The Atomic Age
A history of Shoes
- The 1990s - the decade of platform sneakers and Birkenstocks
- 1980s - designer athletic shoes rule
- 1970s - Shoe fashion reaches new heights
- 1940s - Wartime brought dyed animal-skin shoes & ballet pumps
- Early 1900s
- The 1920s: Gatsby-era lace-ups, flappers and fine heels
- 1700s to 1800s
- 1450s to 1600s
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The 1950s was a big year for women’s shoes as it saw the dawn of the now-iconic shoe style – the stiletto.
Technological Innovation changes Womens feet
In the mid-fifties, shoemakers in Italy developed technology to create an ultra-narrow high heel. They achieved this by inserting a metal rod in the heel that was enclosed by a plastic shell – this metal rod supported the weight of the woman wearing the shoe and thus enabled designers to elevate their heels and make them thinner than ever before.
In 1952, legendary French shoemaker Roger Vivier harnessed this new development to create the classic pump with a four-inch tapered heel and a pointed toe. Other designers such as Charles Jourdan, Hermann Delman, and Salvatore Ferragamo also tapered their heels. The race was on to see who could produce the slimmest possible heel!
Fashion bible Vogue magazine coined the term ‘stiletto’ (which means ‘little knife’ in Italian) for these pumps. Shoe historian Caroline Cox suggests that these shoes could be read as a “sign of open resistance, a challenge to male-dominated culture” due to their direct connotations with violence and weapons. Queen Elizabeth II wore a pair of Roger Vivier shoes to her coronation in 1953.
The 1950s was a pretty conservative time for men’s footwear. Oxfords emerged as the star shoes of the period. In the realm of subculture, the Teddy Boys – young British men inspired by Edwardian dandies of the early 1900s – wore crepe-soled suede shoes known as brothel creepers.
Check out real footage from the 1950s: hair, clothing and footwear styles!