Women Shoe Trends
This research will synthesize a comprehensive summary of women's shoe trends from the 1920s until the modern era. Each decade's shoe trends were "signs of the times," and reflected the social and cultural norms of their respective eras. There were some shoes, however, that stood out and became "iconic."
WOMEN'S SHOE TRENDS IN THE 1920s
The so-called "Roaring '20s" began just a few years after the First World War, and were indicative of a time of celebration and fun. As the hemlines got shorter, the heels got taller, and the "flapper" was born.
High and wide heels were the most commonly worn at this time, whether on a pump or a loafer-style shoe.
However, the so-called "saddle shoe" (also known as the Oxford shoe) was also just as popular, and came in a variety of colors and styles for both men and women. Lace-up boots were popular at this time, as well.
WOMEN'S SHOE TRENDS IN THE 1930s
In 1929, the stock market crashed, and the Great Depression began. These somber times were reflected in the more conservative shoe trends for women, and the high, chunky heels made way for strapped heels and pumps. In addition, laced leather leisure shoes for both men and women were extremely popular, and traditional high heels took the place of more fashionable choices.
WOMEN'S SHOE TRENDS IN THE 1940s
The 1940s brought about a Second Word War, and as such, practicality took precedence over fashion, particularly as women joined the war effort. Because more women were going out of the home to work (and were, in fact, going to work in factories to contribute to the war effort), flat shoes became more popular than their higher-heeled counterparts. For women that did feel the need to wear heels, they were little more than slight wedges. In both cases, cork- and wooden-soled shoes became more popular.
WOMEN'S SHOE TRENDS IN THE 1950s
The women's shoe trends of the 1950s can be divided into two halves. In the first half of the 1950s, the stiletto heeled opera, court, and pump shoes were all the rage. At the time, the stiletto heel (an extremely thin heel) was capped with metal. When "I Love Lucy" debuted on network television, Lucille Ball ushered a new trend of chunky ankle-strapped shoes which first gained traction from the so-called "pin-up girls" of the 1940s, but didn't really enter the popular zeitgeist until the early 1950s. By the late 1950s, however, bunnies (short for "bunny shoes," which were loafer-type shoes that had a two-eared "tongue" and a raised back that looked like a rabbit's tail) became all the rage.
WOMEN'S SHOE TRENDS IN THE 1960s
With the Sexual Revolution came sexier shoes, and the 1960s women's shoe trends reflected more liberated mores. The birth of the iconic Go-Go boot, which was a knee-high boot paired with a mini-skirt or a mini-dress, best reflected these new, liberated views. However, black slip-on boots made of both leather and faux-leather materials were also popular amongst both men and women, as were thin heels.
WOMEN'S SHOE TRENDS IN THE 1970s
Disco, hippies, and Studio 54 were all earmarks of the so-called "Decade of Decadence," and the women's shoe trends reflected these party-hearty times. The birth of the iconic platform shoe made both men and women look much taller than they were. But there were other shoes that were making their mark during this time, as well. As a reflection of a more "hippie" view on life, moccasins (and, more specifically, mocassin-style loafers with thick soles) became more popular, as did Birkenstock sandals and Earth shoes. Interestingly, too, sneakers started to make their way into the popular fashion consciousness, and they weren't just for athletics anymore.
WOMEN'S SHOE TRENDS IN THE 1980s
The 1980s ushered in a decade of women entering the corporate workforce -- and as the "power suit" gained popularity, so too did shoes that matched the look and the message of corporate attire. Accordingly, many women would wear sneakers on their way to work (which, by now, were accepted for both their form and functionality) and change into high heels when they got to the office. (At this time, wearing heels was nearly mandatory. However, in recent years, this has become a PR disaster.) In the 1980s, an iconic boot was born that would be ubiquitous in the decade to follow: the Doc Martens boot.
WOMEN'S SHOE TRENDS IN THE 1990s
The so-called "Seattle music scene" set the trend of "grunge fashion" in the 1990s, and the shoes were reflective of these times. The Doc Martens boot was ubiquitous, but while Seattle natives wore them for functionality, others wore it for the mere fashion statement. And while the pointed-toe stiletto heel was also very popular amongst more "feminine" type women, the 1990s also proved that everything old was new again as the platform shoe made a comeback (even though they were typically lower than their 1970s counterparts).
WOMEN'S SHOE TRENDS IN THE 2000s
By the new millennium, women in the workplace was not only commonplace, it was accepted. As such, fashion (and, consequently, shoes) became much more casual. However, this "anything goes" attitude usually meant that the shoes available to women were much more eclectic, ranging from kitten heels to square toed boots. Even ballerina shoes started making their way into the office.
2018 SHOE TRENDS
Finally, in keeping with the eclectic shoe trends of the new millennium, the 2018 women's shoe trends showed that anything could continue to "go" in the workplace, provided that it wasn't overtly obnoxious. Cowboy boots weren't just for ranchers anymore, and pastel shoes were perfect for the summer. As our understanding of gender identity changed, "Dad shoes" became extremely common and accepted, as well.
For many women, shoes are more than just a fashion statement; they're indicative of the times. Pop culture, television, and music all play a role in influencing the shoe trends, but as more women entered the workplace, functionality became more important than fashion. Conservative times showcased more conservative shoes, whereas more liberated times showcased sexier shoes. Today's women's shoe trends are more eclectic than ever before, especially as offices become more relaxed in their corporate culture, and especially as society becomes more accepting of flexible gender norms.