Then and Now: The Evolution of Shoes

Then & Now: Evolution of Shoes 1920-2000

The History of Shoe Styles throughout the Years

Shoes have changed throughout history. From swing shoes to high-heeled boots to sneakers, fashion has evolved and trends have changed. We’ve outlined the evolution of shoes from the 1920s to today.

The 1920s-1930s

The 1920s and 1930s are popularly known as the “Art Deco” era. During these years, swing dancing and speakeasies were popular. Heels were the most popular shoes for women, although there were different styles that were worn. In the early 1920s, women typically wore models with a tall heel and dark color. The heels were meant to accentuate women’s legs but also reflected the period of mourning after World War 1.

Later on, in the 1920s and 1930s, swing shoes became popular. The heel was shorter, made to be more comfortable for dancing and embracing a more fun, easygoing lifestyle. Today’s shoes have taken some inspiration from these heels, although the style of heels has evolved quite a bit and most shoes no longer have the notable swing shoes’ buckle.

The 1940s-1950s

These decades still had the 1920s and 1930s-inspired high heels, with shoes that had a thicker heel. Beyond high heels, the 1940s and 1950s gave birth to the popular vintage shoes, Oxfords.  Oxfords are lace-up shoes with a slight heel. They’re elegant shoes that typically feature a two-tone design. Both men and women wore Oxfords, although the styles between men’s and women’s shoes did differ. Today, Oxfords are still popularly worn as dress shoes for both men and women.

woman wearing gold go-go boots

The 1960s

The evolution of shoes in the 1960s saw the first emergence of go-go boots. Go-go boots were calf-length shiny boots with high heels. They were popularly worn for dancing, originally by go-go dancers, although many women who weren’t professional dancers owned go-go boots. Today, knee-high and calf-high boots are still popular. However, boots have evolved to include more variety in style.

The 1970s-1980s

Platform heels are the most popular vintage shoes of the 1970s and 1980s. While some older shoe styles were still popular, including Oxfords and go-go boots, platform heels were particularly trendy. Platform heels feature a very thick sole that is high off the ground, rather than flat like most heels. Platform heels were notoriously difficult to walk in and require a shoe cushion to make them comfortable. While platforms definitely fell out of popularity for quite some time, today they are becoming more popular once again.

The 1990s

While the 1990s weren’t when sneakers were invented, they definitely were when they became extremely popular. Nearly everyone incorporated sneakers into their daily wardrobe in the 1990s, especially the classic brand, Converse. Converse shoes were lace-up high-top sneakers that were worn for a wide range of occasions, including casual everyday wear, skating, and more, and were even favored over high heels for women.

Today, Converse sneakers are still popularly worn. The brand has evolved to include more styles, including platform Converse and low-top options.

The 2000s

High heels were popular throughout each decade, although each had its own particular style. In the 2000s, Manolos were the most popular high-heeled shoes for women. Manolos were a higher-end brand of high heels with a feminine, recognizable style. The toe of the shoes was often embellished. Manolos are still worn by some women today, although they aren’t nearly as popular as they were in the 2000s.

Love Your Shoes – New or Old

Today, vintage shoes and trendier styles are both embraced. From 1920s short-heeled swing shoes to Oxfords and go-go boots, women wear many different styles of shoes for day-to-day wear. To love your shoes, new or old, purchase a pair of shoe cushions and stay comfortable all day long.