The Evolution of Women's Love Affair With Shoes: 100 Years of Style

November 20, 2015



The 1910's

The Great War of the early 1900’s returned many styles back to a less opulent expression of fashion. It was a time of dark and brooding colors as well as shorter skirt lengths *showing your calf? Shocking!* As most income was put towards the war effort, affordable and functional fashion was the mainstream. Shoes were not saved from these modest styles either. The one’s pictured above became the norm for women in order to get down to work with sensible and supportive footwear.

The 1920’s

Gatsby? What Gatsby? Shoes of the 1920’s show some serious backlash from the years of the Great War. As hemlines got shorter and shorter, the importance of fashionable footwear also gained widespread support. I mean if you’re gonna do the Charleston, what better shoe than the classic Mary Jane? Along with the fancy feet came more shoe designers as well as shoes that were worn for different occasions. Cleaning your house? There’s a shoe for that! Going for a swim? Well, there’s a shoe for that too! It was no longer about getting your shoes custom made. Now you could pop into a department store with ready-made shoes and Voila! you have the newest designer shoe (sound familiar?).

The 1930's

If you are anything like me the thirties are a fuzzy time in fashion (Oh it is just me? Great.) Well when I do think of the 30’s it is always that two-toned oxford shoe. Obviously that little money problem that happened at the end of the 20’s, known as the Great Depression if you haven’t heard, caused a more money-conscious society. This could be why most fashion sites will tell you that the differences in fashion from the 1920’s to early 1930’s isn’t that impressive. However, much like my grandmother’s shoe collection, every women’s shoe had a heel. No matter how short or tall a girl had to have that extra  boost. Another unique feature were perforations *aka tiny holes* in the body of the shoe that made them distinct to the 1930’s.


The 1940's


Watch out, here comes another World War! And along with the war came that same return to practical footwear seen before the 1920’s. But styles were still very similar to the past two decades, just without the flare and color. Since most materials were needed to support the war, you would see reptile skin as well as other chunky fabrics on most shoe designs. But during those hot summer months it wouldn’t be uncommon to see women wearing Espadrilles to stay cool. Hmm...I wonder where this current fashion trend is inspired from? Loafers and peep toe shoes were also on the rise during this decade.


The 1950’s


Finally, the fifties begin to push away from the practical and back towards the fashionable. Unfortunately, shoes did not get the same revamping that they so desperately needed. Instead, since other garments and accessories became the style focus, shoes remained more-or-less basic in design. They weren’t clunky like the 40’s, but more simple and understated. The little kitten heel was a classic staple while flats were worn while keeping up with work around the house. Oxfords, mules, sandals, and slingbacks were a shared style from the 30’s and 40’s.


The 1960's

You can say goodbye to those droll styles of the past because the sixties puts the love back into footwear. The baby boom caused a massive surge of young people during the 60’s which made way for some seriously outrageous fashion! Who can imagine this decade without the colorful knee-high GoGo Boot? Even flats saw their way out of the house and into the outside world with less focus on putting a heel on every shoe.  The 1960’s were a time of great change both in fashion and politics. The trends reflected the current state of the country, with a more conservative Jackie Kennedy look at the beginning to the counter-culture and Woodstock movement at the end of the decade.  No matter where you sat in popular culture, your shoes were always outta sight, man!

The 1970's

The 70’s were all about being groovy, man. If there is any shoe that immediately comes to my mind when I think of the 1970’s that is the platform. This was not only a trend for women but men as well! Another popular trend? Sneakers! Up until the 70’s, wearing running shoes was never about being fashionable. But who could resist looking like your favorite Olympic star? Standing alongside the running shoes were also the “health-conscious” look of Birkenstocks and Earth Shoes once people started to realize their platforms may have been doing more harm than good. Some other popular shoes? Cowboy Boots! After all, these boots were made for walking.

The 1980's



Remember those sneakers from the 70’s? Well the 1980’s truly brought sneakers à la mode. Inspired by the popular basketball players during this time, Nike became the leader in sneaker sales. Neon was everywhere, in your hair, your jacket, and especially on your shoes. And Voilà! jellies were born. These shoes were extremely popular amongst girls and other adolescents. But what would the 80’s be without the Yuppies and their boating shoes and penny loafers? And, of course, we can’t forget about our reliable friend Chuck Taylor. If you think Converse All-Star sneakers are popular now, they were all over the place in the 80’s.  They were, like, totally bitchin’.

The 1990's

Dust off your Doc Martens because it’s time to go to the 90’s. Grunge, preppy, what have you. The 90’s had a wide range of styles and trends, and shoes were right there in the mix. You can thank the likes of Baby Spice and the rest of the Spice Girls for the resurgence of the Platform shoe. Even I couldn’t escape this fashion trend and forced my parents to get me thrift store platforms that had definitely seen their heyday back in the 70’s where they belonged. And long before the dawn of the Sketchers Shape-Ups, Sketchers were actually an acceptable shoe to be seen wearing. Skating culture was also reaching new heights and from this skater shoes became extremely popular amongst young men. Would you say “As If” to these shoes?

The 2000's


You may find yourself saying ugh but the early 2000’s gave birth to every basic girl’s dream, the Ugg boot. As much as I hate to admit it, these shoes are mega comfortable. What I would consider a factory explosion others may call Crocs. But I digress. This moment in fashion saw everything from gladiator sandals to Heelys. With shows like Sex and the City designer names became even more, if not already, more prominent in the minds of aspiring fashionistas all over. Whatever your fashion may have been in the early 2000’s, most likely it was a style taken from one of the previous eras of shoe culture. And in the immortal words of Paris Hilton (another staple of the early 2000’s) “That’s Hot.”


2010 - Present

Sweet Mary Jane Suede Black Chunky High Heel

Chanel Espadrilles

Black Eskelae Chelsea Boot

In a way the current decade has really been about borrowing; taking from past generations and just adding distinct flairs here and there.  Shoes haven’t seen crazy changes but instead have come to rely on the classics. But why not! If it ain’t broke… This can be seen in the classic Mary Janes, Espadrilles, or even the Chelsea Boot made popular in the 60’s by the Beatles. Whether it’s adding a platform or a small kitten heel, fashion mavens are able to express their unique style however they want!

As long as you’re expressing your own unique self you are on trend, it doesn’t matter what decade you’re in. Now go out there and become the next designer that makes a shoe style that defines a decade. But one thing I ask of you, leave Crocs in the dark corner where they belong.  





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