pink and black pumps

What are Pumps, Anyway?


Pumps are a style of shoe that sometimes seem to defy classification. You'll see the word "pump" applied to almost anything, from stilettos to flats and just about everything in between. So what are they, really?

When it comes to defining the pump, the most important thing is that it should be strapless. Although you'll find countless pairs of ballet flats and even athletic shoes referred to as "pumps", true pumps should have either medium or high heels. Most are cut fairly low at both the sides and front, so that the arch of the foot and a little bit of toe cleavage is revealed.

Of course, some pumps have lower heels and some, just to confuse matters further, are described as "ankle strap pumps." The style, as you can see, is a very flexible one. You'll find almost as wide a variety of pumps as you'll find shoe brands--perhaps one of the reasons the style has stayed around for so long, and still remains so popular.

The History of the Pump

The pump is a true fashion classic, having been around for centuries. The name itself was first used in the 1500s, when strapless shoes without heels were worn by men and referred to as "pompes." These days, the pump is firmly established as a woman's shoe, but it hasn't always been thus. As one of the most versatile styles of footwear around, they were frequently worn by men in the past, although their later history is firmly female.

Back in the 1500s, when the shoes were first worn, the easy-to-wear style was often seen on the feet of servants. Why servants? They didn't have the time or money for the fussy buttons and laces which characterized the other styles of the day. By the time the twentieth century rolled around, however, things had changed dramatically and the classic style had become associated with style and glamour.

Jacqueline Kennedy was a big fan of the pump, and ordered twelve new pairs every month, while Audrey Hepburn loved pumps for their understated elegance. The sensible yet sophisticated style has also been a favorite of first ladies and celebrities throughout the century.

Today's pumps are similar to the styles of the past with big-name designers such as Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutib provinding a modern twist on the style, creating pumps with towering heels in a range of different fabrics.

How to Wear Pumps

As a classic style, pumps are designed to be worn with almost anything, although they look best when worn with skirts, dresses or dress pants. The style can be worn with jeans to liven up a casual outfit, but the pump is primarily a formal shoe, which is most commonly worn to offices, dinners and parties. In fact, one of the best features of the pump is its versatility. Going out for dinner after work? Don't have time to change between office and party? The classic pump will see you through from day to night without a hitch.

No matter what your occupation or lifestyle, a great pair of pumps can be a sound investment. This is a style of footwear that every woman should have in her wardrobe, as a pair of pumps will see you through so many types of occasion. Try buying a plain black pair for work or formal occassions, and a more colorful, fun pair for the evening.

Where to Buy

They're one of the most popular style of shoe around, so any shoe or department store you walk into will have a pair of pumps for you to try. You can also try these online stores:

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