The Shoe Trends that Defined 1920s Fashion

The 1920s ushered in a new era for women, especially when it came to fashion.

After World War I, society began to shift away from the strict Victorian era and into the swinging Jazz Age. In the United States, women gained the right to vote thanks to the 19th Amendment, which was passed in 1919. Henry Ford’s mass production of cars also allowed women to travel in public spaces like never before. Additionally, cities began to witness a population boom of both young men and women seeking opportunity. This combination of political, cultural and technological shifts granted women freedom in both lifestyle and dress.

Fashion trends for women became quite liberating at this time. Corsets came off, hemlines and haircuts got shorter, furthermore allowing room for women to express themselves.

With dresses getting shorter and ankles now exposed, shoes, too, now entered the spotlight in the ’20s. Take a look back at the shoe styles that defined the times a century ago.

T-Strap Heels

T strap shoes, 1920s, wedding shoes, 1920s shoes
Close up of the elegant embroidered T-strap shoes, 1923.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Known for its distinctive “T” strap across the vamp, the T-strap heel became a popular footwear choice for women when it came to formal footwear. Often paired with a low, curved heel, the T-strap was a sultry but sturdy shoe favored among the flapper subculture. Flappers, who were young, cosmopolitan women, experienced the newfound freedoms of the ’20s and were a definitive group of the time. To this day, the style of the flapper is what most consider 1920s fashion. (Think fringe dresses, T-strap heels, long cigarettes and bob haircuts.)

Oxford Shoes

Josephine Baker, oxford shoes, 1920s, 1920 shoes
Josephine Baker, 1928.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

The Oxford was considered the everyday shoe for women of the 1920s and continued to be popular in the 1930s as well. The formal lace-up shoe was often built on a low military or Louis heel, making it a practical day shoe. The Oxford came in sleek natural leather and canvas colorways.

Mary Janes

Louise Brooks, 1920s, mary janes, 1920s shoe trends
Louise Brooks, 1925.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Like the T-strap heel, the Mary Jane was another favorite of the flapper subculture. The low-heeled shoe with a singular and suggestive strap on the vamp made it an ideal shoe for dancing or a night on the town. The trend continues to be a popular footwear choice today and is expected to make a big comeback for the spring ’20 season.

Tennis Shoes

Helen Wills, 1920s, tennis shoes, 1920s shoes
Helen Wills during a practice game at San Francisco, 1925.
CREDIT: Everett/Shutterstock

In 1916, Keds designed the first tennis shoe for women, and by the 1920s the shoe began to gain traction both in the sports and leisure world. The flat lace-up canvas shoe was worn by women athletes of the era including tennis star, Helen Willis.

From the Archieves: Photos of Celebrities in 1920s-inspired fashion.

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