Lately, the subject of shoes seems to have fallen to the wayside since the Herring Shoes review or the shoe-sock combinations. Recently, in what appeared to be a timely reminder, I saw a beautiful painting with shoes as the main subject in an issue of Apparel Arts magazine from Fall 1933.
It shows us a man, likely a valet, who holds two pairs of town shoes in his hands. On the left, we see stunning pair of mid-brown captoe oxford shoes with a little bit of brogueing and a captoe medallion. The last seems to be quite sophisticated and is probably English. On the right, there is a pair of black oxfords with a similar last, which are made of a waxed calf. The brogueing is visibly reduced to a line along the cap, which makes them more appropriate for dressier occasions.
My favorite pair in this picture is the cognac brown pair of field boots. During the era, this kind of boot in light brown meant that it was exclusively reserved for horseback riding in the countryside or on informal occasions.
To the right of the boots, you can see wing tip brogues in Scotch grain with overlapping tongues in a darker brown. Apparently, these kind of shoes were popular with Long Island sportsmen at that time. Today, you see them mostly on golf courses, although you will sometimes see them in a form of tassel loafer in the US too.
Of interest is the pair of shoes next in line: the three eyelet blucher shoe in box calf with a crepe sole, which was the shoe of choice for the undergraduates at Yale and Princeton. They were also worn to play golf, and were likewise popular for country wear.
The only black shoe in the painting – other than the valet’s shoes – is a pair of captoe bluchers with five eyelets. It is a rather versatile shoe, and as such, it was worn by many gentlemen in the 1930’s.
At the very right, you can see a brown buckskin shoe with a velour finish and two eyelets at the very top that follows the lines of an English riding shoe. Today, boots in this shape are readily available, but in the thirties it was certainly something very new in footwear, and was initially spotted with the horsey Long Island set. I do own a pair of these kind of buckskin boots, which I will have to profile more closely in a future article.
Other than the shoes themselves, there is a stunning shoe suit case in the back right of the picture, as well as a beautiful leather hat box and an assortment of hats.
On the chair in the back of the room is a mid brown snap brim hat with a high crown and a wide ribbon. Nowadays, this shape is often perceived as quintessentially American, and in 1933, these proportions were indeed the latest cry with well-dressed men in NYC’s financial district.
The pale grey Homburg hat on the stunning leather hat box was also a favorite of businessmen at the time. Just recently, I was able to acquire three vintage Homburg hats, so stay tuned for more details in a future piece.
Apart from the fact that proper hats are rarely seen anymore, the green rough felt Tyrolean hat you can see in the picture is even rarer than other hats in the US. It is ideal for casual and informal occasions.
Next in line is the derby hat, also know as a bowler or coke. Apparently, it is shown in the exact proportions as was en vogue in the fall of 1933. This means it had a high crown and was not overly round on top, but featured a curled brim – which is something you will search for in vain among modern day bowler hat designs.
Lastly, you can see another Homburg in an interesting shade of brown, as well as a district check cap with a pale blue overplaid.
I found this painting so valuable because it was clearly commissioned by Apparel Arts to illustrate the latest fashion of the time. Just think about the chances of GQ having their own painting made today – they are probably close to zero!
In any case, you should slowly but surely store the panama hats and summer shoes away and start to get our your fall winter beauties!