Friday, January 27, 2012

1918 Advice on Men's Dancing Shoes

Shoes make a vast difference in one's dancing and should be chosen very carefully. It is altogether possible to dance beautifully in one pair of shoes, and to be awkwardness personified in another. Clumsy dancing is very often due to clumsy shoes. Invest in a pair of shoes made especially for dancing, wear them only for dancing. After each party, clean them and place them on shoe forms and they will last for a long time.

A man should not try to dance in his stiff, heavy, working shoes and thus endanger his partner's feet and impair his own dancing. He will be able to dance much better in a regulation dancing shoe with black cloth top, black patent leather vamp, and thin sole. A black patent leather oxford is also comfortable and good-looking.
(Dewey, V. Persis. Tips to Dancers, Good Manners for Ballroom and Dance Hall. Kenosha WI: 1918. pp. 11-12.) 

If you take a look at the photo of Vernon and Irene Castle, you can see that he is wearing black oxfords. An oxford shoe laces up the center front.

Black patent leather was very shiny, and considered appropriate for the most formal occasions, but we have no problem with un-shiny black leather shoes at our vintage events. 

The "regulation dancing shoe" was made to look like a men's pump, with a shiny black patent part that looks like a woman's ballet flat, and an un-shiny cloth part above that, which helps keep the shoe on the man's foot.

If we had access to all the sorts of shoes that they had in 1918, we would probably suggest that men wear black oxfords for daytime dancing and black patent dance pumps for the most formal of evening balls. Since our choices are more limited, I think a man can wear black oxford dancing shoes for all occasions. The most important consideration is that they have a thin leather sole. A thin composite sole is fine if it doesn't grip the floor. Shoes with clunky, heavy, or sticky soles should be avoided

1 comment:

  1. I've found only one reference to sticky dance shoes- Vernon Castle recommends a rubber soled shoe (a "Ground Gripper") when dancing the Tango.