saddle shoes: an American accounts 1950s

Saddle Shoes in the 1950s

From my earliest memory and extending through the first 2 years of high school, I wore saddle oxford shoes. My first collection was at an extended family reunion in 1949, the summer I turned 5 years old. In preparation my mother took me to a department store and bought me the first pair of shoes that I remember a pair of black and white shoes with leather soles. I was so proud of them that I took them home and placed them beside my bed for at least two weeks. At the reunion I wore them for all the events that required us to be dressed up. I had a blue seersucker collarless coat with matching shorts, short white anklets and my saddle shoes. I still look at the formal family portrait and I am sitting on my mother's lap with the shoes dangling toward the floor. I still remember the compliments I received about my clothes.

After the summer was over, I wore the saddles daily to kindergarten, and was given another pair for "good" such as church and other dressy occcasions. This pair was different in that it had white rubber soles and heels. My mother, sister and I had gone to the big Sears, and I received a pair of 5-eyelet with a split front (unlike the bal style I wore latter) and a black backstay. They were fantastic. By the end of the first semester, I had worn out my first pair and wore these newest pair to school. I received a new pair and the first pair graduated to play shoes. This pattern was repeated consistently through 1960. One pair of saddles for dress, one for school, and one for play.

In the 1st grade, at a parochial school, the uniform was blue trousers, white shirt, blue tie and corduroy jacket. I found out later that shoes were optional for boys, but I wore my saddles like several other boys in the class and all the girls. The girls were required to wear them. During these formative years, in the summer I would wear red, blue or white oxford style Keds or the saddles depending on what I wanted. I continued to wear these same combination until the 5th grade when I no longer fit into the Sears saddles. I know now that they only went to a size four. The fall of my 5th grade, I was fitted with the Sears Kerrybrooke saddles with the 4 eyelet bal front and black tongue. As with my previous pairs they had to have white rubber soles. By this time, I was the only boy wearing saddles, but I didn't care. They looked, in my opinion, great and I was comfortable in them. There was some teasing that year but after being successful in two encounters, it was not mentioned again that year or during rest of grade school. After school though, I "graduated" into high top Keds because I played basketball for the grade school team (5th through 8th).

After the 1st grade I continued at school to wear the regular school uniform for the remainder of grade school, through 8th grade. For the rest of the time I wore the usual shorts during summer and warm weather play through the 3rd or 4th grade. At other times of the year regular long pants mainly regular slcks. Infrequently, I was allowed to wear jeans until high school when that became de rigor. My shirts, outside of school, were either pull over lateral stripes or colored button front. But in about the 6th grade the sleeves had to be rolled up to emulate James Dean. However, I was not allowed to wear just a plain t-shirt. Other than that, I really can't add much. Pretty common for most of the guys.

At the beginning of the 8th grade, I got my first pair of saddles with black crepe soles. These I began to wear daily, after my previous pair of Kerrybrookes wore out after Christmas of 1957. At the same time, I began to routinely wear other oxfords but still preferred my saddles. While I did get another pair of Kerrybrookes the following summer, I did not wear them to high school except on three occasions and on the of those, I had an encounter which resulted in my requiring 14 stitches. I did continue to wear the ones with the black soles until the end of my sophomore year in 1960.

Figure 1.--.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: July 5, 1998
Last updated: July 5, 1998