Closed-toe Sandals


Figure 1.--Sandals or strap shoes began to be commonly worn by English boys in the 1920s. They were less commmon in America, mostly worn by girls and younger boys. They came in both "t" strap and double strap styles. This little American boy in a sailor suit wears in a photograph probably taken about 1920 wears the double strap style. His sandals were probably red.

Closed toe sandals appear to have appeared in England, America, and other countries during the 1910s. I am not sure in which country they first appeared or just who was responsible. They appear to have been a refinement of strap shoes. The sandals were different than earlier strap shoes in that that had a center strap. I am not sure who developed this style, but it may have been the Clark Shoe Company as the style is often referred to as school sandals. They were commonly worn by boys and girls for school and play. Even older boys of 12 or 13 would commonly wear them. They were regarded at the time as informal play shoes, much as modern children regarded sneakers ("trainers" to our British friends). English boys also commonly wore them to school. For formal occasions, however, boys would put on proper shoes. Another style of closed-toe sandal besides the single horitonal strap appeared, but I can not at this time date it. I know it existed in the 1920s, but I'm not sure how much earlier. This style had double horizontal straps. British boys generally did not wear this style and in America in was mostly worn by girls.

Chronology

HBC does not yet have a developed chronology of sandals or specifically of closed-toe sandals. We have noted strap shoes in the 19th century, but these were more of a dress shoe than a sandal. Closed toe sandals appear to have appeared in England, America, and other countries at the turn of the 20th century. We note portraits of boys wearing clsed-toe sandals in the late 1890s, but are not yet precisely sure when they first appeared. They become more common in the 1900s. We note catalog advertisements in the early 20th century, but are not sure when the first ads appeared. Building a chronology is complicated by the different styles of closed-toe sandals. Single strap shoes or sandals were worn in the 19th century, but these styles with an added side or center strap are a 20th century style. HBC is unsure at this time why the sandal suddenly proved popular in the early 20th century. Perhaps it was part of the overall shift toward increased informality in dress. Chronology is importan not only in the development of closed-toe sandals, but also in terms of popularity as well as age and gender conventions.

Countries

I am not sure in which country they first appeared or just who was responsible. As they appear to have been most popular in England, they may have been developed there. Sandals for school were so common that they were called school sandals in England. They were also popular for play and casual wear until sneakers became more accepted in the 1970s. The wearing of sandals, including closed-toe sandals has varied considerably from country to country. This includes such factors as style and color of sandal as well as age and gender of children wearing them. In some countries they were worn by both boys and girls, although styles and color could vary. In other countries they were more commonly worn by girls and some younger boys. We do not note boys commonly wearing colse-toe sandals in America after World War I. Here there are few exceptions, such as a dancing class in Chicago. There are also differences within countries. Sandals have been, for example, more commonly worn in the American South than the rest of the country. Climatic factors probably explain this.

Development

Closed-toe sandals appear to have been a refinement of strap shoes. We have been able, however, to develop little information here yet.

Design

Sandals were different than earlier strap shoes in that that they commonly had a center strap. I am not sure who developed this style, but it may have been the Clark Shoe Company as the style is often referred to as school sandals. It should be noted that younger children, especially better-off children might wear single bar strap shoes as sandals or play shoes.

Gender

Gender patterns are difficult to discuss generally as they vary so widely from country to country and over time. They were commonly worn by boys and girls for school and play in England from about the 1930s through the 1950s. Even older boys of 12 or 13 would commonly wear them. This was also true in many European countries. In America the closed-toe sandal might be worn by younger boys, espeially boys from affluent families, but was generally seen as a girl's shoe. We think conventions in Canada were similar. Different styles of closed-toe sandals may have had gender connotations. We note what we think may be a Canadian family about 1920. The girls wear double-bar sandals and the boys single bar sandals. We do not, however, notice any consistently held over time or among countries fixing a style of sandals with a definitive gender image. They were common in Gernmany until the 1930s when the NAZIs discouraged boys from wearing them.

Conventions

They were regarded at the time as informal play shoes, much as modern children regarded sneakers ("trainers" to our British friends). English boys also commonly wore them to school. For formal occasions, however, most boys would put on proper shoes. The strap shoe, however, might be worn for formal occasions.

Styles

There were two basic types closed-toe sandals, besides the single bar Mary Jane style. The first and most common style had a center strap. This style is commonly known as as school sandalmin England and a "T" strap shoe in America. It was also referred to as a sand shoe. the Another style of closed-toe sandal had double side bars with the center starp. I know it existed in the 1920s, but I'm not sure how much earlier. This style had double horizontal straps. British boys generally did not wear this style and in America in was mostly worn by girls.

Color

We have noted many colors of closed-toe sandals. Black, lue, brown, red, and white have been the most common. The blue and brown in particular have come in many different shades. Black is not common for a play shoe, although black is a common color for dress sandals. White has been used for both play and dress sandals. There are a variety of age and gender conventions associated with closed-toe sandals and these have varied among countries and over time. There were lso conventions associated as to whether the sandal was a dress or play shoe. Some of the colors sich as black a=ns white can be seteced in early photographs, bur blue, brown, and red are more difficult to assess. Here until the development of color photography we have to turn to catalogs.

Closings

Early strap shoes had button closures or fastenings on the strap. Although we have little information, closed-toe sandals appear to have come with buckle closures. This was certainly the case by the 1920s. One of the advantages of sandals was that they did not have shoe laces. Younger children could more easily buckle their shoes than tie shoe laces and they had the added advantahe that they did not come undone.






HBC





Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main sandal page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [Essay] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration]
[Boys' Clothing Home]



Created: May 10, 1999
Last updated: 3:51 AM 11/8/2006