The rule of thumb in the fashion industry is that “fashion repeats itself every thirty years.” This seems to be the time when designers need to go back in time and draw inspiration from a different era, further helping them to transform their designs to the modern age using a style that the masses already know, love and highly approve. This notion has been around for ages, and it’s important for designers to look back at the fundamentals of shoe design in decades past in order to move forward and build their legacy.
Overall, fashion is a very personal thing. This is why certain people gravitate towards different designers, because they love their design style, and why so many designers are able to exist among the high levels of competition. Whenever we look at the shoe industry, we can clearly see that different elements, embellishments and styles have changed over the past decades, but the main structure can be very similar, just slightly manipulated.It’s important to look back whenever creating a new shoe collection simply because you are able to see where past designers failed and where they flourished, and use that information to better your collection. Knowledge is power in every industry.
Oxford type shoes were very popular during this time for both men and women. For men, they would simply take away the heel, but similar details would remain. Different variations of this shoe existed during that time, focusing on the details of suede uppers and perforated detailing. Shoes were still laced up during the 1920’s instead of being slip ons, so we saw these details even in women’s high heels. For men, it was very popular to mix black and white together and patchwork different sections in their oxford shoes.
Shoe styles for both men and women didn’t evolve a great deal from the 20's to the 30's, as the overall inspiration remained the same. The big evolution during this time was that we started to see shoe lacing disappear and dressy shoes transformed into slip ons. Heel height for women still remained in the one to two and a half inch range and on the chunkier side, offering more support to women who were on their feet all day long. Lastly, the patchwork trend for men transitioned over to women as we started to see two-toned shoes become popular, though they only used muted, neutral colors.
During this time period, shorter skirts were becoming more and more popular, which meant that women were paying more and more attention to both their panty hose and shoes alike, this becoming known as the “flapper style.” Heels on shoes were growing to between two and two and a half inches, and while the dressy oxfords were still being worn in different variations, the two types of shoes that were becoming increasingly popular were the cluded pumps that featured a t-shaped strap.
For men, shoes weren’t evolving that much during this time period, as the oxford style remained very popular, especially for sports. One new type added to men’s shoes was something called an “evening slipper,” which were worn for dressy events and made of fabric or leather in gold or silver.
Post WWII in the mid-1950’s was when the shoe trends really started to shift away from what it had been up until this point. Parisian fashion trends were taking dramatic turns during this point and having a big effect on what was happening in the shoe industry all over the world. During this time there were countless new shoe trends emerging such as open-toed, ankle straps, sling-backs, and higher heeled sandals worn for dressy occasions.On the contrary, with more and more people moving to the suburbs during this period in time, more casual shoes came into play for both men and women. Sneakers or canvas tennis shoes were developed during this time, as well as moccasins, flat ballet slipper type shoes for women, and the oxford transitioned into the casual loafer for men.During the mid-50’s a miraculous new fashion shoe trend for women was developed that it still highly utilized today; the stiletto.
The 1960's were all about boots in all different lengths and heel heights! While they were first developed to be worn during the cold months, they quickly became a fashionable year round accessory as part of daytime dressing. People worn them in ankle-length all the way to calf-high length, similarly to the way women wear them today with legging, called stretch pants during that time. These became a basic part of footwear during this time, varying slightly through the 60's but remaining quite popular.
Skirts started getting shorter again in the 1970's after dropping in length for the 1950's decade, so as the skirts got shorter the heels started getting higher in height. Toes became more rounded and less pointed, and the almond shape was developed. The new big shoe trend during this time was easily the platform heel, which ranged all the way from very small platforms to enormous ones that drew lots of attention! On the more casual side, both men and women began wearing clogs with wooden soles for their comfort and ease of getting on and off.
With the 80's came neon colors and high top sneakers, because fitness was becoming more and more important during this decade. Overall, the 80's are often known as one of the most recognizable decades in shoes. It was also a time when the very young people right out college fell into positions of power in the job market quite easily due to the flourishing economy and the term “yuppies” was born. The yuppies were known to wear very preppy attire and adorn the “power suit,” in which there was a version for both men and women.
The 90's was a time when designers started turning back the hands of time and drawing inspiration in footwear from the past. The platform sole started becoming popular again for men as well as the stiletto. For men, inspiration was drawn from the classic oxford shoe as they removed the laces to give it a more updated appeal. Boots also made a big return and this time they came back with a vengeance, coming all the way up to the thighs! Hiking boots also became a trend worn daily and were more fashionable than for function. Overall, this is the time when we start to really see fashion repeating itself.
During this time, inspiration was being drawn from the times of mod & punk and were truly making a revival in the clothing industry. As for footwear, the major trend at the beginning of this decade was to wear shoes or high heels with ankle sock, versus the higher tube socks of the past or hosiery (for women). A newly emerging trend of this time was a high heel flip flop that was introducing in 2002 and proved to be very popular throughout the entire decade as a whole. For men and women alike, moccasins came back as a casual option.
Starting in this decade the wedge heel became increasingly popular for shows year round. Women wore them in the warm months with sandals and in the cold months as boots and shoes. Flats also became popular as well and highly acceptable for women the same way they were for men. Flats of all kinds were being worn from the classic ballet flats with a modern twist as well as with a pointed toe. So far, this is a decade of individuality where consumers are making more conscious decisions about what is working best for them in their lives instead of designers always setting the trends.