This one appears to be a salesmen’s sample in that it is marked on the breast of the heel with a paper tag sporting the style number and is clearly deadstock having never been worn.
While it has the bulbous toe and porcelain buttons of the Edwardian Era, it marks the return of the French heel – after about a decade of the ultra-straight military heeled styles.
From the look of the heel and toe (see the Montgomery Wards catalog page below) I would date this at around 1915. Not quite twenties, but not firmly Edwardian.
Kind of funny that losing the military heel in favor of the French heel has Wards calling them “military boots”!
You can see very early rumblings of the sharpness of deco stylings on this page.
This is one of the most beautiful examples in our collection. Though it sports an opera heel – so common in the very early part of the Edwardian Era, it has the detail and flourishes of Victorian styling. Made from ultra-soft kid, it was beautifully preserved due to its owner stuffing it with fluffy wool and, perhaps, keeping it out of the attic!
The laces, fortunately, are made from flat cotton with crimped metal tips – round laces would have hurt that angry little bone that sticks out on the inside of everyone’s ankle!
The aglets (holes where the laces go through) are richly embroidered and are so uniform that it’s obvious they were rendered with a machine (so many parts of any shoe are rendered by hand – even today – for instance; the moc-toe of today’s loafers are all sewn by hand using 2 needles in concert). The toe ornamentation is clearly machine-rendered.
This pair was clearly owned by someone rich enough to buy the finer things. Which brings up the lack of logos on early, clearly manufactured, shoes. From what I can see, so many shoes and boots made for the mass market in the late 1800s were made to order. The only thing you’ll find inside the throat of the footwear is handwritten numbers – marking, no doubt, the style, size and order number requested by the customer.
The 1902 Powell Bros. catalog page below beautifully illustrates the choices one had.
You can see that by 1902 the opera heel is “out” and the straight military heel is “in”.
Note that this particular model was for women with ultra-wide feet. “E” is know in the biz as “Eddie” as in the very wide “Triple-Eddie”. His less wide brothers are Al, Benny, Charley, and Dave.
I just found this adorable article about shoe salesman’s lingo from the 1934 New York Times!
This beauty has swirly detail where leather meets tapestry around the aglets.
While this looks like it’s made from kid, it’s possible that what we’re seeing here is something I have seen called “glazed dongola”. Kid being the more expensive glove leather from a baby goat or lamb and dongola being leather from a sheep or goat that has been tanned to look like kidskin.The ad below from 1899 shows the heels of the day – short, curvy and leaving a slightly triangular footprint. I have seen this heel called a “wedge heel” or “medium opera heel” in catalogs of the period. The toes in this ad are more pointy than the shoe above – by 1900 the extreme pointiness started disappearing.
We call this style the “big butt” as it’s from the period just prior to the flapper era when everything started getting all angular and deco (you can’t look like your gramma, can you?).
The Louis heel and pointy toes were back and vamps were curvily plunging. A reaction to the gnarled-looking rounded-toe shoes of just a few years before.
Notice the little piece of light-colored material between the heel and the heel cap (at the very bottom). Very popular during this era.
It looks as though the “butt” is exaggerated due to the leather on the throat of the boot shrinking. That may be… a little… as canvas shoes of the era also have a big ol’ butt – and they did not shrink from being left in a hot attic!
Below is a Red Cross Shoe ad from 1919.
These most likely hail from the period between 1900 and 1910. 1900 marking the departure from short, curvy heels with a spade-shaped “footprint” when heels became very straight with a sharply-cut concave breast (the term for the front of the heel). Also, this period marked the extreme elongation of toes – the precursor to the post-1910s when footwear styles became all strangely rounded (as though you were curling your toes under).
These would probably have been made towards the late Edwardian Era as Louis heels were coming back into style – albeit in a more twenties-looking way.
The heel on this one is made from stacked leather.