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.