Footwear is normally the most overlooked part of dressing and styling. However, if the evolution of men’s shoes were carefully examined, they would prove to be the most iconic elements of men’s dress in any part of the history. In Victorian era boots remained the most common style of footwear but were shorter in length. Laced shoes and Congress Gaiters also entered the footwear fashion in step for some time. Spats were sometimes worn to keep mud and mock out of the lowered styled trousers and sometimes just as a fashion statement.
Victorian Era Boots
In Victorian era men wore boots which were fastened with buttons and hooks or with laces. Some of the boots even had elastic or spring siding so that putting them on and off was easier. Boots were typically designed to have pointed, narrowed toes with specifying at the edges. Some men even decorated their boots by covering them with spats.
Fashionable men wore tall leather boots over their breeches specially when the weather was bad or they had to do lot of walking that day. However, the resultant innovation of half boot, which is pretty self-explanatory, came into fashion and was used more extensively soon by 1830s. The most popular among all styles was the half boots with laces which came to be known as Oxford shoes as it was first adopted by Oxford students.
The elastic sided boots continued to be in fashion till 1890s. One of the typical styles of 1880s was buttoned boots with cloth tops, which complemented the fashion of wearing short gaiters with knickerbockers while spats went along with more formal clothes.
Spats were usually in white, light grey or fawn. They had buttons on the sides and were fastened under the foot with the help of a buckle strap. Boots that had contrast top of kid or cloth tops, continued to be in fashion till 1920s along with spats. Till 1890s the colour of the boots and shoes were black or brown and white was introduced for summer wear by then.
Laced shoes were seen from 1880s particularly in summer and with fancy socks. Normally the colour of socks was black even when the shoes were light ones. Sock-suspenders were seen in use from the middle of 1890s. They were bands of elastics which were worn below the knees and were held with a pendent clip. This was to hold the top of the socks. However, by late 1870s, rubber and canvas shoes were worn for tennis. These were the forerunners of the American sneakers of today.
Till 1890s, thinner soled elastic sided boots were worn by many men even for the evenings in place of pumps. However, from 1890s to 1920s, low cut pump made of patent leather which has a large flat bow made of grosgrain ribbon, was seen more common among men.