Popular Shoes in the 70’s That We Can’t Seem to Let Go Of

jelly sandalThe 70’s was a decade with its own set of fads and shoes were no exception. Some have come, some have gone and some we can’t seem to get rid of even though every shred of logical thinking says we should. Here are some of my favorite shoe memories of the 70’s.

  1. Earth shoes. This was a shoe that turned the whole footware industry upside down by creating a counter-intuitive design with a sole that was higher than the heel. Walking in these things was freaky, immediately made you lose your balance and quite possibly was the inspiration behind Michael Jackson’s famous moonwalk the following decade. Oh and did I mention these shoes were ugly as hell? I had to rally hard for a pair of these clown shoes and I still remember mom’s protests over this purchase. As the daughter of a traveling shoe salesman who owned dozens of shoes by the time she was 16, mom had to swallow hard and beg forgiveness from the illustrious shoe gods before purchasing these ugly suckers for me.
  2. Rubber rain and snow boots. These boots were made of a thin rubber that protected you against neither rain nor snow. But they gave the illusion that your mother was dressing you in weather appropriate outerwear. Girls had red boots, boys had black. Those were the only two colors available as far as I can recall. In recent years, these boots have made an unprecedented comeback with new colors and patterns that us red-booted girls could never have imagined in 1971. Unfortunately, somewhere in between my 8th and 35th birthdays I developed a wicked allergy to rubber and being within ten feet of rubber rain boots makes me want to pass out.
  3. Buffalo Sandals. These sandals with their thick straps and wedged high heel became popular around 1975 when I was old enough to balance in heels, yet too clueless to realize just how ugly these sandals were. They weren’t called buffalo sandals for nothing.
  4. Candies. Previously discussed here and here, these high heeled clogs were a recipe for disaster, but they did afford young women a break from Instant Pants and a foray into purchasing pants that didn’t require a ten inch hem.
  5. Jelly Sandals. Mom would never let us run barefoot in the sprinklers for fear we would contract some virus or step on a piece of gum or glass. However she had no compunction about putting our tender young feet in a sandal made out of hard plastic that routinely drew blood from your skin. Last I checked, these evil shoes were still popular. I actually purchased a pair for my daughter when she was 18 months old. I assumed it was a right of passage.
  6. Converse Sneakers. The period name for these shoes was Keds or Pro Keds because pro basketball players wore them. It’s not like they had a choice. This was the only sneaker available on the market at the time. Running on two pieces of Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum would have provided just as adequate foot support. Yet these sneakers made a huge comback about ten years ago at a price point that is easily $40 higher. Now they are considered trendy retro as opposed to the truth; really cheap shoes.
  7. Clogs. Ok, these are shoes that should never go away. My affinity with clogs has already been documented here and I continue to appreciate them as I grow older and it becomes harder to bend down to put on or tie my shoes.
  8. Mary Janes. These were a staple of every young girl’s wardrobe in the 70’s and I looked forward to the annual dose of radiation doled out at the Buster Brown foot X-ray machine that was the prerequisite to purchasing a new pair each year. In the 70’s, Mary Janes were hardcore with a strap and teeny tiny hole to fasten them; none of this lame velcro shit.
  9. Lil Abners. These were a lace up boot that many of my classmates owned. There was no way in hell I was getting a pair of these after I’d made the earth shoe purchase. In retrospect I should have held out for the Lil Abners. They were much cooler and didn’t upset your equilibrium or mess with your Feng Shui.
  10. Flip Flops. After our mothers had inflicted enough pain on us via the jelly sandals, many of us graduated to flip flops as the beach footware of choice. I could never get the hang of these things. I always seemed to be flipping when I should be flopping and after getting lost from my camp group on numerous occasions due to my uncoordinated flip flopping, I was forced to purchase the less trendy slide sandals that only 70 year old Russian immigrants were wearing (with socks). I was chided by my peers and ashamed of my inability to find the ying and the yang within my inner flip and flop. Defeated (pun intended) I abandoned these shoes until the late 80’s when mind over matter triumphed and I retrained my brain and coordinated my steps to make walking in these things possible.

Hairstyles of the Not So Rich and Famous

According to my father, the only memory he has of me as a child is my mother trying to comb my hair and me screaming. This is only a partial exaggeration. Hair care products in the late 60’s and 70’s left a lot to be desired. My mother made finding a hair care product that would make combing out my hair easier a part-time job. She researched all the products and finally thought she was on to something when she found a product called Hair So New. It came in a pretty pink bottle that no little girl could resist, nor could a big girl whose nerves were shot from fights with her daughter over combing her hair. She was wooed by the product’s promise that she could just spray something in my hair and the knots would comb right out.  The reality was that a lot of mothers probably got suckered into buying this crap which was probably no more than water and fragrance. The screaming continued.

The 70’s were a time that I refer to as BC…before conditioner, when girls with curly, frizzy hair like mine had few options for wearing their hair down. To make matters worse, my hair was red at the time and all my big hair needed was a red nose and clown shoes to make the look complete. At least back in those days, having red hair in itself was not considered a bad thing, unlike today when “Kick a Ginger Day” has become an annual event. I was the only red head in my class and people who didn’t know me just called me red. Today my hair color is a cross between Clairol’s Chlorine Infused Yellow, Loreal’s Sun Damage Supreme, and Old Fart Gray, but at least I don’t have to worry about being kicked by all those ginger haters.

To keep my hair in check during those early years, mom would select a hair style that gathered up as much hair as possible and hid it somewhere. In kindergarten and first grade this meant a botox inspired back ponytail and in second grade mom branched out to two side by side ponytails that balanced out the missing teeth on both sides of my mouth.

Mom nearly had a stroke every year the night before school picture day when she would scramble to create a hair style that wouldn’t result in conversations from me years later along the lines of “You let me leave the house looking like that???” The night before picture day, mom set my hair in big plastic curlers and let me sit underneath her fancy hairdryer for an hour or two. When I could no longer stand the itchy, burning feeling that was part and parcel to scorching your hair for 90 minutes, mom would take out the curlers and see what she had baked. I still had curls; they were just much bigger and harder to manage but most of the frizz was gone. Mom would encourage me to sleep lightly on my head and not move around too much (what?) so my hair wouldn’t be a mess in the morning. By 8am the next morning, some of the frizz usually creeped back in and mom felt defeated.

By the fifth grade, mom convinced me to cut my hair short into a sort of bob. The look was not a great one for me to begin with, but what made matters worse was that I had bangs. Girls with curls should not have bangs because the bangs curl in all different directions and make you look like you had to cut your hair that way because you accidentally got chewing gum stuck in it the day before.

In seventh grade everyone was watching Charlie’s Angels and all the girls wanted to have hair like Farrah Fawcett. We girls studied the semen stained poster of Farrah in the red bathing suit that hung in every 13 year old boy’s  room and waited for the big day when we could go down to Natural Identity Hair Salon and get our new doo. Mine lasted 45 minutes and then turned into a mass of curls and frizz. Shortly after, I ended up with a pixie haircut which made me look more like Charlie’s underling Bosley than Farrah.

During high school, I tried to grow my hair out again, with varying degrees of success. My hair never really grew down but rather out, kind of like a poofy triangle. But I decided that this Jewfro was the lesser of two evils and kept it that way for a few years.

In the early 80’s, I was given a new lease on life when hair conditioner became an easy to find and affordable hair care product. Gone were the days of hair that was as wide as I was tall and I finally made peace with my arch enemy, the comb. Years later, hair conditioner was joined by its soul mate, hair gel and I finally started having a semi frizz-free life.