The first supermodel was the style icon of the sixties. In 1972 when her manager, photographer Justin de Villeneuve convinced traditional British shoemaker George Cleverly to design brogues for a female audience the result was a black and white brogue with a bow on top that were worn by Twiggy. A traditional shoe worn by farmers in the 1800s suddenly became a fashion item, still worn and loved to this day.
Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers
Possibly the most iconic shoes of all time, Dorothy’s ruby slippers were the result of a screenwriter maximising the then new technology of technicolor film. In the novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by Frank L. Baum that the film is based on, Dorothy wears silver slippers. The screenwriter Noel Langley suggested that he silver be changed to red so that they would contrast with the yellow brick road. Five pairs of the shoes were made and all but one had felt on the soles to stop noise during the dance routines on the yellow brick road. Made by LA’s Western Costume Company, they are probably the most famous shoes ever made. Made from dyed white silk shoes with burgundy sequins, between four and ten pairs were made for the film, with four surviving to this day. A pair are currently being restored by The Smithsonian Museum.
Marie Antoinette’s Ribboned Heels
The last Queen of France was famed for her decadent lifestyle and expensive habits including hosting masquerade balls and gambling. Known as Madame Deficit, she famously would spend twice her allocated clothing allowance. Pairs of her shoe collection have recently been auctioned and show her passion for luxury with shoes made of silk and ribbon, including a pair originally in the colours of the French Tricolour. Her heels even walked to the Guillotine with her, as her last words are reported to have been to the executioner after she trod on his toe, saying “Monsieur, beg your pardon, I did not do it on purpose.”
Audrey Hepburn’s Ballet Flats
Audrey Hepburn is undoubtedly a fashion icon, but a lot of that credit should go to eight time oscar winner and Hollywood costume designer Edith Head as well as Hubert du Givenchy. Hepburn grew up with a desire to be a ballet dancer, but standing at 5’7” she was told she was too tall to be a dancer. She is rumoured to have chosen flat style shoes because of her belief that she was “tall for a woman.” Her iconic style of capri pants and ballet flats can be seen in the 1954 film Sabrina and in the 1957 Funny Face.
Converse All Stars
Designed in 1917 the Converse All Star shoe is undoubtedly a classic shoe. Charles “Chuck” Taylor started working for the company in 1923 and suggested improvements to the shoe. As a salesman he sold them to leading stars in the NBA helping increase their popularity. By WWII they were supplied to the American Army for use in physical training. By the 1960s 90% of players in the NBA were wearing the shoes. Production increased and they became a fashion item off the courts, becoming a cornerstone in subculture fashion. Selling 100 million pairs a year, there are few shoes more popular in the world today.