In the first half of the 20th century, there may have been no article of clothing more well regarded for its performance and signature design than the saddle shoe. Initially developed as a sporting shoe, the saddle shoe, or saddle oxford, rose to a Hollywood level of popularity with widespread appeal. By the height of the style’s popularity in the 1940s and 1950s, saddle shoes were being worn by everyone from teenagers to business executives to movie stars. This article will outline the history of the saddle shoe, an icon of 1950s-era vintage style.
A New Kind of Sporting Shoe
The history of the saddle shoe begins in 1906 with the A.G. Spalding Company. Initially designed for indoor sports, Spalding’s new shoe featured a leather waist piece for added support in the instep. This piece resembled a saddle, giving the shoes their signature name and look.
Spalding’s saddle shoes became well known for both their comfort and their visual appeal, and quickly gained tremendous levels of popularity. The shoes were particularly well-liked among golfers as a stylish option for the links that could also be worn in casual business settings. In the 1920s, women who liked the striking black and white contrast on the shoes began to use them for dancing. By the middle of the 20th century, every man, woman and teenager had a pair of saddle shoes.
Dancing Through the Decades
The saddle shoe became known as a more than a sporting shoe as it became popularized among teenage dance crowds of the 1930s and 1940s. The shoe offered stability and comfort while also meeting the teenage fashion criteria of that time. Teenagers wouldn’t be caught doing dances like the jitterbug, the twist and the lindy hop without wearing a pair of clean saddle shoes.
Teenagers often wore their saddle shoes with white bobby socks, a look that paired well with poodle skirts, pencil skirts, slacks and blue jeans. In the 1940s and 1950s, saddle shoes were truly a shoe for any occasion, and it was crucial for any teenager in America to own them.
The Shoe Lives On
When attitudes of rebellion began filling the minds of American teenagers in the 1960s, trends and styles that were associated with previous generations began to be filtered out of the mainstream, saddle shoes included. Although not as immediately prevalent today as they were in the 20th century, saddle shoes still hold merit as a generation-defining article of clothing.
Throughout the 20th century, saddle shoes have appeared in popular culture by the likes of Grease, Elvis Presley and Woody Allen. Bert from Sesame Street and Lucy from Peanuts give saddle shoes representation in animation and children’s entertainment. The easy association with popular culture and entertainment, and the growing popularity of vintage apparel truly cements the timeless saddle shoe design in history.
If you need a pair of saddle shoes for the perfect Halloween costume or vintage dance party outfit, Nostalgiaville USA offers a perfect, low-cost pair for the occasion. Featuring a durable upper with classic saddle oxford perforation details, padded insole and a lightweight, flexible outsole, this is a great go-to shoe for themed parties and other events.
Margaret Brown is a lover of all things nostalgic. She writes for Nostalgiaville, a company dedicated to celebrating mid-century America through its products and education.