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Saddle Up

Yesterday my friend emailed me a picture of saddle oxfords, asking if I remembered them. 

“OF COURSE!” I shouted through the internet.  “I wore them every day of my life in grade school and even earlier.” Obviously Gwennie and I liked them enough to wear them at my 4th birthday party.  

Later on, I’m wearing them again, along with my first corsage from my boyfriend Donnie, a gift for my 12th birthday. I was never much of a style maven, but it looks like I was wearing my favorite angora covers over my bobby socks cuffs. I must have looked as fetching as a Clydesdale sitting at my school desk.

By high school, I had graduated to the sleeker version called Bubbles, which nowadays we’d call Saddle Oxfords Lite. They had buckles on the back which left fastened meant we were going steady. If not, we kept the buckle undone.  It was a definitive statement on our social lives, of paramount importance at the time. While usually black and white, brown and white or navy and white, newer saddle shoes began to appear in pink and white, red and white, and other combinations.   

Although I had given up my saddles by college, I owned a fabulous pair of high heel Spectators, white with a black patent leather insert, the close cousin of saddle shoes.  Since the primary color was white, I wore them only in the summertime, of course, after Memorial Day.  

The internet tells me the Spalding Company marketed the first saddle oxfords in 1906, for sport.  They provided support, with their brick red crepe soles and fat laces, and got their name from the contrasting color “saddle” across the center of the shoe.  Because of their flexibility and comfort, they caught on with the jitterbug crowd in the ‘40’s and the rest is history.  Maybe we all hoped we’d be as agile and coordinated at those swingers. (Not to be confused with “swingers.”) 

If you miss seeing saddles, check out Lucy’s shoes on Peanuts, or Elvis in “Jailhouse Rock,” or most of the characters in “Grease.”  You can also see them on golf courses too, since the style is still popular in golf shoes. If you miss wearing them, you can order a pair online for $53.65.

Those Old School shoes gave us comfort for our feet and a sense of belonging for our psyches—not a bad investment for less than $5. 


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