Strap Shoes: Types

Figure 1.--This boy wear classic strap shoes. Note is sister wearing "T"-bar shoes. We have been uable to identify where this photograph was taken. We beliece tht it was probably Germany or the Netherlands about 1930,

There are two major types of boys' strap shoes. The primary difference is the placement of the strap. We have note strap shoes with the strap placed at the ininstep and others woth the strap at the ankle. These different types were worn by both boys and girls through the 1910s. This began to change after World War I (1914-18) as strap shoes began to nbe seen as girls' shoes rather than children shoes, although younger boys continued to wear them. This grender convention was most pronounced in America. We rarely see the ankle strap shoes after World war I. While these were the basic styles of single-bar strap shoes, there were other styles that varied the number of straps.

Multiple Straps

The classic strap shoe is a one bar instep strap. There were, however, a variety of other styles. We note many strap shoes in the late 19th century with multiple straps. These were usually two-bar shoes, but we have seen these shoes with three or more bars, normally without a supporting center strap. One of the roblem in assessing these shoes is that there was no one defined term to describe them. Some catalogs used the term sandals. Today the term sandal has the commotation of an informal play shoe. This was not the case in the 19th century. The difference between strap shoe and sandal is difficult to delineate. We have generally used the term strap shoe for a formal shoe while shoes of a similar design for play or casual wear we have used the term sandal. Notably the two srap shoe with a center supporting strap became more of a play shoe and thus we refer to it as a sandal.

Classic Instep Strap

The most common style of strap shoe had a strap which crossed the foot at the instep. This is the first style of strap shoes to appear and is the classic style for the shoe. The width of the strap varies on this style. Some strap were quite narrow, others had very wide straps. These shoes were worn by younger children throughout the 19the century. They were first commonly worn by boys about the turn of the 19th century with long pants skeleton suits. After the 1840s they were mostly worn by very young boys ad girls, nut increased in popularity in the 1890s when they began to be worn with Fauntleroy suits and other dressy children's wear. They were worn by both boys and girls in the eraly 20th century--especially boys from affluent families. Hosierty styles varied.

Back Strap

Stap shoes in the late 19th and early 20th Century sometimes had straps which crossed the foot from the back of the shoe. Instead of the strap coming directly across at the instep, it comes from the back and wraps around the front. These straps were normally narrow. This style was only worn during a relatively narrow time period from the mid-18890s to the early 1920s. It was worn with both light and dark stockomgs, but by the early 1900s, this style was quite common with long white stockings. In the 1910s they began to be worn with white three-quater stockings as well.


Some strap shoes rather than a rounded open area in the front, had an iregular design cut out. This was not a common style, but it did appear in the 1920s and 30s. I do not know if this was more commonly a boys or girls fashion. It does appear to be mostly in dress shoes and not the play shoe versions.

Other Designs

There are many other styles of strap shoes. One common style is a "T" strap like an English school sandal. This style strap shoe is a girl's style which appeared about the 1950s. While strap shoes were for formal wear. Sandals (also called sandshoes and school sandals) for boys and girls were made in the same style, but not in patent leather. These were made for both school and play wear in the single strap, "T" strap, and doube strap style. Little children often wore red sandals, most boys wore brown, reddish brown, or dark blue sandals. The "T" strap was the most common in England. After the 1950s the "T" strap grew in size until many school sandals looked much like shoes.


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Created: June 3, 2004
Last updated: 5:01 PM 8/22/2005