This month, FN is looking at the many close connections between footwear and cars. Earlier, we examined how designers take cues from automakers and also entered the world of high-intensity racing. Now, a look back at how it all started…
One of the earliest examples of the relationship between automobiles and footwear dates back to the 1960s, a decade marked by a fascination for fast, expensive cars, with Italian manufacturers leading the way.
To elevate the experience, a wave of new footwear emerged that allowed car and driver to form a closer bond.
Recognizable for the rubber nubs on their outsoles, driving shoes (or driving mocs, as they’re also known) were designed to allow auto enthusiasts greater ease and flexibility while navigating between the gas and brake pedals. However, the look soon made its way off the road as car owners began sporting the shoes as a chic everyday casual.
One of the first brands on the driving-shoe scene was Car Shoe, launched in 1963 by founder Gianni Mostile and now owned by The Prada Group. Mostile was awarded a patent by the Italian Ministry of Industry & Trade for a moccasin with a sole perforated with rubber studs. It didn’t take long for Italian brand Tod’s to accelerate the trend and offer its take on the look.
According to Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, driving shoes allowed man and machine to be in greater synchronicity. Back then, she explained, men’s footwear was typically heavily soled, restricting them from feeling the pedals. “The kinds of shoes you wear to drive a sports car require nimble handling,” she said.
In addition to its feel, the style’s aesthetic attracted everyday consumers. “The driving shoe has an elegant, simple design that, when combined with its connection to luxury and fashion, has made it a staple,” said Semmelhack.
Driving shoes continue to hold their position of status. Semmelhack noted that they’re perfect for guys who appreciate the comfort aspects — and the fact that they come in a rainbow of hues.
Car Shoe, in particular, continues to build on its driving-shoe heritage with updates to the look. According to the company, “The style has preserved its features of comfort and practicality, while combining today’s technology with contemporary design.”