Footwear 19802003

^The emphasis on business attire that went along with the 1980s trend for "power dressing," or dressing for business success, triggered a surge in the fashion for stiff, formal shoes. Men wore shiny leather wing tips, oxfords, and other styles, and women wore pumps to work. Some of these dressy styles were uncomfortable, and people soon embraced new styles of shoes that were comfortable as well as fashionable. Before the 1980s comfortable formal shoes were often only available in styles suited to conservative, or reserved, old women and men, but with the increasing interest in sportswear, fashion shoe manufacturers began to combine comfort with style, making classically styled shoes with flexible supportive soles.

The health craze of the 1970s that started people wearing jogging suits and tennis shoes, even when they weren't exercising, continued into the twenty-first century when people wore fashionable brand name trainer shoes, tennis shoes, and sport-specific exercise shoes at the gym, at home, and even at work. Trainer shoes became coveted fashion items for young and old alike. By the 1990s more types of athletic footwear received attention, and many young men and women began wearing hiking boots as casual, everyday boots.

The past had a great influence on the footwear styles from the 1980s to 2003. Retro styles from the 1920s (T-strap sandals), 1960s (Birkenstocks), and 1970s (platform shoes) have all reemerged on the feet of fashion-conscious people. At the beginning of the twenty-first century fashion had become a globally influenced industry, and footwear styles of the West influenced those in the East and vice versa.


Ewing, Elizabeth. History of Twentieth Century Fashion. Revised by Alice Mackrell. Lanham, MD: Barnes and Noble Books, 1992.

Cowboy boots arrived in the American West from Mexico, and they had been brought to Mexico by the Spanish horsemen who conquered that country. With sharply pointed toes and a high, angled heel, usually from one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half inches high, the tall leather boots slid easily into stirrups and hooked there when a horseman had to stand up in the saddle to rope cows. Early cowboy boots were difficult to walk in, because they were designed for use on horseback. However, even after cars and trucks replaced horses for transportation and work in the West, cowboy boots remained the footwear of choice, becoming a symbol of identity for westerners. In western states cowboy boots are even commonly worn with business suits. The forty-third U.S. president, George W. Bush (1946—), who came from Texas, favored cowboy boots for casual as well as more formal attire.

Cowboy boots are a fashion statement as well as a symbol of the American West. Reproduced by permission of© David Stoeckleinl CORBIS.

Cowboy Boots And Guys Business Suits

Cowboy boots are a fashion statement as well as a symbol of the American West. Reproduced by permission of© David Stoeckleinl CORBIS.

During the 1940s cowboy boots were in fashion for a brief time, thanks to the popularity of western films at the time, but it was the 1980 film Urban Cowboy that made cowboy boots fashionable street wear worldwide. Both women and men wore cowboy boots, because they seemingly portrayed a tough, masculine image yet were highly decorative. In the United States, cowboy boots became part of a nostalgic celebration of American pride, while in Europe and Asia people wore cowboy boots as a symbol of their adoption of American styles. The prime time soap opera Dallas, which aired on CBS from 1978 to 1991, also helped spread the popularity of the cowboy look, including, of course, stitched-leather, pointy-toed cowboy boots.

Though cowboy boots have remained popular in the American West, their popularity throughout the rest of the world had faded by the 1990s. However, the twenty-first century has seen a revival of the fashion for cowboy boots, especially in Europe, with designer boots made in bright colors, such as pink and turquoise, and using such nontraditional materials as fake fur and sequins.

Historically a young girl's shoe made of black leather, Mary Janes are now worn by women as well and can be found in a variety of colors. Reproduced by permission of © Darama/CORBIS.


Fiegehen, Gary, and Jim Skipp. Cowboy: The Legend and the Legacy. Vancouver, British Columbia: Greystone Books, 2000.

Haskett, Tim. "How the West Won: The Cowboy Boot's Ride From Prairie to Pret-a-Porter." Footwear News (April 17, 1995): 67-69.

Mary Janes

M ary Janes, also called bar shoes, are simple, flat-soled shoes with bars, or straps, across the instep that fasten with a buckle or button, and, for more recent styles, with Velcro. A common style of children's shoe since before the twentieth century, Mary Janes became popular among women in the late twentieth century.


Fiegehen, Gary, and Jim Skipp. Cowboy: The Legend and the Legacy. Vancouver, British Columbia: Greystone Books, 2000.

Haskett, Tim. "How the West Won: The Cowboy Boot's Ride From Prairie to Pret-a-Porter." Footwear News (April 17, 1995): 67-69.

1920s Mary Janes Cartoon
FOOTWEAR, 1980-2003


Bar shoes became known as Mary Janes after the Brown Shoe Company of Missouri began marketing the shoes named after the popular cartoon character Buster Brown and his sister Mary Jane in 1904. While Mary Janes have remained popular young girls' footwear, adult women began to wear them in the 1960s. In the early twenty-first century, chunky, thick-soled styles of Mary Janes made by Simple Shoes of California were worn by trendy young women, while more delicate designs made of supple leather and thin, feminine bars were worn by some women for work and casual wear. Historically made of black leather, by the twenty-first century Mary Janes came in a variety of colors, some with embroidery and patterns.


"Our History." Brown Shoe Company. index.asp (accessed on August 27, 2003).

Pumps, low-cut, slip-on shoes, developed from the shoes worn at royal courts in Europe in the 1870s and have been popular in a variety of versions ever since. The earliest varieties had thick one- to two-inch heels. But after World War II (1939-45) women embraced ultrafeminine styles and wore pumps with higher, slimmer heels. By the 1950s women teetered on pointy-toed pumps with four-inch-high stiletto heels. But throughout the 1960s and 1970s pumps became more practical for walking, with lower, thicker heels and rounded or squared toes.

The 1980s version of the pump was sleek, featuring a U-shaped throat (the opening for the foot), a pointed toe, and a stiletto heel, resembling the style first popularized in the 1950s. The feminine styling and high heel of the pump contrasted with the masculine styling of the tailored suits women wore to work. The combination came to symbolize women's newfound power on the job. The only problem was that these pumps were terribly uncomfortable. Working women soon began seeking lower-heeled pumps for work. The more casual styles of the 1990s brought thicker heels and squared or rounded toes to pumps made in a variety of fabrics, from stiff leather to elasticized cloth. By the twenty-first century the pointed-toe, stiletto heeled pump had returned to favor.


Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.

Lawlor, Laurie. Where Will This Shoe Take You?: A Walk Through the History of Footwear. New York: Walker and Co., 1996.

Pratt, Lucy, and Linda Woolley. Shoes. London, England: V&A Publications, 1999.

[See also Volume 5, 1946-60: Stiletto Heel]

Shoes Style From 1946 1959

A brown alligator-skin pump. Pumps have been an essential style of footwear for more than one hundred years.

permission of © Royalty-Free/ CORBIS.

A brown alligator-skin pump. Pumps have been an essential style of footwear for more than one hundred years.

permission of © Royalty-Free/ CORBIS.

Trainer Shoes

^During the 1980s sneakers or athletic shoes became a major component of the American wardrobe. Consumers, most of whom were young, favored certain styles for the attitude or personality they conveyed. Wearing a specific brand or style radiated status. One of the most distinctive styles of athletic shoe introduced in the 1980s was the trainer. Not designed for a specific sport such as basketball or jogging, trainers typically had heavier soles, more decorative and colorful uppers, and prominent display of the shoemaker's logo. While traditional sneakers came in such colors as black, white, blue, or red, trainers could be a less typical color, such

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as pink. The shoes' laces were often colored and patterned or replaced by Velcro strips.

For decades rubber-soled athletic shoes, also known as tennis shoes and sneakers, had been worn primarily by children romping on playgrounds and athletes competing in sports and were considered inappropriate for work or school. The most well-known brands were Keds and Converse "Chuck Taylor" All-Stars. By the 1980s, however, more people of all ages began exercising and participating in sports, and shoe manufactures began designing different types of sneakers for different athletic activities: one style for jogging, another for tennis, and a third for basketball.

As sales figures skyrocketed, marketers realized that athletic shoes could be sold to the style-conscious as well as the sports-


One of the largest and best-known sellers of sportswear in the world, Nike began as a maker of athletic shoes, then branched out into shoes and clothes for athletes and those who wanted to dress like athletes. The company started during the mid-1960s, just in time to take advantage of a national fitness craze, which inspired average people to buy specialized sports shoes and clothes. Most of those who spend millions of dollars each year to buy this specialized sportswear never take part in the sport for which their apparel was designed. However, since the late 1970s fitness has been in fashion, and it is almost as fashionable to dress like an athlete as it is to be one.

Nike was founded by two athletes seeking to improve athletic footwear. Bill Bowerman (1909—) was track coach at the University of Oregon and Phil Knight (1938—) was an accounting student he had coached. They sought good quality inexpensive shoes for runners and found them in Japan. In 1962 they formed a company, Blue Ribbon Sports, and began to import Japanese track shoes, selling them at track meets from the trunks of their cars. Bowerman began experimenting with shoe designs himself, and by 1966 Bowerman, Knight, and others formed their own manufacturing company, which they named Nike, for the Greek goddess of victory. A graphic arts student at the University of Oregon named Carolyn Davidson designed a logo for the new company, a simple "swoosh," a curved shape that suggested motion.

Success came quickly to the new shoe company. In 1967 Bowerman wrote a book about a new form of exercise for the average person called "jogging." The idea became popular and suddenly running was not just for track stars anymore. In 1974 Nike introduced its now famous "waffle trainer," the sole of which Bowerman had created by pouring latex into a waffle iron, and joggers everywhere began to buy the specialized running shoes.

Nike took advantage of this trend with a series of clever, innovative ads for their products. Nike advertisements did not focus on their products; in many ads the products were not pictured. Instead, they showed the attitude and lifestyle of the athlete, overcoming obstacles, trying hard to win. Slogans like "Just Do It" drew in customers who might not be athletic but wanted to be strong, at-

minded. Sneakers could be everyday fashion statements. Some of the fashionable trainers included KangaROOS, which featured small pockets for holding trinkets; L.A. Gear, which marketed high-top sneakers called Brats that had oversized tongues, the loose fabric that lies under a shoe's laces. Brats were worn with loosely tied laces, allowing the tongue to be visible. Young children favored Velcro trainers featuring colored patches that glowed in the dark.

Brand name trainers became popular with the help of celebrities. Adidas trainers featuring shell-shaped toes made of white rubber were popularized by members of the rap group Run-DMC; rap artists LL Cool J (1968—) and MC Hammer (1962-) exclusively wore Troop trainers. Trainers of all sorts, including the more athletically oriented cross-trainer, continue to be worn by men and tractive, and successful like the Nike athletes. Nike also chose a rebellious image for many of its products, which also appealed to young professionals of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Nike spokespeople have often been energetic athletes with big personalities, such as basketball's Michael Jordan (1963—), tennis's John McEnroe (1959—), and figure skating's Tonya Harding (1970-).

In 1979 Nike began to market athletic clothing as well as shoes. Along with outfitting hundreds of teams worldwide, the Nike swoosh was now seen on the street clothes of millions of individuals. Nike continued to work with fashion designers and bought innovative shoe design companies such as Cole-Haan Shoes, in order to keep its clothing and shoes on the cutting edge of style. In the mid-1990s Nike opened Nike Town, a new kind of superstore. Filled with special features such as basketball courts, video theaters, aquariums, and sound effects of sports events and cheering crowds, Nike Town was designed to make the customer feel a part of an exciting athletic lifestyle. By 2003 there were thirteen Nike Towns in major cities around the world, and in 2001 the company opened the first NikeGoddess store to sell fashionable sportswear for women only.

The Nike swoosh is a common sight on and off the track.

Reproduced by permission of© P. Pichon/CORBIS SYGMA.

The Nike swoosh is a common sight on and off the track.

Reproduced by permission of© P. Pichon/CORBIS SYGMA.

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women in everyday use into the twenty-first century, alongside the more specialized running, basketball, and other sport-specific shoes that make up the larger sneaker market.


Greenberg, Keith Elliot. Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight: Building the Nike Empire. Woodbridge, CT: Blackbirch Press, 1994.

Hays, Scott. The Story of Nike. Mankato, MN: Smart Apple Media, 2000.

Strasser, J. B., and Laurie Becklund. Swoosh: The Unauthorized Story of Nike and the Men Who Played There. New York: HarperInformation, 1993.

Vanderbilt, Tom. The Sneaker Book: Anatomy of an Industry and an Icon. New York: New Press, 1998.

Woods, Samuel G. Sneakers from Start to Finish. Woodbridge, CT: Blackbirch Press, 1999.

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