Monday, January 13, 2014

Why Size 8 1/2 Shoes?

Over the past few weeks, I've been able to score an ungodly number of vintage shoes from the 40's through the 60's-I mean, over twenty pairs. Stranger still, they've all been size 8 1/2. I suppose it is possible they were all part of a single collection, but I bought them at a couple different locations about town. Was 8 1/2 a terribly popular shoe size or something? The 40's shoes fit more like a modern 7, and seem narrow, but the rest seem like a modern 8 or 8 1/2 (I wear an 8, and most fit me fine).

Stranger still, I'm now the proud owner of several pairs of bone coloured, peep-toe slingbacks. I guess that was a "thing" in the 50's. To me, they are classic, "Granny" shoes but only if worn with nylons. I remember a friend's grandmother scolding us for wearing skirts, and sandals without stockings during a Chicago heatwave in the 70's. The stockings should have a visible reinforced toe gusset as well (Granny chic, is Granny chic-I don't make the rules). You don't want people thinking you are some sort of woman with loose morals (or maybe you do, hell I'm not here to judge).

The late 60's shoes (and early 70's as well) feature a thick rubberised wedge, or platform heels that resemble a gum eraser. Obviously not latex rubber, as I could handle them, though quite sturdy. I would have expected the material to deteriorate over time, but they're in remarkably good condition.

When I buy vintage shoes I like to give them a good going over with the crevice tool of my canister vac. If the insole will come cleanly out, I remove it to clean the decades of dust and cobwebs that accumulate in even the best conditions. So far, I haven't encountered anything I couldn't salvage (serious mould, mildew stains, pests, etc.) but I'm prepared for it anyway. I'm always amazed by how well constructed vintage shoes were, looking at the interior "guts". I have shoes I bought last season new, that are showing wear to the stitching. Shoes were expected to last back then, and looking at the way they were made I have a greater appreciation for the workmanship that went into them. 

I promise to do a post on my (ever growing) vintage shoe collection soon.

Fun bit of trivia-Did you know that Lynn, Mass. was once the "Shoe making capital of the world?" It was:

Bonus labour history lesson: The shoe Strike of 1860

By the time I moved to Boston in 1992, the shoe factories were gone. From hundreds of factories to nothing in a space of a few decades.

If only I knew where all these size 8 1/2 shoes were coming from! Quite the mystery.


Joanna said...

I am very amazed you were able to find so many pairs of 8 1/2 shoes. I always keep my eyes peeled for 40s 8 1/2 and they are quite rare and in most cases quite expensive. I've paid near $100 for some pairs. But, I don't regret it as they are wonderful and I'd pay this for a quality pair of shoes today that I wouldn't much like. Congratulations on your great finds. I love strappy shoes and these are very hard to find and the straps are usually quite fragile.

Goody said...

Now boots are another story...I never find those!

You were lucky to find a cobbler that can repair vintage shoes. I'm reluctant to trust mine to anyone. I'm going to have to though, or take up shoemaking.

I would consider $100. fair for vintage 40's. I just live in a place where no one wants them.