Almost nothing conjures up a more powerful image than a pair of classic women's saddle shoes. The quintessential shoe of the 1950s, saddle shoes regained popularity in the late 20th century.
About Saddle Shoes
The saddle shoe is one of those iconic fashion pieces that women may not even realize they actually know quite well. The leather style is unique for its eye-catching use of opposing colors. In a typical saddle shoe style, the toe and heel are white, while the center area (or "saddle") is black. The look is finished with snug laces pulled through eyelets. The laces, also white, contrast strongly against the shoe's saddle area.
Known for their spacious fit, these shoes feature a rather wide, roomy toe box. These flat-heeled shoes were especially popular among high school and college students, and were often worn with poodle skirts, ankle socks, a prim blouse and sweater, and, occasionally, a string of pearls. Perhaps most intriguing about the saddle shoe is its unusual appeal to both sexes. During the late 1930s, the jitterbug became of the most popular dance moves in the United States, and young men and women alike required a comfortable, flat shoe that would make movement easy. Thus, women began to sport saddle shoes on the dance floor, too.
Though the shoe enjoyed its greatest prominence during the '50s amongst teenagers, it was actually created in 1906 by legendary sports brand Spalding. The label designed them with comfort for avid racquet sports enthusiasts in mind, so the saddle area was made purposely snug to hold the foot down during aggressive movements. The shoe, however, did not appeal as much to tennis players as it did golfers, and it eventually became a staple on the greens.
Modern Women's Saddle Shoes
The saddle shoe, once merely a relic of fashion history, was resurrected during the late 1990s. In the grand fashion tradition of everything old being new again, the shoe appears in a variety of styles - something that never would have happened during the shoe's original reign. The modern women's saddle shoe is sleeker and available in multiple colors (and even some patterns). Some designers even translated the style into sexy heels. Of course, the classic variety is still readily available, too. These are just some of the styles on the market:
- Bass: If you're in the market for an incredible selection of saddle shoes that take strong inspiration from the original style, look no further. G.H. Bass, also known as simply Bass, sells a modern version of the classic black and white look, complete with a sturdy rubber sole. The shoe is available in 12 colors. Other options include Glenbrook, the dainty-meets-sexy heeled variation of the saddle shoe. Available in two colors, it features a demure two-and-a-half inch heel and looks like it was made for the dance floor. For a more rugged look, try the company's Nikki boot, a saddle ankle boot available in four colors. This sturdy shoe is less dressy than its predecessor, but still quite eye catching for its bold colors.
- Vans: The classic skate shoe brand designs the Sophie Saddle, a fresh, sporty interpretation of the shoe. It features a leather or canvas upper and a sturdy rubber sole. The shoe is available in myriad colors, including navy, black, tan/pink and the classic black/white. For those adventurous gals, there is even a cracked metallic leather version available. The shoe is available at Zappos and Urban Outfitters.
How to Wear Them
They may not be all the rage that they once were, but women's saddle shoes do have a place in some wardrobes. They're easy to slip into and often prove a fun, retro-inspired alternative to basic flats. To that end, they look right at home with a pair of skinny jeans and a lengthy top, like a tunic. By contrast, they look downright charming with an A-line skirt and twinset or blouse. If you want to keep from looking too costum-y, though, toughen up the look by pairing the shoes with a cute skirt and a leather or denim jacket on top.
No matter how you wear them, you can take confidence in knowing that the shoes are a major part of fashion history. Despite their early origins, they still translate well today and look great with a variety of modern outfits, so experiment to find your favorite look.