All official sports came to a halt when America entered WWII in 1941. Thousands of college and professional athletes went to war and so did their coaches, trainers, and manufacturers of sporting goods. It wasn’t until after the war in 1946 when sport shoe developers returned to work and invented many shoes we are familiar with today.
Since the 1880s, Converse brand Hi-Top shoes were the only official maker of athletic shoes. Their brown leather and suede shoes with the round classic converse label made for a striking contrast to the everyday lace up boots and Oxford shoes. Eventually, brown gave way to black and leather gave way to canvas. Converse shoes were worn by basketball players, baseball players, and football players with the addition of metal cleats. By the late ’40s, teenagers were wearing converse as their everyday shoes.
In 1936, the US Olympics named the Converse All-Star as their official sport shoe. Shortly thereafter, the Converse sneaker went to war, this time as an all white shoe for training exercises. The shoes were worn with blue and white All Star text on the Converse’s classic round seal as a patriotic symbol. After the war, Converse went back to the design board and came up with the now classic Black and White All Star sneaker – still keeping the patriotic seal for another few decades.
For women, Converse shoes were not an option, although I am sure a few women chose to wear the men’s shoes anyways. Instead, women embraced classic brown Oxfords for lawn sports like golf and the rubber soled classic white Keds for surface sports like Tennis.
The Movie A League of their Own chronicles the women’s baseball teams in the 1940s. Teams were put together as entertainment for the women’s factory workers. The choice of footwear was leather Oxfords, the same shoes they wore in factories.
Classic Converse, saddle golf shoes, and white Keds can all still be found today. Pick up a pair for your next vintage sporting day.