15 Incredible Shoe Styles History Has Forgotten
As fashion trends progress, certain styles are retired to make way for new fads. Here are some interesting shoe styles you may have forgotten.
1. Turn Shoe
The simple turn shoe was a staple during the Middle Ages. Peasants would take a piece of leather, sew it on one side, and turn it inside out (hence the name). The result would be a sack-like apparatus for your foot. These rudimentary shoes were eventually replaced with more substantial footwear in the 16th century.
Polish nobility introduced these pointy leather shoes to England in the 14th century while visiting the royal family of Richard II. As a result, the shoes were also called crackowes, after Krákow, Poland. The points of these shoes could stretch as long as 24 inches and were sometimes kept straight with whalebone.
3. Lotus Shoes
These tiny shoes were often cone-shaped and meant to resemble a lotus flower. Unfortunate wearers of this minuscule footwear would break and bind their feet to keep them small. This painful practice became popular in mid-10th century China and remained prominent until it was banned in 1911.
These ridiculously high platform shoes were popular from the 15th to 17th centuries. Their main purpose was to keep long skirts and trains from getting dirty, but the high shoes eventually became a status symbol: The higher the shoe, the higher the social standing.
Bluchers are often called derbys or Gibsons. They are similar to the oxford shoes worn today, but feature open-lacing, meaning that the shoe’s quarters are sewn on top of the front of the shoe. The name comes from an 18th century Prussian general named Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, who commissioned this style of boot for his army.
6. Cromwell Shoes
These decadent heels were popular in the late 1800s and featured a Cromwell buckle (an ornamental metal buckle on the front of the shoe) and a pompadour heel. The name was a nod to military leader Oliver Cromwell, who was incorrectly believed to have outfitted his soldiers with buckled shoes. With time, the heels became increasingly high, until it became impossible to walk in them. The impractical shoes received scorn and ridicule for being impractical and fell from favor by 1900.
7. Button Boots
As hemlines rose in the 1870s, shoe shafts rose as a way to cover the otherwise exposed ankles. The resulting button boots could have as many as 20 buttons, so buttonhooks were invented to speed up the fastening process. The shoes remained popular until World War I, when rationing led to more frugal footwear.
Spectator shoes are two-toned leather oxfords, typically a light color with a dark color at the toe and back. Most commonly the shoes were black and white, or brown and tan; they were often seen with broguing, or small patterned holes along the sides. Although the footwear had been around since early since the late 1800s, they did not become popular until the ‘20s and ‘30s. Typically worn by men, these shoes were often worn to spectator sports like cricket.
World War II soldiers stationed in the deserts of North African wore crepe rubber-soled shoes that were well-suited to the hot, dry environment. They kept the shoes when they returned home and the style took off, especially with a subculture known as Teddy Boys. The rebellious boys would often perform a slow, shuffley dance known as the Creep, which is possibly where the shoe’s name came from (that, or a mispronunciation of the word crepe). When WWII soldiers hit the town still wearing their shoes, the footwear quickly picked up the nickname “brothel creepers.” Today, creepers can still be seen in certain grunge and punk subcultures.
10. Baby Dolls
Baby dolls were high-heeled shoes with rounded toes popular in the ‘40s and ‘50s, which resembled doll shoes. They came in a variety of bright colors perfect for any season.
11. Monk Strap Shoes
These shoes were very popular for men in the ‘50s. They featured a thick leather strap and buckle, but no laces. Monks wore the durable shoes while working, as they offered more protection than sandals. Today, they are a semi-formal choice for fashionable men.
These elongated boots popularized by rockers in the 1950s and ‘60s were reminiscent of poulaines. The pointy toe is a nod towards the English custom of eating periwinkle snails, which needed to be picked out of their shells with something sharp. Along with the sharp front, they featured metal buckles and a low heel.
The traditional Russian shoes were made from felt and commonly worn in the colder seasons. Commonly associated with rustic life, the shoes fell out of favor in contemporary urban times.
14. Go-go Boots
These retro boots made their debut in the early ‘60s. The new shoes were originally defined as white, mid-calf length, square-toed, and low-heeled. Eventually, the term came to encompass square-toed boots of all colors and sizes. The term “go-go” comes from the French word, à gogo, meaning “galore,” and the shoes are believed to be named after go-go dancers (a term which first appeared in print in 1965). The groovy footwear remained popular well into the ‘70s.
Jelly shoes were all the rage in the 1980s and ‘90s. The plastic shoes came in a variety of translucent colors, sometimes even with glitter. The origins of the shoes are mostly unknown, although some believe they were created after WWII when there was a leather shortage. Despite being gaudy and uncomfortable, the shiny shoes have recently made a small comeback with fans of nostalgic footwear.