Evolution of Shoes throughout the Decades: 1940s until Today
Grace Hensgens, Sarah Peplinski, Alvin McQuirter, Madison Perrin
Over time, shoes on Louisiana State University’s campus have evolved dramatically. From year to year, the shoes students wore had very little changes; however, from decade to decade the changes are very noticeable. Shoes are so important because people wear them everyday; therefore, they need to be durable and comfortable. In the early decades, the style of shoes across the board was very formal. This was due in part to the time period, but more importantly because of LSU’s dress code. It did not matter whether the occasion was business related or if people were about to go out for a daytime stroll, students did not have many options. As times progressed, shoe styles did as well. New brands began to emerge into the scene and catch the eyes of LSU students alike. Throughout the decades as LSU’s dress code lessened, then ultimately dropped, we saw the freedom to become more casual follow down to shoe choices. Women began to venture out and wear more tennis shoes instead of just heels and oxfords. Men could be seen wearing sandals and less business casual shoes such as penny loafers. Ultimately, shoe styles became more casual and versatile as the decades went on. Even now, in this time period, you can see just how transcendent the evolution of shoes has become throughout the population of LSU. Students can now be seen in the new, up to date shoe styles but can also be seen reverting back to the origins for different occasions. The variety of shoes today is huge and is being taken advantage of everyday.
Throughout the 1940’s and up until the 1960’s, not much changed regarding shoes of the men, women, or athletes. This was because LSU still had their dress code policy enforced so there was no freedom to choose. The men, over the three decades wore oxfords or penny loafers with their everyday class attire, which consisted of slacks, button downs, and sometimes a nice jacket or coat. The cadets wore penny loafers, but attached a stirrup, which slipped on the bottom that was about calf length high to keep their pants from getting caught on anything. The women wore saddle oxfords or heels. Closer to the 1960’s is when the heels grew to about 4 inches in height and the actual shoe was seen to be strappy and more revealing than what it was originally. This was partially due to the fact that dress code was lightening up as skirts grew shorter and women were allowed to show more skin. The athletes’ started off with all black high-top Converses for basketball, and leather high-top cleats were worn for the remaining sports including football, baseball, and track. Below, figure one shows the black high-tops worn by the men’s basketball team.
The few women that participated in sports were seen wearing saddle oxfords. Particularly an old dirty pair, as we concluded by looking at their everyday class saddle oxfords that were clean that these were a second pair they designated to sports activities.
Approaching the 1970’s and following through to the 1990’s we saw substantial growth in variety of an everyday shoe. The cadets in the ‘70’s finally went with a more practical shoe, the combat boot, and ditched the stirrup attachment. Also around the start of 1970, LSU left behind their dress code allowing students to be free to dress themselves as they pleased. Not only did the men stray away from the typical loafers and oxfords, but they were beginning to go with a more confortable style. Platform shoes may not be viewed as a comfortable shoe but that was the style in the ‘70’s! Along with this, they also began to wear flip-flops and tennis or running shoes. Different brands of these running shoes emerged but the most popular according to the Gumbo yearbooks during this time were Nike and Adidas. Converse also became more popular for men all over campus; they were not just for basketball players anymore. Towards the ‘90’s Doctor Martin’s also became popular and they made shoes like boots and sandals which were seen throughout the yearbooks. Women’s shoes had the most dramatic change during these decades. As mentioned earlier, the dress code policy was omitted at the women were free to wear whatever shoe was most comfortable to walk across campus in. Because of how large LSU’s campus is and assuming heels are not the best fit for walking to and from class in, women stopped wearing them. The only shoes with height the women kept around were clogs and platforms. Women were also seen to wear Doctor Martin’s, sandals, and running shoes. The popular brands for men’s running shoes carried into the women’s as well. The Athletics at this time also saw a fairly dramatic change. The basketball shoes were now a more supportive and thicker leather Converse that was now white, seen to the right in figure two, in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. In the ‘90’s, the popular basketball shoe was changed to the Jordan, Nike, or Reebok shoe. These shoes were much more supportive of the physical activity required on the court. Figure three below represents the Rebok shoe and another contribution to the evolution of the basketball footwear.
Other men’s athletic shoes consisted of Nike, Adidas, or Converse cleats. Women’s athletic shoes consisted of either Adidas or Converse running shoes.
Since the 2000’s began, the variety of shoes worn has not changed at all, if any, and is constant with the styles worn today. Men began to steer away from the platform shoes and stuck with the comfortable running shoe or sandals. Brands like Nike, Adidas, and New Balance were popular among students. In addition, men also started wearing TOM’s, which were a slip on, no tie kind of shoe. These also became popular for the women, along with the same brands of running shoes. Women also were seen to be wearing UGG boots, sandals, Birkenstocks, and Converse. As for athletics, men and women’s sports stuck to brands like Nike and Adidas and got the appropriate shoe for their sport. The basketball shoes were now either purple, as seen in figure four, or white with yellow accents, as seen in figure 5 to represent the colors of LSU but still very supportive to the feet.
To conclude, students reach for whatever they feel is necessary to compliment their personal style, but also comfortable enough to walk to and from classes and parking lots. With the breakdown of the dress code that once required clean professional dress of students, came the comfortable and effortless look that is now what is worn today. No more uncomfortable leather loafers or oxfords with little foot support to add to a student’s pain while walking across campus to class. There are now comfortable, high-support running or sandal shoes that are the typical choice of students today.
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College, “Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1963” (1963). Gumbo Yearbook. 65. https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/gumbo/65
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College, “Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1975” (1975). Gumbo Yearbook. 75. https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/gumbo/75
Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, “Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 2010” (2010.) Gumbo Yearbook. 110 https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/gumbo/110
Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, “Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 2015” (2015.) Gumbo Yearbook. 115 https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/gumbo/115
“Black Converse High-Top Basketball Shoe.” Gumbo Yearbook. 40
“White Converse Basketball Shoe.” Gumbo Yearbook. 75
“Black Reebok Basketball Shoe.” Gumbo Yearbook. 90
“Purple Nike Basketball Shoe.” Gumbo Yearbook. 115
“White and Yellow Basketball Shoe.” Gumbo Yearbook. 115