saddle shoes: an American high school account, the 1970s

Saddle Shoes at High School in the 1970s

Figure 1.--.

I have enjoyed reading the information you have been gathering on your webpages, particularly the saddle shoes.


I did have back and white blucher style saddles in pre-school and kindergarten. I was four or five years old. I believe that I wore them to school, not just for dress-up.

Grade (Elementary) School

I did not wear saddle shoes in grade school, until the last year. Nor do I remember other boys wearing saddles during most of grade school. I do not know why I and the other boys stopped wearing them in grae school. So I'm guessing they just weren't in style. Girls on the other hand commonly wore them, which was perhaps why us boys i not. While I did not have any saddle shoes through most of my grade school years, I started wearing them again in 6th grade.

When I started wearing saddle shoes again in the 6th grade, I would take them off when I came home from school. I woul wear sneakers for the rest of the day.

I mostly wore long pants in my grade shoe years. Short pants were not common at all. We certainly never wore them to school.

Middle School

HBC note: American schools are primarily: elemtary school (grades 1-6), junior high/middle school (grades 7-8), and high school (grades 9-12). But this can vary around the country. Some school systems include the 6th grade in with the middle school.

By the time I was in middle school, some boys were wearing the round bump-toed saddles, usually in blue and cream or brown and brown suede. I was very happy to get a pair of brown on brown suede saddles, and later a pair of blue on cream in middle school. I picked them out, but Mom always liked them. She tried to find me some black and white saddles when I said I wanted some in high school. I wore them as school shoes because Mom didn't like me wearing sneakers to school. I wore the saddle shoes with brown, blue or black socks with jeans or khakis.

High School

I grew up in the midwest in the 70's. The girls in my high school all wore saddle shoes as part of their uniform. In the two blocks that was our downtown shopping district, there were five shoe stores that carried five different brands of saddle shoes. I can remember Lazy-bones and Spalding, plus another I think was called Miss Wonderful (made by the Brown Shoe Co.), J.C. Penny's, and another cheaper brand that I think was called Miss America. When the shopping mall was built, we added several of the national chains, inlcuding Kinney's, Thom McAnn, Baker's, Sears, and a regional department store that had its own label. All were black and white, most with the hard one-piece coral sole. Kinney's had a white hard sole, and J.C. Penny's carried the 70's round-toe crepe sole saddles, not the classic version. All the girls I knew wore saddles at school, and with jeans or khakis out of school. Some worked hard at keeping them spotlessly white (some used Crest toothpaste was used as a shoe polish), others, especially seniors, wore them entirely out, scuffed, gray and falling apart. I could identify all the different varieties and tell you what store a girl had bought her saddles from.


The Spalding saddles were generally recognized as the best. They were better made and held up longer than most of the other brands. If you read the material that came with the shoes, Spalding claims to have made the first saddle shoes in 1906. By the time I discovered them, the Spalding saddle had evolved into a rounder toe than the classic pointed toe Spalding of the 40's and 50's. Seventeen magazine usually worked Spalding saddle shoes into their back-to-school fashion layouts. The models were often shown in men's oversized shirts or other masculine styles. They seemed to regard saddle shoes in the same way. Spalding also ran a great magazine advertisement that showed their saddles with the caption "Endangered Species" (I think in the August or September 1980 issue of Seventeen). In the early 80's, Spalding quit making saddle shoes, however, the B.A. Corbin company continued to produce the Spalding saddle shoe for several more years. These days you have to go with the Willits brand to get a high-quality all-leather saddle shoe.

The 1980s

When I was in high school, no guys were wearing black and white saddles. I had blue and cream colored and brown smooth and tan suede saddle shoes. I never found any black and white saddles for men until I was in college in the 80's. At this time there was a retro-fashion thing going on and saddle shoes came back briefly. Bass shoe produced black and white saddles for men and women, along with a multitude of other color combinations, all with the thicker red crepe sole.

The 1990s

It used to be that you could find women's saddles in most shoe stores, at least at back-to-school time, but it has been a while since I have seen them in anything but children's sizes. I remember one Kinney's store that always displayed their classic black and white saddle shoes on both the women's and men's side of the store, but that was the only place I ever saw that. You can still find black and white saddles for men, but they are generally from the more expensive brands or they have golf spikes.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: January 19, 2001
Last updated: January 20, 2001