Footwear, 1930–45



The types of shoes worn by men and women during the 1930s were greatly determined by the effects of the Great Depression (1929–41) on their lives. Those impoverished by the Depression wore old styles, sometimes with holes in the soles. Others, who were lucky enough to gain wealth during this difficult time, set new trends in leisure wear that would influence the clothing of the masses following World War II (1939–45). Rationing, or limiting, of materials needed for shoes, such as leather and rubber, during the war introduced new practical styles of footwear.

The most fashionable men wore a variety of shoes before the war. White Bucs, or buckskin shoes with rubber soles, were popular with Europeans, and especially Americans, whose love of sport and leisure wear continued to grow. Bucs complemented the comfortable knit shirts and loose pants worn on vacation and while watching or playing sports. More formal leather shoes, including wing tips, were worn for business. During and after the war, men began to favor heavier soled shoes made from thick leather. Military boots called bluchers, which looked like heavy, blunt-toed oxfords, became especially popular among servicemen and college students. These thicker styles were part of the Bold Look for men that came into fashion later in the 1940s.

The Depression and the war interrupted a trend in women's footwear toward more glamour and women favored more practical styles of laced oxfords. The 1930s saw the introduction of a new feminine style called the peep-toed shoe that offered a glimpse of a woman's toes peeking out from a cutout at the tip of the shoe's toe. By the mid-1930s designers experimented with platform sandals featuring tall wood or cork soles and padded leather straps. One of the most distinctive styles featured gold-colored leather straps with a cork sole of six different colored layers. As the war drew closer, women abandoned these glamorous styles for more practical shoes.

The footwear of the 1930s and World War II offered practicality as well as style. Reproduced by permission of © .
Lower-heeled pumps and oxfords became the most popular. Cloth and felt uppers replaced leather as supplies of the sturdy hide were restricted to the war effort. After the war women quickly returned to wearing the beautiful shoe styles of prewar times.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Lawlor, Laurie. Where Will This Shoe Take You?: A Walk Through the History of Footwear. New York: Walker and Co., 1996.

Lister, Margot. Costume: An Illustrated Survey from Ancient Times to the Twentieth Century. London, England: Herbert Jenkins, 1967.

Mulvagh, Jane. Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion. New York: Viking, 1988.

Pratt, Lucy, and Linda Woolley. Shoes. London, England: V&A Publications, 1999.

Military Boots
Peep-Toed Shoes
Suede Buc
Weejuns


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