The History Of Saddle Shoes

As a child, Barbra Streisand wore classic oxford saddle shoes, as captured in this photo from her personal collection. 
Saddle shoes were first introduced to the USA around 1906, but reached the height of their popularity in the 50’s.  Shoe factory A.G. Spalding introduced the original design as a men’s sport shoe with white soles to prevent rubber from marking off onto gym floors. By the 1920’s they were worn regularly for golf, tennis, hockey & more.  Around this time women also began to adopt the fashion. Eventually other sports shoes were developed, leaving the saddle for dress wear. During the jazz age, some fans supported racial harmony by wearing the black & white footwear.  During the depression, lace up shoes were a fashion craze, but leather & black dye became scarce due to war rationing. Because of this, a cheaper version of canvas, brown & white saddles became the norm. Around this time white stitching and laces were added to the shoe. 

By the end of the 30’s factories returned to making leather saddle shoes. By the time Barbra was born in 1942, saddle shoes had come into pop culture. Nearly every teenager & adult had a pair. Due to the war in the early 40’s, the trend was to make new saddle shoes look worn, old & dirty. Post war, the dirty shoe craze ended & the new trend was for spotless saddle shoes with red soles. Girls and boys would spend hours every day cleaning their shoes & paired them with perfectly folded bobby socks, poodle skirts and jeans. These teens were dubbed  “bobby-soxers”. Many housewives had the secret ritual of wearing saddle shoes around the house for comfort, but changing into their heels before their husbands came home. Eventually saddle shoes became available in wider ranges of colors including red, blue, green and pink. By the 60’s the saddle shoe trend had died and they only worn by kids with school uniforms. Some schools kept these in dress code all the way through the 90’s. The saddle shoe has (sadly) yet to have a fashion comeback, but some companies still manufacture & sell modern versions for vintage lovers.