Pop Shoes: From winklepickers to platforms

Between the years 1960-63 Tin Pan Alley moguls kept cash registers filled by adhering to the tried and tested sounds of previous decades. Stifling artistic originality a return to tailored suits and patent leather shoes was the stage fashion. Until that is when the beat generation metamorphosed into the new Mersey sound (UK).

Women's hemlines became shorter matching the length of men's jackets. Tight fitting bolero suits (or bum freezers) for men and two piece outfits for women were accompanied with trendy pointed slip on shoes. Better off kids wore loafers which were the fashion of the US, Ivy Leaguers.

Court style shoes took on in the sixties when Jacky Kennedy made them “The shoe“. She bought her shoes from Rene Mancini in Paris. Her monthly order was 12 pairs every three months although this dropped to 8 pairs after her marriage to Onasis.

By the time the Beatles had emerged the ankle boot (or Beatle Boot) was the style and incorporated cuban heels which were a style preferred by the Beatles on their return from Hamburg. Needless to say the fashion became ubiquitous before the toes began to widen and the Chelsea boot or chisel toe became vogue. A point of interest the Beatle Boot was less macho and resembled the style of boot favoured by Victorian ladies. Whilst not effeminate it was distinctly a softer less aggressive style than brothel creepers and winkle pickers. The boots often incorporated a French seem or central stitch running from ankle to toe on the upper. In the convention of symbols this referred to female invagination which was a radical change from the overt connotations of the phallic, long toes or winklepicker shoes. Once the first flush of beat music passed many male groups like Herman’s Hermits were being groomed for the cabaret circuit, during this time girl groups came on with a vengeance.

Tights and mini skirts meant legs became the focus of attention and the longer the better. Although definitely not the first girl group the Shangri-Las captured the sultry look by wearing slacks and high heeled ankle boots. Until then only solo female artists had the confidence to appear in mini skirts with long high heeled boots. This was the first wave of girl power with an array of glamorous girls taking their rightful place on the hit parade clad in sexy boots.

By the mid-sixties UK youth broke into two rival factions: the nouveaux moderns or mods who were followers of black music and designer clothes; and the macho rockers, or neo Ton Up boys. Both styles had started in the fifties but now there were enough young people around to support a dual culture. Needless to say they did not enjoy each other's company and began to terrorise the English coastal towns by fighting each. As mods and rockers fought over the beaches of south coast England they wore the trademarks of their generation, i.e. two types of boots.

Mods wore light dessert boots on their Italian scooters; greasers continued to wear engineer’s boots.

Ton Up boys wore knee length leather boots, tight jeans, white T shirts and leather jackets. Interesting to note the fashion for boots was driven to protect ankles from hot exhausts forced by riding scooters or motor bikes. As the sixties came to an end and the Love Generation set up an alternative culture bare feet and thongs became vogue.

Anti-fashion preferred aggression and shock and unisex styles were epitomised by Dr Martin Boots. The spirit of Rock’n’Roll was alive and well in the emerging skin head culture which inevitably became the forerunner of Punk in the decade to follow.

Meanwhile Disco brought glamour back to footwear and as Greek actors had worn raised shoes to tower over their audience so too did the height challenged glitzy crew to send their fans into sexual ecstasy. Wooden platform shoes first enjoyed a renaissnace before artists like Paul Gadd (Gary Glitter) used his glitter platforms to put the sheen in queen. His platforms were specially made for his feet and allowed him to achieve quite spectacular choreography during his live shows. The style was very popular among the glam rock crowd including Rod 'The Mod" Stewart, Elton Hercules John, and The Thin White Duke himself, David Bowie. The Swedish group Abba probably did more for drag sartorial than any other.

(Video Courtesy: ABBA by Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 29/11/2018
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