Strap Shoes: Germany

Figure 1.-These German teenagers were photographed in the 1920s wearing knickers and shorts with strap shoes. It is difficult to tell, but we thought they may be canvas strap shoes. We have since obtained a better scan and thge shoes look like they may be leather. We see some boys and teenagers using these straps shoes like sandals as an outdoor shoe. The boys look like they may belong to a youth group of some kind.

HBC has only limited information about strap shoes in Germany at this time. Strap shoes appear to have been less popular than in France, but they were also worn by German boys. German boys wore different kinds of strap shoes. Boys from affluent families might wear leather strap shoes. We see them wearing these shoes both for formal dress up occassions as well as for play. These boys wearing strap shoes for formal wear are primarily younger boys, often with white socks. It was not just younger boys wearing them. Occasional images how that even school age boys and occasionally younger teenagers wore them. Usually these older boys are wearing strap shoes as a casual shoe much as boys today wear sneakers. Some of these more informal strap shoes appear to be made of canvas rather than leather. Strap shoes might be worn by boys from affluent families. White socks, especially white kneesocks were commonly worn with strap shoes. The popularity of starpped shoes, except for very young boys, declined after 1933 with the rise to power of the NAZIs. Strap shoes appear most common during the early 20th century, but some boy wore them into the 1950s.


German boys wore different kinds of strap shoes. We see boys wearing both dress strap shoes and a kinfd of play strap shoe. ee boys wearing Boys from affluent families might wear leather strap shoes. We see many portraits og German boys before the mid-1930s wearing strap shoes. We see them wearing these shoes both for formal dress up occassions as well as for play. These boys wearing strap shoes for formal wear are primarily younger boys. We also see older German boys wearing strap shoes. Usually these boys are wearing strap shoes as a casual shoe much as boys today wear sneakers. Some of these more informal strap shoes appear to be made of canvas rather than leather.


We do not have much information on German boys wearing strap shoes in the 19th century. Much more information is available on the 20th century. We see them in the early 20th century, but peimarily among the children of affluent families. After World War I, they seem to have been worn by a broader cross section of German children and not just the very affluent. We see many portraits of German boys before the mid-1930s wearing strap shoes. Up until the start of World War II we see quite a number of German boys wearing single-strap or "Mary Jane" style strap shoes. As far as we can tell, they seem to have been particularly popular in the 1920s and early 30s. We see them being worn as both a dress and casual shoe. Even older boys might wear them in the 1920s as a casual shoe. We subsequently see older boys wearing sandals, but not strap shoes. We see this in the 1930s as well, but with slightly younger boys. They were never the predominant shoe worn by German boys, but the photographic record uggests that they were widely worn. By the 1930s we see a variety of other sandal styles and this cntinuued after the War. We see realtively few German boys weaing strap shoes after the War, but other styles of sandals were widely worn. This varied widely from family to damily. The popularity ofsandals seems to have declined to the point that by the early 1960's they appear only to be worn by younger boys and then only rarely.

Age Trends

We note German boys of all ages wearing strap shoes. They were most common with younger boys, but even here some mothers preferred high-top shoes for younger boys. Age trends varied ovr time. We notice older boys wearing strap shoes mostly in the early-20th century. A family portrait in 1925 shows unidentified boys about 11-13 years of age wearing strap shoes, in this case for formal wear. Here we show older teenagers wearing strap shoes for casual wear.

Social Class

Social class factors seem involved with the strap shoe, at least the strap shoe worn for dressy occassions or play by younger boys. While there do seem to be class factors involved, we do not yet fully understand them. Strap shoes seem mostly worn by boys from affluent families or a least comfortable middle-class family. Less affluent boys might go barefoot or wear heavy boot-like shos. The situation in Germany, howevever, is not so simple. While the strap shoe as a style worn primarily by boys from affluent or comfortable families, we do note one apparent exception. After World War I in the 1920s and early 30s we do not some boys wearing them who do not seem to us to be from especiaslly affluent families. Of course such matters are not often not easy to assess from single photographs. We note some boys wearing strap hoes as a kind of casual shoe. They look to be made from a different material than the standard strap shoe, perhaps not even leather. These are the shoes that we suspect less affluent boys were wearing.


We are unsure about the colors of the strap shoes German boys wore. Almost all of our information at this time comes from black and white photographs. Black shoes were clearly very common, especially when dressing up. We also notice white strap shoes, mostly during the early-20gth century. The black and white shoes can usually be destinuished in black-and-white photographs. We are unsure, however, about the color of the many strap strap shoes won by German boys that are clearly nog black or white. There clearly were other colors. We suspect that younger boys may have worn red strap shoes. This was the case in England, but we can not yet confirm it in Germany. We suspect thst most of the strap shoes we see were various brown shades. We think that there were also dark blue strap shies. We can not yet evaluate just how common the colored shoes were. One example is two brothers in 1933. The boys seem to be wearing colored strp shoes, but we are not sure about the color. Factors such as age, gender, chronology all affected the color of srtrapped shoes worn. Our inability to assess the color in the photographic record makes it difficult to assess these various factors.


German boys wore stap shoes for a range of different occassions. Color and material here may well be a factor as to how the shoes were worn, but we have little information here. We see some boys wearing strap shoes as part of dressy or formall occassions. We also see them being worn for play. Quite a number of boys appear to have worn strap shoes as a kind of casual, leisure shoe. We have seen this in other countries, but not to the extent we have noted in Germany. In other countries strap shoes were more commonly a dress style. In Germany we see children wearing strap shodes as a dress shoe, but large numbers of children seem to have worn them as a casual shoe. Here the material use could be a factor. We also see boys wearing both strap shoes and sandals to school. An example is an unidentified boy in the early 1920s. The conventions here have varied over time.


Strap shoes are primarily leather shoes. This depends somewhat on the type of shoe and the use intended. Dress strap shoes might be made of expensive leathers like patent leather. Most were made in regular shoe leather. These were shoes worn to school or for a range of other occassions. We also see these shoes worn for outdoor wear during the summer this includes older boys and teenagers. Many of these shoes are leather. Some seem to be canvas shoes, but here we are not yet sure. Nor are we positive how common they were. We do not see Germans boys before World War II wearing canvas sneakers like the ones that became popular in America. None of our German readers have commented on these shoes, primarily because they were worn before the War in the 1920s and 30s. We do see canvas strapshoes after World war II in the post-War era. These were made both as one bar abd 'T-bar styles, exclusively for younger children, but they do not seem bery common.


The strap shoe was a common child's style in Germany. Both boys and girls commonly vwore them. This varied significantly over time. We still have limited information on the 19th century. We have much more detailed information on the 20th century. We see both boys and girls commonly wearing strap shoes in the early-20th century. During this period they appear to be a child's style with limited gender connotations. They vseem to be somewhat more popular with girls, but we see many boys wearing them, even some teenagers. The photographic record suggests that unlike America, there was no string gender connotations. We see images with all the chilkdren in the family wearing them and smetimes the girtls and other times the boys. They were commonly worn by boys when dressing up, but also for play and school. This genberal pattern was onservable during the 1900s-20s as well as the early-30s. This changed dramatically in the mid-30s. Girls of all continued to wear them, but school age boys suddently stopped wearing them and we no longer see them in the 1940s. We are not entirely sure why boys stopped wearing them. We only think we can think is that they were discouraged in the Hitler Youth with its hyper-masculine ethos. We think tht they had been most common with middle-class and upper-class families and we see the decline of other class orirnted tules like the sailor suit.


We note German boys wearing strap shoes with a wide range of different garments. We note boys wearing dresses, tunic suits, velvet suits, sailor suits and many other outfits with strap shoes. Sailor suits were especially common, primarily because they wre so extensively worn by German boys over such a long period. Some outfits are difficult to describe. Strap shoes for formal occasions were normally worn with white socks, both three-quarter socks and kneesocks. We notice several images with white socks that had stripes or designs. The garments worn with strap shoes of course varied over time.

Personal Experiences

A HBC contributor reports: "When I was in Germany during 1962-64, although several preschool boys whose families I knew wore cloth ankle strap style one-strap shoes with snap fasteners as bedroom slippers, I only rarely saw one-strap shoes on boys. I remember only two incidents in as many years. The first was in June in the well-to-do Altona suburb of Hamburg where I saw a boy about 8 wearing a long sleeved sportshirt, brown Lederhosen, dark blue patterned knee socks, and black patent leather one-strap shoes. The second was in January in a small town near Hannover, where a boy about 3 was wearing black patent leather one-stap shoes with white socks and a dark green snowsuit and stocking cap.


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Created: September 6, 2000
Last updated: 9:53 PM 10/25/2013