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A History of Mens Shoes – From 1900-2014

Mens shoes have come an awful long way since 1900, so we thought it would be fun to have a look back in time, to see the highlights, and lowlights, of men’s footwear. Enjoy!
The turn of the century saw the formality of the late 1800’s continue. Men wore formal suits with waistcoats, stiff shirts and top or bowler hats. Naturally, their shoes followed suit, and were smart, lace or button up ankle boots in a dark colour.



The effects of the First World War were apparent throughout this decade. Clothing was designed to resemble the military style of soldiers uniforms, and clothes started to become less starched and more comfortable. Another popular style at this time was the ‘Dandy’ look, which focused on wide trousers, bow ties and bowler hats. And, the footwear of choice for those in the know, spats!



Whilst for your average man on the street, the lace up boot was still the footweat of choice (or necessity), for the upper classes, things got a bit more fun. Think The Great Gatsby and this perfectly epitomises the style this decade. Gentlemen of a certain class started to wear cream linen suits, and so needed the footwear to match, hence the introduction of the pale Oxford Shoes. Brogues became far more commonplace in this decade. For the more daring, the two tone brogue was the must have shoe for formal events. In fact, it was the Prince of Wales who first introduced this ‘sporty’ style to Britain, from America, where it first originated.



The 1930’s saw a shift from very formal shoes to casual footwear. Of course, brogues were still the desired work shoe, but the leisure shoe took on a life of its own. The emergence of moccasins and loafers allowed men to experience a comfort they had never enjoyed before. This period also saw the beginnings of the sports shoe as we know it today, a symbol that leisure time was becoming as important as work time.



1940 1950
World War 2 consumed this decade. Most men were part of the war effort, and so military boots were the footwear of the decade. War made money tight, and the ‘make do and mend’ mentality meant that people took care of their shoes, and repaired wherever possible.



If the 40’s was the decade of made do and mend, the 50’s was the decade of decadence where shoes were concerned. Winklepickers, Dr Martens, Chelsea boots, and two tone Oxfords were just some of the huge variety of shoes which saw a surge in popularity throughout the 60’s during the post war fashion revolution. Teenagers became interested in fashion in a way they never had before. Teddy Boys wore the distinctive ‘Brothel Creepers’. Rock and Roll music played a big part in the style of this decade. American influences dictated the changing trends, and what the celebrities of the day wore often determined the look of the day.



As one might expect, The Beatles heavily influenced footwear trends in the 60’s. Their fondness for Chelsea Boots and cowboy boots saw them both surge in popularity. The sixties really was the decade of the teenager, which was reflected in their more daring shoe choices. Brighter colours became the norm, as did experimenting with different materials.



Often referred to as the decade that taste forget, it’s easy to see why! Glam rock and disco influenced 70’s fashion heavily. Think 70’s shoes and one immediately thinks of platforms. The higher and more outrageous the better!



Think 1980’s, think new romantics, the emergence of hip hop and Miami Vice…..Wow, what a combination! Pastel coloured loafers, hip hop style shoes, sport shoes as everyday wear, ankle boots, almost anything went in the 80’s, although the biggest shift was the increase in popularity of casual trainers.



It has to be said, the 1990’s was not a great decade for shoes. There was no defining style so to speak. Casual shoes and trainers continued to dominate men’s footwear. The 90’s music scene (grunge and alternative) played a big part in the fashion of the times. Casual clothes, hoodies, trainers and Doc Martens. After the excesses of the 80’s, the 90’s was a rather more subdued affair.



Designer shoes have seen a huge rise in popularity over the last 14 years. There have also been some trends which have caused much debate….Uggs and Crocs to name but a two. Other trends have included Heelies, Shoes which help tone your legs, and Hunter Wellies as the must have festival boot. Mens sandals and flip flops continue to gain momentum, as do casual shoes. Maybe not as bright and brazen as the styles of the 70’s and 80’s, but far less likely to cause embarrassment in years to come.


Surprisingly, many of the shoes featured on the list are as popular today as they were when they first appeared. For example, BIG FOOT SHOES stocks moccasins, large sized classic sports shoes, Dr Martens and large size leather boots. Thankfully, the platforms stayed in the 70’s where they belonged!

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