Men’s shoes of the 1920’s and 1930’s didn’t change too much from previous decades. Black and brown lace up cap toe oxfords as well as fitted boots continued to be popular. In the 1920’s some low footwear started to show some brogue.* In the summer when men wore light colored linen suits it was very fashionable to wear light colored oxfords as well such as white nubucks. Wearing white was a sign of high class and wealth because white clothing was simply too difficult to keep clean in the working class. The Great Gatsby was the prime example of a fashionable man in the 1920’s. It was more important that men wore the right color shoes with their suit then what style they were.
1920s Brogue Shoes
* Brogue shoes are also know as co-respondent in Britain. They feature toe caps with points on the top that come in a variety of lengths. The wingtip is the most formal. Semi-, quarter and long wing are other varieties. The defining characteristic of brogue shoes were the small perforated holes that decorated the seams and toe caps. Brogue detail was common on not just mens shoes but ladies oxfords and heeled shoes too. The standard color was a burnt orange-brown, followed by dark brown and black. The most formal wingtip shoes came in patent leather black.
1920s Two Tone Shoes
American men experienced a bit more freedom with fashion than the British but it was the Price of Wales and his love of golf that opened up the world to more sporty, relaxed, fashions. Even if you were not playing a sport it was still highly fashionable to dress like you were. The two tone brogue with fringe or shawl tongues became men’s favorite footwear of the decade. Almost every man wore these for day or formal occasions. The difference between men’s two toned shoes in the 1920’s verses the 1930’s were color. The 1920’s has mostly grey and white or brown and white tones while the 1930’s introduced all sorts of color options such as blue and white, green and white, and purple and white.
Black and white saddle shoes were available in the 1920’s but they did not become trendy until the late 1930s through the 1950’s. They featured brown heels and toes with a white “apron front” pattern in the middle.
For most office, work, or casual shoes the shape of the toe changed over the 1920 decade. Early on in the 20’s the top was pointed, much more then today’s office shoes. By the mid twenties the two rounded out and then took on a sharp, blunt square toe with a bulbous top, and slightly rounded edges. It is interesting to see how the shape of shoe toes coincided with the changing width of mens pants– small toes for narrow pants, wide toes for wide pants! The pointed toe shoe was mostly worn by conservative men, who still wore boots in the style of the 1900’s!
1920s Tennis Shoes
In 1917 “Chuck Taylor All Stars” Converse shoes were started as one of the original tennis shoes. The All Star sport shoe design has changed very little since then. The 1920’s version was white, high top, dark rubber soles, and had a round seal over the ankle. Dark leather and canvas versions were equally popular with high school and college age students. The shoe quickly found the way into other sports with variations for golf, tennis, football, and women’s athletics.
As sporting became mainstream so did the acceptance of sport shoes for leisure wear. Lace up, low top, Converse and Keds brands dominated the market.
1930s Mens Shoes
In the 1930’s casual men’s shoes were introduced. The moccasin or loafer shoe for cool weather and the leather sandal for summer time became fashionable. Two toned patterns of brown and white or black and white moved from the stiff oxford and brogue to the casual sport shoes.
Rubber soled shoes, such as Keds, came about in the 1930’s as well. These casual shoes had a sporty look with a casual and comfortable feel. Keds came in all sorts of solid and two tone color combination. Amazingly 1930’s Ked’s don’t look much different than men’s Keds today.
For work and office the oxford was still the only mens shoes, however it became much more fancy in the 1920’s. Brogue, or small perforated holes, appeared all over the shoes. Some featured just a design on the toe while others just around the edging. By the mid 1930’s brogeing was all over the shoes. These tiny holes allowed air to flow through, keeping your feet nice and cool in the summer. Brogue and wingtip oxfords are the easiest shoe to find today and the most vintage in style for your 30’s wardrobe. Shop here for some great 30’s mens shoes.
The 1940’s didn’t offer much change in shoe fashion for men. In the early 40’s most men were serving in the war and wore military issued boots. Men at home continued wearing lace up oxfords in black and brown. Due to the restrictions during the war shoes were kept longer, repairing as necessary. The same shoes from the 30’s could have been worn for the duration of the 40’s if well taken care of.