Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Saddle Shoes: I WANT THEM NOW

Saddle shoes, oxfords, brogues- whatever you want to call them. I want 'em.

I wrote a final research paper titled "A Woman's Place is in the Home? The College Takes on Marriage" for my U.S. History course this semester. The topic, which I chose on a fluke (except it had to be related to my college's history) turned out to be more amazing than I could've ever imagined. I enjoyed doing the research so much that it helped me decide to become a history major.

But anyway, while researching I looked through yearbooks and LIFE magazine issues around the time I was focusing on (late 1930's, early 1940's) and the pictures showed girls who seriously wore only saddle shoes. I thought my college was trendy now, but turns out it has nothing on those days. Apparently the style spanned something like 20 years among college girls and teenagers.

Here are some pictures from Google's amazing LIFE archives (notice the pictures are strangely voyeuristic and creepy at times... that was how LIFE magazine was, judging by the ones I read through. It was like the mostly male readers wanted to observe how these college girls lived. Very strange, but I'll leave that for another post). Click the pictures to see slightly bigger or go to the sources I sprinkled around to see much bigger versions of the pictures. So without further ado, some old timey college girls in their saddle shoes:

This was in one of the issues I read. I remember it said she was reading a letter from home and it made sure to mention that girls had to wear slippers during study hours to avoid making noise. 1936.

This one included a caption that said something like "rainy day style" lol. It also mentioned that umbrellas were taboo. oic. 1937.
"Vassar student walking across campus in saddle shoes and flowing raincoat."
The caption online for this 1938 says: "College Fall Fashion: Brooks-type sweater and cardigan worn outside skirt, saddle oxfords, socks, pearls."
1936 @ Vassar Now Wellesley girls.  From 1949 so you see the style lasted a while.
More Wellesley, doing research and stuff. Remember the creepy voyeuristic thing I was talking about? Yeah.
Wellesley students and their matching outfits, complete with ubiquitous saddle shoes. Again 1949.I don't know wtf is going on here (well doesn't he look snazzy) but it says: "American teenagers in Heidelberg, Germany on cover of `Life' magazine dated 07-21-1947.""Teenaged girl June Runyon's legs and feet, wearing saddle shoes & bobby sox with a comb slipped in one of the cuffs." Naughty naughty. From Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1947.
"Four members of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority wearing white sweatshirt cardigans, this year's fashion fad among fellow sisters on the campus at the Univ. of Kansas." LOL. Whenever you're sick of trends, just look at this picture. At least it's not this bad. 1939. Sears catalogue advertisement. The website I got this from says: "1938, the jitterbug dance required flat shoes for women. The saddle shoe became equally popular among co-eds and the first unisex fashion was born."Happy jitterbuggers.
Collier's magazine cover. I can't read the year. Ooh, red saddles.
There are no saddle shoes in this one from 1950 (check out the keds though) but how cool were these Vassar students. Damn... they even had sweaters that buttoned up in the back... and a hipster reindeer sweater 60 years ahead of its time. Do we think she was wearing it ironically? Hm.

Anyway, not only was I brainwashed by all of those old pictures while researching, but I also spent all of last summer obsessively watching Gilmore Girls' first three seasons. I totally missed that boat- back in middle school I couldn't understand what they were saying because they talked too fast, but now I realized the show is adorable as fuck and anyone who hasn't watched it is missing out big time. Watch up to a bit before Jess leaves (aka when the show turned shitteous as hale) and thank me later.

I also spent that time fawning over Rory Gilmore's aka Alexis Bledel's amazing school uniform. I don't know why I loved it so much, but the preppy tops, plaid skirt, sheer navy/black tights (very important that they were sheer, for some reason- it just looked cooler), and saddle shoes of course were a perfect combination. I can't find screen caps that do it justice but these will have to do. Unfortunately they're all with stupid Dean:

To make up for including Dean I'll post the loveliness of Jess and Rory:

Look how cute this show is! From one of my favorite episodes:
Okay okay I'm done. Just promise me you'll watch the show and I'll move on.

Anyway, all of this together has really made me crave for some good ol' saddle shoes. They don't only go with poodle skirts for Halloween, I think I've proven that y'all.

The final cherry on top was when Alexa Chung wore them on one of her It's On with Alexa Chung episodes (R.I.P :'( )
And finally that with all of the Mad Men I've been watching (AMAZING, if you're not watching... seriously, what are you doing not watching? What? Watch it now bitches)... which has made me fall in love with that 40's, 50's style...
It's all sealed the deal. I need saddle shoes.

I've been telling my friends this for months now- all I could find online were shitty saddle shoes for poodle skirt costumes or old people saddle shoes with gross kitschy designs on them. But it looks like the ever-trusty trend mongers at Urban Outfitters have finally caught on. Look what I saw when I browsed their website two days ago:

Helll yeahhh. Modernized and all. That's what I call a jackpot. A rip-off at $48 but what can you do. It will be my belated Hanukkah gift or something. All i know is I NEED them. NOW.



Anonymous said...

G.H. Bass also offers saddle shoes in six differant colors for ladies and men

Anonymous said...

What a nice post and darned well researched from a ladies fashion history viewpoint. I've had some black and white saddles for years. Once referred to as Rah Rah shoes because cheerleaders alsways wore them.

A pretty interesting writeup on the origin of the shoes (Spaulding) and how they were recently revived is on this blog:

with a recommended source for lots of styles here:

Carolyn said...

Has anyone told you about Muffy's Saddle Shoes? It's a company up in Oregon and they have good customer service. I have a pair of Bass brown/cream (from Zappos) and today I ordered a pair of Muffy's black/white. I've been looking for saddle shoes since the sixth grade and finally found them. Check out Muffy's or Zappos.

Anonymous said...

I really like those shoes!!! Is a style that never go out of style, and is transmitted from the oldest to the youngest of the family, those shoes are wonderful...
Go To College

japri19 said...

Those are the most beauty styles of shoes.
Muebles Costa Rica

Anonymous said...

I have worn saddle shoes for years, well over 40. Bought my first pair with my first civilian paycheck back in '65.

Muffy's has been a great scource, and I like the story behind this great small business venture.

I am pushing 70 now, and still wear them. Rather like a trademark for me now. Family and friends wonder about me if I show up not wearing a pair.

Iron Chef Kosher! said...

The Collier's seems to be 1951, or so sayeth the Almighty Google.

Anonymous said...

The very best and most well-made saddles were by Spalding. The finest you could buy, trust me. These shoes were distinctive, super-comfortable, and finely wrought for a mass-produced shoe; a pure stroke of genius by a keen mind and a Made-in-America shoe factory. They were just awesome. You could dance in 'em right out of the box. The leather was thick, creamy and substantial.

Rosie said...

Finding saddle shoes for men is easy. I haven't found any for women.

Saddle shoe - Saddleonline said...

Awesome shoes collections with great designs and colors. Really very nice pictures.

Anonymous said...

If you are still looking for traditional saddle shoes you can find them here: