Harry S. Truman's Shoes

The Shoe Collection of Harry S. Truman

In the past we discussed Harry S. Truman’s suits and today, in collaboration with the Harry S Truman NHS National Park Service, we’d like to present an exclusive gallery of photos of his eclectic shoe collection along with a few pictures of him wearing them. Without a doubt, Truman was one of the most dapper presidents of the 20th century and so it is a pure joy to look at the details of his wardrobe.

As Truman was an avid supporter of classic menswear, it does not come as a surprise to see that he owned a total of 96 pairs of shoes, including many classic oxford shoes. However, he also had quite a selection of more unusual shoes that most presidents of the 20th century did not have in their shoe closets. I would like to focus my attention more on the unusual models.  If the shoes seem rather small to you, it is because Truman wore a size 7.

Reddish brown oxford wingtip brogue shoes - note the cross lacing

Reddish brown oxford wingtip brogue shoes – note the cross lacing

This was one of the very classic wingtip brogues in burgundy-brown he owned. Note the criss – cross lacing used for the shoe. Personally, I prefer straight laces for oxford shoes and crossed for derbys. This particular pair was made by Gerardo Vitiello and features a leather and linen lining. Nowadays it seems that all leather linings are considered to be top notch, but back in the day, a linen lining was often used under the front uppers. I own a few shoes with linen lining and I have to say I prefer its breathability over a leather lining.

Truman in light colored suit and Oxford shoes

Truman in light colored suit and Oxford shoes

Truman wearing some classic brogue oxfords.

Truman in dark shoes on March 27, 1952, upon the return of the Truman family to the White House after renovations

Truman in dark shoes on March 27, 1952, upon the return of the Truman family to the White House after renovations

Sadly, the black and white pictures don’t reveal what shade his shoes were, though given the occasion, I assume these shoes were black. In the picture, you see the Trumans returning to the White House after a three and a half year renovation.

White buckskin summer shoes

White buckskin summer shoes

More so than other presidents, Truman had an affinity to summer shoes in white as well as spectators. I was able to find quite a few pictures of him wearing white shoes in the summer and the wear of the soles also proves that he frequently wore them. This model is a plain off white buck skin oxford. As you can see the upper seam on the inside, it is technically not a wholecut shoe, but it looks like one. I am sure it would look great with a seersucker suit.

Truman in white shoes aboard a ship

Truman in white shoes aboard a ship

saw quite a bit of wear

saw quite a bit of wear

Truman in white summer shoes

Truman in white summer shoes

A full brogue buckskin summer shoe with leather sole & goodyear welt

A full brogue buckskin summer shoe with leather sole & goodyear welt

This is a beautiful classic wingtip oxford in white buckskin suede with a rubber sole that was made by Allen Edmonds. The fact that it has 7 eyelets makes it special because most Oxfords have just 5, current Allen Edmonds have 6, but 7 really creates a different look. Personally, I find this last quite elegant – the rounded toebox is tapered and flatter than current models. Overall a fantastic shoe that is still missing in my shoe collection.

Truman loved spectators

Truman loved spectators

Another of Truman’s favorites was the spectator shoe in brown and white. He owned several of these two tone shoes and I would love to see a future president wear these again in the summer. This model features goodyear welted leather soles and white suede. Unfortunately, it is not clear who made these shoes but to me they look very similar to Allen Edmonds lasts from the present. The fact that it has a Cat’s Paw rubber heel proves that it was resoled and so it is clear that Truman must have worn them quite a bit.

Truman in 4x2 summer suit with spectators

Truman in 4×2 summer suit with spectators

White dark brown & white alligator croc spectator by Nettleton

White dark brown & white alligator spectator by Nettleton

These brown alligator and white suede captoe spectators were made by Nettleton Syracuse, NY where the company produced shoes from 1879 to 1984. The welt is very finely stitched and the heel is fastened with brass nails. Overall, an exquisite pair of spectators.

Interesting Norwegian style split toe derby spectator shoes by Ike Kempner Shoes for  Truman

Interesting Norwegian style split toe derby spectator shoes by Ike Kempner Shoes for  Truman

This unusual spectator with split toe and derby lacing was made by Ike Kempner and Brothers Shoe store (known as Kempner throughout the US in the early 20th century). The shoes feature a leather sole, rubber heals, a uniquely perforated suede vamp as well as unusual detailing. Back in the day, you’d find a much bigger variety in classic men’s shoe styles and this is the perfect example.

Truman with mustache at Reserve training at Fort Riley, Kansas in July 1927

Truman with mustache at Reserve training at Fort Riley, Kansas in July 1927

A very rare picture of Truman with mustache and hat and boots while training for the reserve in Fort Riley, Kansas in July 1927.

Square toe monk strap shoe from Harry S. Truman

Square toe monk strap shoe from Harry S. Truman

Politicians often try to emphasize their patriotism by displaying their use of domestic products, ranging from cars to suits and shoes. Truman seems not to have favored any one shoe simply because it was American. At least, there are a number of shoes that were produced abroad. Instead of origin, he seems to have favored the unique style of a specific shoe. This monk strap shoe with a square toe is not really to my liking, nevertheless it is an noteworthy example of the variety in Truman’s shoe closet. It was made of black boxcalf leather by Nicholas Alianiello from Toronto, who patented a cushioned shoe in 1950.

Made in Canada by Nicholas Alianiello

Made in Canada by Nicholas Alianiello

Truman on the beach

Truman on the beach

On the beach, Truman preferred a tropical helmet and light weight shoes, such as these colorful cotton canvas sneakers with a crepe sole.

Colorful canvas summer shoes

Colorful canvas summer shoes

Summer shoes with crepe sole in mint conditon

Summer shoes with crepe sole in mint

conditionTruman was a believer in proper evening wear and possessed not only a tuxedo, but also white dinner jackets and a tailcoat. The patent leather shoes below were his companion for these outfits. Made by Florsheim, the rounded last is quite elegant and the slim blucher style make them just as formal as plain patent leather oxford. This model reminds me of formal opera pumps without being too dissimilar from a regular shoe.

Elegant Florsheim evening shoes as worn by Harry S. Truman

Elegant Florsheim evening shoes as worn by Harry S. Truman

Florsheim label inside Truman's evening shoes

Florsheim label inside Truman’s evening shoes

Harry S. Truman with captoe oxfords and cowboy boots

Harry S. Truman with captoe oxfords and cowboy boots

Below, you can see an extravagant pair of brown leather boots with synthetic fur which were made by the Atheltic Shoe Company of Chicago. They were sold in the early 1950′s, so the shoe has to be more than 60 years old. Interestingly, the sole reveals that the shoes have never been worn outside, which makes me assume it may have been a gift that Truman accepted but never wore.

Extraordinary, fake fur lined boot

Extraordinary, fake fur lined boot

Obviously, they were never worn

Obviously, they were never worn

Truman in the same two tone shoes on July 6, 1957 - the day the Truman Library opened together with Hoover

Truman in the same two tone shoes on July 6, 1957 – the day the Truman Library opened together with Hoover

In this picture, we can see Truman together with Herbert Hoover on the opening day of the Truman library on July 6, 1957. He wears the exact same two tone shoes that you can see below. It was made by Freeman in Maine around 1945 and advertised as “Wonderful Feeling”. The style is similar to a Norwegian shoe with a gray fabric vamp, and little black leather tassels. Just like most of his other shoes, it featured a leather sole with a rubber heel.

Grey fabric - black leather two tone shoes from the 1950's

Grey fabric – black leather two tone shoes from the 1950′s

Truman’s estate consisted of 5 pairs of boots, just 1 pair of loafers, 4 pairs of sandals, 42 pairs of regular shoes, 3 deck shoes, and an astonishing 21 slippers! Below, we show you just a few of this eclectic collection of house shoes.

Hand embroidered flowery slippers

Hand embroidered flowery slippers

This embroidered Albert slippers are quite flamboyant and a bit effeminate, but as you can see below, they were obviously not worn very often, although they were part of Truman’s collection since 1952.

but Truman never wore them

but Truman never wore them

Instead he preferred the classic leather slippers seen below.

Leather house slippers - that show quite some wear

Leather house slippers – that show quite some wear

Another pair of house shoes was made by Church’s of England.

English house slippers by Church's England

English house slippers by Church’s England

Last but not least, take a look at this pair of blue velvet house slippers with leather sole and HT embroidery. When I first saw them, I wondered why they actually embroidered the script facing the wearer. Once I realized that these shoe were made by Ang Tibay in Manila it became clear that they probably don’t make too many embroidered slippers which would explain why the monogramming was upside down.

Monogrammed velvet slippers of Truman - note the HT is engraved upside down

Monogrammed velvet slippers of Truman – note the HT is engraved upside down

Overall, Truman had quite the shoe collection and probably no US president after him was as much of a clothes horse as he was. Now that you got a glimpse into his shoe collection, what is your favorite and least favorite pair?

Picture Credit: Harry S Truman NHS National Park Service

 

21 replies
  1. RODNEY L. WALKER
    RODNEY L. WALKER says:

    I’ve been interested in what President Truman wore for a long time. Once I learned that he’d been a haberdasher early in his life I knew he would have an interesting wardrobe. I would Google his name with “style”, or “wardrobe”, to no avail. I’m so glad you’ve offered a look at what he wore, particularly the shoes, as I have a thing for classic shoes also. Now, I’m looking for a similar pictorial on the Duke of Windsor. This is an excellent newsletter for men with classic tastes. Keep up the good work. You’re appreciated. Thanks!

  2. Chris
    Chris says:

    What a marvelous and interesting posting. Thanks very much for sharing.

    I used to own a pair each that are similar to the two brown and white spectators. I bought these shoes brand new in the 1980s, from a incredible time-warp store in Vancouver, Washington – called the “CC Store.” On display, in the store, were1950s wide ties, and boxes of vintage Arrow shirts. I remember once looking through a drawer and finding a pair of socks with an “NRA” label on them. I still have those, but the shoes were sold on ebay a few years ago. I just wasn’t wearing them and it was time for them to move on.

    The shoes were in the basement of the store, and the employees were loathe to show them to even interested customers. I must have purchased about 10 pair, including some great black dress shoes and tan casual shoes. All of the shoes were sold to me at the original prices on the boxes – usually around $15/pair.

    The CC Store is long gone now. The building where it was located is still there, and when I drive by occasionally I can’t help but remember the place.

  3. Benjy
    Benjy says:

    Thanks for a most informative and enlightening article Sven. In fact, I was so enlightened that my next pair of MTM shoes will most probably be a pair of white buck wingtips, 7-hole, unlined, with a crepe sole!

  4. Arsch Sharma
    Arsch Sharma says:

    Very nice article! Mr. Truman indeed had an extensive shoe collection. The pair I liked the most were the full brogued spectators. The off white lighter tone goes fabulously with brown, unlike white with brown which makes the shoe look quite comical. Wonderful!

  5. Jacques de M. MacMaster
    Jacques de M. MacMaster says:

    The cotton canvas summer shoes are charming, and I rather like the “a bit effeminate” short cap-toe floral slippers…; wonderful post, Mr Schneider!

  6. Dan Hermann
    Dan Hermann says:

    I read David McCullough’s wonderful bio of Harry Truman, and he mentions Truman’s sartorial habits a number of times. Truman didn’t necessarily buy expensive clothes, but he bought good clothes, and he took care of them. And he was always perfectly turned out in public. He caught a little flak for his love of jazzy Hawaiian shirts, but as far as I’m concerned, anyone what doesn’t like Hawaiian shirts is my emeny (as Popeye would say).
    Having looked at a lot of pics of Washington DC from the teens through the 40s, I would bet that those white bucks were worn woth linen suits, rather than seersucker. I think the vogue for seersucker on Capitol Hill came a little later.
    Truman’s haberdashery was a block from the county courthouse in Independence, Missouri. He opened it with his old WW I buddy, Eddie Jacobson. It did a thriving business the first year, but the next year there was a severe post war drop in farm prices, and the business went belly pretty quickly. Truman always referred to it sardonically as “the shirt store”.

  7. David Crymes
    David Crymes says:

    You might remember that President Truman would walk for exercise and to simply go places. I understand that it drove the U.S.S.S. crazy with his walk abouts, especially after the attempted assinations in Washington. Even after leaving office, the former President was famous for his walking about his home town. That might answer the question as to why so many shoes with well worn soles. 73s

  8. Park Jacobs Weatheby
    Park Jacobs Weatheby says:

    Thanks once again for a very interesting article I particular like this one become I have just recently started adding to my own shoe collection with an eye toward vintage style shoes (e.g. spectators, wing tips). Truly Mr. Truman personal style speaks volumes and all well dressed men can take page from his acute sense on men’s fashion.

    I await your next informative article here at GG and as always thanks so much for all your hard work and effort!

    Best Regards,

    P. J. Weatherby

  9. Paul Dieckmann
    Paul Dieckmann says:

    Hey Sven,

    Enjoyed your article. The logic in my head makes me think that the Manila slippers were monogrammed to be seen as you walk up and slip your feet in, rather than viewing from a different perspective. Have to respect Truman though. He had excellent taste.

    Paul

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  1. [...] See the full post at Gentleman’s Gazette [...]

  2. [...] In the 1930′s Truman would wear this stunning tailcoat – I wonder whether his waistcoat, shirts and jewelry are preserved as well, but I doubt it. Of course, I would also like to see his evening shoes, or his footwear in general for that matter. [...]

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