lindy, where I began by inquiring about a shoe and pricing – the shoes I ordered were $99.00 (including shipping) and the turnaround for an order is about 3.5 weeks for production and delivery.  I was offered an array of color options and, even though I wanted the red shoe from the photo, I was even offered two different reds to choose from.  I could specify 3cm, 4cm, or 5cm heel height.  Customer service asked about my sizing and offered advice.  I received a confirmation message when they received my payment and another message when the shoes were shipped with tracking information.

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2 a.m. in the lobby at Lindyfest

While I still find it a little odd to place orders through Facebook (even though I have done it many times now through Chloe Hong’s Facebook page) it helped to have the recommendation of a friend and that the customer service was so well-done.

Now for the shoes!  They arrived a couple of days before Lindyfest (along with an adorable orange satin shoe bag with pink lettering), so of course I packed my brand new pair and a backup pair in case of new shoe blisters.  I don’t often get to dance at events anymore because I’m singing, but Lindyfest was a mix of DJ’ing and singing for me, so I got ample dancing in on the two nights I was DJ’ing and not singing.  The Made in Lindy shoes were wonderful for mostly Lindy/some Bal and, for the first time in a long time with any pair of shoes, I did not get blisters (which was extra great, since I had forgotten to pack my friction stick).  I found the foot bed to be slightly wider than some of my other pairs of dance shoes and the 4 cm heel was comfortable and stable (photo of heel and sole after one night of dancing below).  Excited to have a new pair of dance shoes I love in my selection, I may even get over the loss of my beloved Aris Allen wedges (RIP).  Would buy again!

Slide & Swing Nora – Art Deco Dancing Flats

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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…

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Mid-Winter Digest

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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The alternate title for this post is I Have Too Many Things To Write About and No Time To Do It – my hope is that you’d rather have the news as it comes, rather than a comprehensive post about everything, so I’m giving you the tip of the iceberg here and trust that you’ll enjoy all the things at your leisure:

Zoe Vine – glorious dresses (with sleeves!) in lovely colors, based in the UK (because the UK has everything I want right now, right?), machine washable – gimme!

Hepcat Corner – tees, sweatshirts, bags, phone cases, and more, all with the swing dancer in mind.  Bonus points for graphic of shag dancing couple (labeled Charleston – could be either!).

August Three – I had hoped to cover this in a Lindy Focus vendor post that may never come to fruition, but I got to see the beauties from this new swing dance shoe company based in Thailand and the quality looks great and I loved the custom color options.  Would love to hear from others who have tried them!  Jenna Applegarth has endorsed these and she is essentially the international swing dance shoe expert at this point, I’m not sure there’s a swing dance shoe company she hasn’t tried!

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Pretty Retro – In December I discovered that my new favorite go-to clothing website, The House of Foxy, has an offshoot brand called Pretty Retro.  I’m not sure what the differences are, it all looks like more glorious, quality vintage-inspired reproduction clothing and I am here for it.

Angelus Lustre Cream and Leather Paint – having trouble color matching leather polish so you can try to restore some life into a tired, scratched pair of dance shoes?  Lauren Stowell of Royal Vintage Shoes recommends Angelus Lustre Cream (thanks for posting in the Women’s Swing Dance Shoes Hunt Facebook group!).

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Some sunshine for these gloomy winter days, from Swingbird Fashions

Green of Grey – I found another magical trumpet skirt in the wild (which has since sold out, but maybe custom order? That bow, AMIRITE?) and a number of other adorable swing-era-inspired items in this adorable Etsy shop.

Swingbird Fashions – a Denver-based Etsy shop, with trumpet skirts IN STOCK, adorable 30’s style shorts/skort, 30’s blouses, trousers (both wide leg and those pleated/tapered ones that everyone seems to compete in), some gorgeous dresses, really so many quality things!

Groovy Fox – what a fun name for this new swing dance shoe company!  Bulgaria jumps in on the dance shoe game and the results are lovely – we so spoiled with all these new shoe companies with lovely colors and styles.  Loving the lilac and mint and wanting to build a spring wardrobe around these colors…

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Memery – Vintage-Inspired Footwear

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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The shoe blessings runneth over and, while this vintage reproduction shoe company doesn’t appear to be directly marketing to the swing dance community, all signs point to it being a default winner – Memery, a UK-based company, is making reproduction shoes from the 1920’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s with leather soles (but also a vegan option) and they are lovely, in some classic colors and some unexpected colors.  While it appears that they are getting a start on their shoe lines, it looks like they are off to a strong start, particularly with their 1940’s pump, which comes in six scrumptious suede colors and two heel heights (3 cm/1.18 inches and 6.7 cm/2.6 inches).  This is definitely a shoe company to watch!

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I have a 1940’s pair of oxfords with this same topstitching effect – love this attention to detail!

Swing Beauty Dance Shoes

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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Jon Tigert’s pairs of Swing Beauty shoes

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.

Here’s what I am loving from Swing Beauty:

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All of these!  Look at the options!

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Saddle shoes done so well!  

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I do love a tweed…

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Adorbs!

Swing It – Dance Shoes and Apparel from Poland

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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A row of Swing It shoes

The newest contender in the swing dance shoes and apparel market is Swing It, based in Krakow, Poland.  A quote from their Facebook page caught my eye, so we’ll start with that: “We believe in slow fashion philosophy – natural materials, quality and comfort.”  If this quote had the word adorable in it, it might be directly targeted at me.  I’m seeing this term “slow fashion” come up more often and, as I become the old lady I was always destined to be, I find myself drawn to this idea that fashion should slow down a little – as a vintage clothing wearer, this seems innate, but in terms of buying new garments made now (but in the vintage style – we’re full circle), this is a new term that applies to a very old concept, of buying quality things you love to last you for a long time.  I think slow fashion is easier for people who have developed their own sense of personal style, but then you’re here, reading this blog post, so maybe you have that or maybe you aspire to that more permanent sense of style.  Perhaps you’re here to augment your current style.  If you’re comfortable in yourself, comfortable in your quality clothes, and are sweating it out on the dance floor in natural fibers, what more do you need from a garment?  Whatever the reason, I’ve digressed far afield, so let’s return to Poland where this new swing dancer-focused brand resides.

I always try to start on a company’s about page, to get a flavor for what the company goals are and what makes it tick.  Swing It produces reproduction clothing and shoes from the 1930’s through the 1960s, based on original patterns, with all of the clothing made in Poland.  Goals are quality, great appearance, and customer satisfaction, but also personal satisfaction, as the owners of this company, Basia and Greg, design things they want to wear.  I believe in this concept – if you like it and are excited about it, certainly there are others who will/are, too.

The men’s shoes are cap toes or classic brogues, with your basic brown tones as well as a more adventurous color/combination for each style (I see you, dark green cap toes!).

The women’s shoes are also oxfords, in lovely suede in two of my favorite colors – purple and green.  It’s almost like they called me…

The clothing offerings on the Swing It website are limited to women’s clothing at this time, but I definitely see vests on Facebook, so I’m assuming there is more in the works.  For women, Swing It is launching the basics in an array of colors – for their skirt, a 1950’s reproduction wrap skirt with four buttons, and for their trousers, a high waist/pleated front/tapered leg reproduction from 1952 in classic suiting plaids and in red.

Here is what I am loving from Swing It:

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Please do ask me to dance, any time…

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I love a multi-tonal shoe, makes a neutral even more versatile by coordinating with more brown tones

 

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Chic red trousers

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These look luscious and soft…

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I’ll leave you with this minty green – cheers!

ILHC 2018 Vendor Report

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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The International Lindy Hop Championships is one of those events where, even if you go into it feeling like you don’t have a lot to do, there are so many excellent people around and things to see that this feeling dissipates very quickly.  While the vendor area was not as robust as in years past, there were still some new surprises as well as staple vendors to get you some things you may need and some things you may want.

I usually do a trend report, but I’m sad to say that I did not see many of the competitions this year due to both work obligations and time spent with friends outside of the dance.  I WILL note that I did see the invitational strictly and, if this is any indicator of trends, white was absolutely a trend this year – white skirts, pants, and even a jumpsuit.  White is one of those attention-grabbing colors for competitors and we usually point to shoes as a prime example, i.e. highlighting a dancer’s footwork, so here, let’s say we’re highlighting all those amazing swivels.  I also want to give a shoutout to Remy Kouakou Kouame, along those same lines, for wearing a stellar pink suit in a sea of neutrals and for being such a great menswear inspiration to up and coming dancers – I noticed one of the Cleveland Junior Jitterbugs, Jermaine Trevon Donald, competing in pink trousers and one of the sweetest sport coats I’ve seen in a long time (it’s hard to tell from the video, but the fabric is awesome), and coach Valerie Salstrom told me that Remy is a big inspiration to him.  Here’s to inspiring dancing and inspiring and eye-catching competition apparel!

Now, on to the vendors!

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Victor Celania has been working in custom menswear for years and serving dancers in the Austin, Texas swing dance community, but has only recently started setting up shop at swing dance events under the name of his business, Established Sartorial (which may have the cutest logo ever).  I love visiting Victor’s table and seeing and feeling all the wonderful fabric samples.  I also love hearing people talk about the kids of garments they want and how they want things to fit – we all have such different bodies, different needs, and different ways that off-the-rack clothing doesn’t work for us.  I’ve known Victor for a long time, he has such excellent taste and I’m glad he’s sharing this skill with the rest of the dance community.

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Dance the rainbow

Speaking of excellent taste and custom clothing, Chloe Hong was on site and focused on selling her not-quite-flats-not-quite-heels t-strap dance shoes that have become so popular due to their comfort and the array of colors offered – an actual rainbow of options appeared on her table, which I love and adore.  This goes without saying, but being able to try on the shoes is so important for us as dancers, so having Chloe at ILHC with shoes in all available sizes to try on was fantastic.  I ordered a pair in light gold and I’m so excited to try them out (following a recent purge of 10+-year-old dance shoes that were well past their prime)!  She also had a selection of men’s oxfords in more subdued colors with a contrast sole, I would be interested to hear from people how they like dancing in them.

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Sparkle butts assemble for swing outs…

New this year to me was Lucky Lindys NYC, a brand of bloomers made in New York and created by New York dancer Julia Loving.  I did not get to speak to Julia in person, but there were no less than three people at her booth, either helping or shopping, who sang the praises of these bloomers as to their comfort and construction, particularly that there is no center seam in the crotch area, eliminating THAT kind of discomfort.  If you missed out at ILHC, you can pick up a pair from the Lucky Lindys NYC Etsy shop.

Finally, also new to me, was Dee’s Tees, tee shirt customization and design by Darlene Davis, who would craft, create, and cut your tees on site in any number of ways to effectuate the desired result.  Maybe you want a larger neck hole or something off the shoulder, then maybe the shirt becomes an over layer for something interesting underneath.  She was using ILHC tees as examples, so you could pick up a tee and walk 10 feet over to Darlene’s table for instant gratification and leave with a one-of-kind shirt. I don’t have a website, but if you are interested in this kind of service at your event, email Darlene at darlenetedford@gmail.com.

Finally, Richmond dancers Dave Barry and Cate Rauschenberger set up their Jazz Garden, an array of gently used jazz CDs which they have scavenged in thrift shops and beyond to give this music the second life it deserves in the hands of new owners.  I love this idea, very much akin to scavenging/thrifting vintage clothing, and taking it to the next level by collecting a critical mass to sell at an event.  Like a good vintage clothing store, Dave and Cate have curated dance-friendly jazz artists and saved you the effort of intense and time-consuming digging.  I salute y’all, as I also enjoy the hunt!

I know there was also a massage vendor, but I was never in the area when they were around – I’m happy to update if someone wants to message me with their name and information!

Cheers!

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Darlene in action, getting started on a custom tee

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Samples of Dee’s Tees finished products

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An array of bloomer options from Lucky Lindys NYC

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Cate and Dave know good jazz music

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The men’s shoe offerings from Chloe Hong

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Gorgeous suiting fabrics from Established Sartorial

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“Buttons, buttons, we’ve got the buttons…buttons for the swingeroo…”

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Toms Vintage Disney Princesses

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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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…

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Love the colors on these dwarves!

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A little fairy dust…

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Sewing, slipper, slipper, sewing…

All Balboa Weekend 2018 Vendor Report

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My favorite purchase of the weekend, from Flower Child – HAZ DIPSY DOODLE

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I attended my 12th All Balboa Weekend this past weekend and, although I didn’t compete, DJ, run a fashion show, or run a band, I still managed to fill my weekend with so many good things and people even though I came there “just to sing.”  Of course, no trip to Cleveland would be complete without a bit of vintage shopping, both on-site and in town.  You can check out past blog posts for the scoop on Sweet Lorain and Chelsea’s Costumes, the former being my favorite vintage store of all time and the latter being a great place to score some inexpensive and awesome menswear.

At the Holiday Inn, the vendors did not disappoint this year.  There are always a few new items of ABW merchandise each year, including baseball tees with the phrase “I’d rather be doing Bal” and a cute silhouette of Bal dancers on a solid tee and a striped tee.  If you’ve looked at the ABW baby tees and thought you didn’t have a use for such things, have you considered that your dog may look adorable in just such a tee?  A sweet pup named Luna came to hang out at the event (who may be the most calm and tolerant dog I’ve ever seen) and did a little photo shoot for us and everyone’s heart melted just a little bit.

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Dog fashion at All Balboa Weekend

Re-mix Vintage Shoes was out in full force with an array of Bal-friendly footwear in colors to suit just about any outfit.  I didn’t see any new models, but that doesn’t particularly matter when you are dealing in the classics and when you want to replace that pair of gold Balboas that you’ve worn out that not even a gold Sharpie can salvage at this point to make them look like you didn’t put them through a meat grinder…it always makes me happy to walk by this table and see people excited about buying a pair of Re-mix shoes.

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Beauty in geometry from De Fils en Perles

De Fils en Perles returned with even more gorgeous beadwork and whimsy.  Classic Art Deco-inspired cuffs abound, a new series of rings were added, along with a number of butterfly designs (which were super popular and sold out last year), and (for funsies) some 8-bit characters from Super Mario Bros. and some Minions.  The detail here is scrumptious, with no two pieces alike.

Dancestore made an appearance, although I should really call it the Laurie Gilkenson (aka Nina’s mom) booth because it’s more than just Dancestore shoes, it’s also a collection of vintage and vintage-inspired items (such as castoffs from Nina’s incredible shoe collection), as well as hand-crafted items made by Laurie, such as knitted caps for newborns.

Victor Celania set up a booth for his successful custom menswear business, Established Sartorial – based in Austin, Texas, victor has clients both within and outside of the swing dance community and decided to try a vendor booth at ABW.  Victor is also the bandleader of the Waller Creek Vipers, whose debut album Bespoke Bounce is hot off the presses and you could pick up a copy at his booth while you drool over all the lovely menswear fabrics.

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Jamie Sturdevant of ChatterBlossom was busy every time I rolled by her booth and I think people are finally in the same place I have been for a while, bringing Jamie garments and getting her expert opinion on just the right color, texture, and scale to complete your look.  I say complete because I never quite feel right with just my plain hair at a dance event anymore, a flower just elevates an already special night of music and dancing.  I also spotted a number of men picking up her boutonnieres, which delights me to no end.

Holding it down at the end of the hallway were the ladies of Flower Child, who informed me that this is their favorite event to collect things for throughout the year, and you can tell that they know their audience well.  I find myself revisiting this area multiple times throughout the event, to look for myself and to marvel at how well-curated it is, to the point that I picked out a couple of things with specific people in mind and those people ended up buying those garments.  They get us.  I saw that they had more separates this year for women, gorgeous blouses, and my favorite piece of clothing was a light turquoise gabardine jacket that Victor picked up for himself.

That’s all for now – save your pennies for next year and join us at All Balboa Weekend for excellent dancing, music, and shopping!

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I love a baseball tee!

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New styles and new silhouette for the ABW merch.

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The namesake shoe in a bevy of colors – by Re-mix

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Glorious brogues, by Re-mix

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So many lovely things to put on your feet…

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Victor’s smiling face awaits to guide you to your bespoke dreams

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A little menswear, a little hot jazz and swing at the Established Sartorial table

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Gorgeous cuffs by De Files en Perles

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Maybe you need a little rainbow butterfly in your life?

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Rings, such tiny details!

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Some Dancestore shoe classics, including a tiny pair of women’s white oxfords in the back

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Sometimes shoes don’t have to be new to be fabulous – find yourself a pair at Laurie Gilkenson’s booth

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Any angle of ChatterBlossom’s table is gorgeous

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ChatterBlossom headbands of loveliness

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Men’s accessories display at Flower Child

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A flower child vignette

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Perhaps the original inspiration for Trashy Diva’s Hollywood style dress/gown – at Flower Child

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The queen of all the peasant blouses at Flower Child, with the tiniest, most detailed embroidery

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I died a little when this didn’t fit

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A perfect brown and white houndstooth jacket.

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Because everyone needs a white dinner jacket

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Gorgeous two tone late 30’s gown with everything I love – puffed sleeves, matching belt, and flowers that can be worn on the dress or in your hair

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A couple of those wonderful blouses I mentioned

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Until next year…

Re-mix Goes Purple

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

5-year-old Lindy Shopper is squeeing right now, because Re-mix Vintage shoes has added a number of purple shoes to its lineup – my favorite color as a child, second favorite to green now.  I remember looking for purple shoes to wear with vintage for a long time and I did manage to pick up a couple of pairs, but nothing I could wear dancing, and Re-mix always had a couple of pairs (mostly multi-tone or eggplant), but nothing that really spoke to me until now, particularly seeing them all in a row.  Let us take a moment and bask in the purple options in various heel heights and styles…

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From left to right: pleated toe wedge (my favorite wedge), Minnie, Emily 2.0, Tivoli, and Uptown.

The Gentleman’s Corner Shoe Exchange: Buy and Sell Shoes for Swing Dancing

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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The group is named for the notch some shoemakers make to prevent your heel from getting caught on or snagging your pants’ cuffs…

The Women’s Swing Dance Shoes Hunt Facebook group has been active for a few years now, but I’ve seen an uptick in men looking for shoes as of late.  In the case of Nashville, Tennessee dancer Nick D’Amico, he was also looking to sell some of his dance shoes that never quite worked out for him with sizing, so just last week Nick took the plunge and created The Gentleman’s Corner Shoe Exchange: Buy and Sell Shoes for Swing Dancing.   Nick also wants to cultivate discussion about shoes and shoe care, so come join and let’s get this group off the ground – you’ve got a place to sell your not-quite-right shoes and you never know when something you need might pop up!

Loafers – Discussion on Men’s Swing Dance Shoes, Round 2

This post was written by Lindy Shopper and Bobby White of Swungover.

Every few years someone will post looking for men’s dance shoe recommendations, people who are serious about dancing and want to hear from their peers and instructors about what shoes work for them.  While women’s shoes are often specifically designated as dance shoes, as fewer and fewer women’s street shoes have leather soles, men have to navigate between classic men’s dress shoes and designated dance shoes to find their sole mate and this can get a bit tricky.

LOAFERS?!?

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Florsheim Dancer

The request du jour is about finding suitable dance loafers. “But why specifically loafers?” You might be asking. “Why is THAT a Bal thing?” To answer this, we’re going to go back to 1936 when Bass first released their “Weejun” loafer (Based on Norwegian fisherman’s shoes, which were themselves based on Native American moccasins.) They added a strap across the top of the simple slip-on, and it was the first time the loafer as we know it  came into being. They were soon nicknamed “penny loafers” because teenagers realized they could slip pennies in the holes of the loafer strap. Loafers became a huge fashion trend, becoming the casual shoe of many teenagers across America. (There are pictures of entire malt shops full of teenagers, all of them wearing loafers.) 

Many readers probably realize that 1936 coincides with when swing music was beginning to sweep the nation. So, in California, in those years when Balboa and Bal-Swing began being danced by casual teenagers, the loafer was one of their dance shoes. Gene Kelly himself wore loafers and danced in them all the time as part of showing his casual, down-to-earth persona.   

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Hopefully your interactions in loafers will be less awkward than Gene Kelly sitting on your floor in front of your couch while you read…note the women’s styling here with loafers, short socks, and a shirt dress.

Though many of the teenagers probably danced in loafers for practicing, or casually dancing at the beach-side pavilions, you don’t see many in the old films. This was probably for two reasons. Loafers, as a casual slip-on, were too informal for dances where teenagers liked to/were required to dress up (and the dance scenes in the movies tend to take place in those ballrooms). Secondly, they were not the best for when Lindy Hop came to the California scene in the late 30’s, which was more high-powered dancing where the feet needed a lot of support, and shoes needed to stay on in extreme circumstances.

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Kids these days…

However, when the original dancers were dancing at the restaurant and bar Bobby McGee’s in their older years (their twice-a-month get together), loafers were a common shoe on the floor — and we have footage of Maxie Dorf, Willie Desatoff, Hal Takier, and some of the pure bal dancers in them, so it seemed most of them owned a pair. (Imagine the stereotypical old man in loafers — the Bal Old Timers were that generation.) Nick Williams said loafers were also an easy way to get the flexible kind of leather-soled shoes that Old Timers like Willie Desatoff desired in his students— but we’ll have more on that below.

So, loafers weren’t a huge thing, but just enough of a thing. And when the new generation of Bal Dancers in the late ’90s learned from the Old Timers, loafers became a sort of Balboa slang, which grew in the scene and has been passed down ever since.  They’ve come to represent the casualness and smoothness of Balboa, as well as a tip of the hat to the old timers, even if the old timers were just old men who occasionally danced in their comfortable slip-ons. So that’s why loafers have a special place in the heart of the Bal scene. 

As an aside, loafers went on to become the shoe of choice for another coastal group of dancers, Carolina Shag dancers, who also appreciate a casual and smooth shoe.

Now then, back to the present.

After a good bit of discussion ensued on Jeff Liu-Leyco‘s Facebook wall for the request to find a good pair of dancing loafers, Bobby White offered to collaborate with Lindy Shopper on a post – so here, you get the benefit of the discussion and firsthand knowledge from one of swing dancing’s sartorial heroes.

THE THREAD

In the Facebook thread, swing dance instructorMickey Fortanasce recommended this classic pair of loafers, the Florsheim Dancer at $115. Given that Florsheim named these the “Dancer,” I think that bodes well. 

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This pair of Nordstrom loafers on eBay, referenced in Bobby’s post, is long gone

Allen Edmonds is always a name that pops up in these discussions, and their now discontinued (but still available sometimes on eBay)Bergamano loafer came up.  

But the holy grail of the loafers are the Nordstrom black tassel loafers and Bobby dropped the knowledge on everyone with the force of an eternal mic drop:

“Go to Ebay. Search for “Nordstrom Loafers Men Tassel [Black or Brown or Cream or just leave out a color] [your size].” Save this EBay search so that you will get notifications (possibly for the rest of your life — they can be hard to turn off). Eventually you will see loafers like this (below). There are many like them (some with netting/woven leather tops, likeDouglas Mathews rocks), some with pointy toes verses more square toes. Buy them. If you like tassels, keep them. If not, cut them off (like Nick Williams and I do). I present to you, the famous, the infamous, the eternal: the Nordstrom Loafer. The soles are one thin strip of leather, and minimal padding — which is why Willie liked shoes like these. You can really feel the floor in them (and, of course, your knees will too, if you pulse a lot). But that can easily be fixed with insoles, like Nick does (might need a half-size bigger in that case). They are tanks, and last a very long time. They are $200 shoes that will cost you $20-50 on eBay. They are seven-minute brownies in four minutes. Here endeth the lesson.”

THE TRUTH OF THE NORDSTROM LOAFER

In all honesty (Bobby speaking, here), the Nordstrom Loafers are fantastic, but they are not the only shoes out there like them. They just happen to fit the bill for the kind of loafer many of us Bal dancers like: Thin leather sole / classic loafer look / well-made so they will last a long time.

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A pair of Bobby’s well-worn loafers.

The Allen Edmond Bergamano is the same idea as the Nordstrom, and both Santiago and Johnston & Murphy have made leather-soled loafers that fit that bill that you might be able to grab on ebay. (The Johnson & Murphy ones are actually the ones Douglas Mathews rocks). If you get loafers like these and they don’t work well, you can almost always find a Bal dancer they will fit, so it’s not a big risk.

The other important take-away is that, if spending $100 + on a pair of new shoes is outside of your budget, thanks to Ebay, you can get an incredible pair of shoes for $15-$50 with a little bit of patience and an internet connection. 

ONE-PLY VS. TWO-PLY

Also, you don’t HAVE to get thin leather soles. You might have very good reasons for wanting otherwise. In fact, the biggest question every dancer looking for a pair of leather-soled shoes should probably answer for themselves (after fit, and probably alongside aesthestics) is one-ply leather or two-ply?

Here’s what we mean:

Single Ply or One-ply sole means the sole is made of one strip of leather. This is more formally called a “Single leather sole” — “One-ply” is Bobby slang. Technically the thickness of that leather sole van vary slightly, but rarely enough to make a big difference. The common Aris Allen men’s cap toe is an example of a single-ply dance shoe with lots of cushioning.

Two-ply, or formally “double leather sole” or “double sole,” means two pieces of leather stacked on top of each other for the sole. Two-Ply soles were made for walking around outside (like on cobblestones), daily work, and keeping your feet warm from the cold ground. Because of this and their bulkier look, they are considered less-casual, though by modern standards the general public doesn’t care about that anymore and you shouldn’t worry about it too much — it’s more important you have comfortable shoes for your dancing style. The men’s Saint Savoy is an example of a double sole, as well as the Stacy Adams Madison. (There’s even a triple leather sole, but there’s probably very little need for that in dancing.)

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Gene Kelly, casual mid-air.

Shoes like the Nordstorm loafer are one-ply and have minimal padding— you will feel the floor, and all the sensations of shuffling and sliding very clearly. The shoes will give you almost a barefoot sensation, cause the leather will move with the muscles of your feet on the floor.

However, because the swing dances are often athletic in nature, as well as involve some kind of pulsing, many of us choose to wear insoles with single-ply shoes, especially with the ones with minimalistic padding. You don’t have to, though — just know that you will have to dance very gently in them regarding your knees and feet. In single-ply shoes, you will smooth out your dancing (which is what the Old Timers wanted modern Bal dancers to do, anyway).

Shoes like the Florsheim Dancer Mickey prefers, or the now-defunct Bostonian leather-soled classic penny loafer (eBay!) are two-ply. You would choose these if you had a heavier pulse or more athletic dancing style in general (to cushion your knees and other joints), or, if you just liked the feeling of a heavier shoe and the weight it gives to your rhythmic experience, like swing dance instructor David Rehm enjoys.

There is no wrong answer, and you can plan your shoes based on the style of dancing you want to accentuate.  If you can’t decide on one ply or two ply, you can try both with a little patience and an eBay account.  You’ll be well on your way to being an old timer in no time and, as Bart Bartolo said, don’t forget to “keep it casual.”
Special thanks to Sylvia Sykes, Nick Williams, and David Rehm for their insight into the modern Bal history of the loafer!