Tuesday, September 20, 2011

From Velcro to Chisel-Toe

Never count DSW out... found these awesome NEW shoes there!
Photo courtesy of Carrie Swing at http://carriedawaywithvintagegourmet.blogspot.com/.
Okay, enough with old memories... let's bring this blog back to what I wanted to focus on in the first place: clothes! Specifically, let's talk about shoes. Mod shoes... starting with an old memory.

When I was MUCH younger, all I needed in a pair of shoes were some good ol' Velco straps. I was a no muss, no fuss kinda kid... toss a pair of shoes on, velcro them up, and off to play with my buddies. That changed in the 7th grade. As the idea of 'cool' was becoming painfully apparent to me, my parents kindly bit the big one and invested in a pair of white, round-toed Reeboks for me. Of course, by the time I got them, the shoe trend had moved on to British Knights (BKs).
Yes, I admit it. I once wore shoes this ugly.
That Halloween, my buddy Robert showed up in a kind of costume: white t-shirt, spiked hair, and green make-up. He was a 'crazy person,' if I remember correctly. What really caught my eye, though, were the shoes he was wearing: his older brother's grey and black, pointed Na-Na creepers. I thought these things were the coolest shoes EVER. He then told me that you could buy shoes like these at a magical place called Melrose. (Of course, I thought he was talking about an actual store.) Unfortunately, however, I had to live out the rest of my 7th grade life in those Reebok tennis shoes. 7th grade... the last time I ever wore tennis shoes again as a daily part of my wardrobe.

I started the 8th grade out in a type of grey casual shoe that I saw the Filipino dudes at my school wear. Nothing special, but I thought they were pretty 'hip' since they weren't tennis shoes. But they were nowhere near as hip as my birthday gift that year: a pair of black and white, pointed Na-Na creepers with a buckle and the stitching on top! Sure, I had to endure an entire day of getting picked on the first time I wore them out, but hey! Isn't that what being 'different' and 'anti-society' was all about back then? (And yes, that day was going absolutely miserable until my skater/new wave friends started complimenting the shoes!)
Can't tell you how many times I heard kids yell out, "Hey Frankenstein!" (Ironically enough, creepers were "in" the following year.)
My next big shoe purchase was a gift for 'graduating' from the 8th grade: a pair of Dr. Martens! I can't remember how I had heard of these, but I do remember them being a big deal to have if you were on the 'new wave/punk' tip. So, I picked out a great lace-up pair in black leather with a pointed toe and stitching along the top, exactly like my creepers but without the 2-inch sole. I felt like I had finally hit 'ultra-cool' status, what with being the first kid in my 'clique' with Dr. Martens and all. Unfortunately, these came at the end of my junior high life.
I dug these shoes so much that I wore them from the ending of the 8th grade up to my first year in college!  And hey, these shoes were for sale a year ago... and they were considered 'vintage!'
I was sold on Dr. Martens after these and ended up buying 2 more pairs at a Na-Na sale in Santa Monica right before 9th grade started: one gray lace-up pair with a pointed toe, and a second pair with a pointed toe and buckle, in marble blue leather. Unfortunately, these shoes were pretty large for my still growing (but not by much) feet. Still, I wore them around school and didn't care what people thought. Not so sadly, these were the last pairs of Docs I ever got, never veering into boot territory, because after this, I was on the hunt for 'Mod' shoes!

And by Mod shoes, I mean loafers. And by loafers, I don't mean Bass Weejuns, but rather whatever penny loafers I could find at the Buster Brown shoe store in the local Puente Hills Mall. Man, I can't tell you how cool I thought I looked in those penny loafers, along with white socks, high-water tapered Dickies pants, and burgundy flight jacket with ska/mod pins! Shortly afterward, I moved on to a slicker form of shoe... the kind meant for suit-wearin': wing-tipped tassle loafers! Oh man... rude girls, prepare to swoon! (No, no swooning was ever done.)
Then I moved to the Bay Area and it was here that I really fell in love with shoe wear... actual Mod shoe wear. Aww... I still remember it like it was yesterday. I found my first pair of 1960s pointed ankle boots on Telegraph Avenue at Wasteland (before it was called Mars Mercantile) and these started an obsession with '60s pointed and chisel-toed shoes that I still have to this day. Sure, I went through bowling shoe and Jam 'stage shoe' phases. Had to get these out of my system, because after this, it was all '60s-styled shoes for me!

Back in college, I almost passed by one of my now favorite pairs of shoes: a total suede and leather Carnaby Street number. A buddy and I were in Mars Mercantile one day and he was kind enough to point out this pair of shoes in the women's section. I dismissed them without even looking until he brought them out. So glad he did because $10 later, I had these:
Sigh... unfortunately, when you get cool shoes you can either store them away for safekeeping or... wear them. As you can tell, I've worn these.

Then came the Bay Area Vintage Shoe Glory Days! One day, around 8-9 years ago (yikes!), a bunch of us were spending our happy hour at the Casanova Lounge in San Francisco. My pal, Jason Ringgold, and I decided to take a break and walk up to Clothes Contact where you could buy clothes by the pound. We were surprised to find a beat-up pair of absolute cool sixties Mod shoes. They were relatively plain but with a nice chisel-toe (imagine a pointed shoe with the tip of the shoe cut off). After snatching them up, we found out that the owner of these vintage shops had come across a warehouse in Germany with dead-stock '60s men's shoes! For the next several years, we were finding a pair here, a pair there... it was absolute shoe heaven for us! My personal shoe collection grew with the following:
Ya can't beat leather and suede combos!
Love the detailing on the sides.
My Small Faces shoes... but these were hand-me-downs from Mike Therieau, not a part of the German warehouse stock.
Soon, us Bay Area Mod dudes were classin' up sidewalks all over town! Eventually, this surplus dried out, but every once in a while, you can still find a pair from this old stock. In fact, about a month ago, I found these:
Suede and leather again... SH-BAMM!
I'm still totally obsessed with 1960s-style pointed-toe and chisel-toe shoes. I'm not as into the winkle-picker points as I used to be and I'm still not into heavy boots of any kind (i.e., Dr. Marten boots, monkey boots, etc.) or desert boots, as I've discussed before. No, I like my shoes narrow, with some cool detailing, a nice toe, and all-around slick!

Now, allow me to get a formality out of the way: Mod shoes. Mod shoes. Mod shoes. Mod shoes. (There. Now when people from the future do on-line searches for 'Mod shoes,' hopefully they'll be pointed here instead of some company selling bunk bowling shoes.) Mod shoes.

QUESTION: If you have a moment, please leave a comment describing your favorite pair of shoes. And this isn't just for the male Mods in the audience. Or Mods, for that matter. Just in general, what's your favorite shoe?


  1. MOD SHOES!! hee hee. Will there be a post about socks, hmmmm? (you didn't even mention the purple socks I captured with my trusty Blackberry there...)

  2. nice read and lovely shoes indeed. The only problem with them (besides the fact they are hard to find) is that they really 'vintage' you up, making you look 'retro'. This for many is not a problem, but at 43 I do not want to be 'retro' looking. I only have one pair of vintage shoes I wear now, brown weave pair, and somehow do not think of them as a vintage shoe. ANyhows, lovely read! Claudio

  3. My favorite shoes are all the ones I don't own yet. I'm not sure if all these are technically 'mod'.

    Grenson Fred: http://www.uniquemenswear.co.uk/images/products/zoom/1225210796-87704100.jpg

    Loake Woodstock: http://www.charlesager.co.uk/images/products/fullsize/loake%20woodstock%20tan.jpg

    Ferragamo Denver: http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/img-thing?.out=jpg&size=l&tid=29458171

  4. DSW has been a major source for me. I got some very boss chisel toed Italian shoes there about 8 or 9 years back which still serve me well (wearing them once or twice a year helps).

  5. My favourites back in the 80's were my black leather creepers that I bought from a store here then called NaNa's, and also these short black leather boots that laced up and had beautiful old fashioned traditional wingtip detailing, but not just on the toe and sides of the foot, but all the way up past the ankle to the top of the boot, which went half way up my shins. I wore those dancing and to work, until they almost had a hole in both soles and they were coming apart. They were not even fancy made boots of a definite brand.....I'd bought them at Kinney of all places, but those were the best shoes I owned. Am on the search for mod cheerful shoes for myself the lady.

    The most suitable at the moment are red and blue pair of leather loafers with white trim and this oval metal ring on top. Funny enough....I bought them on Aerosole! Surprised at how cute they are.

  6. In San Diego (I lived there until '88) our shoe Holy Grail was Tijuana in the first half of the 80s. Zapaterias! It was all about pointy winkle-picker styles then (I still love them and buy them but now I'm into different styles as well). You could also get Beatle Boots in Tijuana, but I was not into those. I had my earlier Beatles phase but when I got into Mod to me the Beatles were a band teeny boppers and hippies liked in the 60s. They were not Mod so no Beatle Boots for me! But, man, the shoes I did buy! Buckled slip-ons, laced up the middle or up the side, all suede or part suede, etc. I wore all of them out and don't own a single pair anymore. I think they were pretty cheaply made. They were definitely cheap to buy!

    Constantly on the lookout these days, but rarely find good vintage shoes anymore. My best recent find was a pair of light green shoes in wide-wale corduroy at a vintage store in N. Hollywood. Waiting for the right time to wear those!

  7. Great responses all around!

    And I think they show that we're all pretty open to 'new' shoes as well (probably the subject for next week's post). It's been great these last several years because it seems some shoe designers have taken the look and feel of '60s shoes and updated them for today (like the slip-ons in the first photo).

    DSW really is a great resource, locally, and although cool shoes are hard to find there, when you do it's so worth the effort! There's a Prada shop downtown that had AMAZING shoes with a slight basket-weave look. Unfortunately, they were dress shoe on top, sneaker style on the bottom. Too bad.

    Also, I've seen nice Aerosoles for women! Not much for men, unfortunately.

    And Dean, yup, I'm still into vintage shoes, especially when they look nicely detailed. Luckily, on this side of the U.S. (or the U.S., in general), most people aren't informed enough on 1960s-styled shoes like those pictured above. Many times, people have thought they were new shoes!

    And Clifton, I'm still on a hunt for those Hudson shoes you had from a while back. Unfortunately, doesn't look like I can get them at the store from the U.S. Argh!

    I love shoes and can go on and on and on...

  8. Shoes are my achilles heel (is there a pun in there somewhere? Not sure...). I hate hard sole shoes (just too uncomfortable to wear on a daily basis while riding a motorcycle, etc.) yet I can't find a decent pair of smart shoes with a soft or rubber sole without going the DM route. Any suggestions, MM?

  9. without a doubt for me would be Tricker's brogues, but i am still forever looking for a pair of basketweave norwegians. the basketweave norwegians are considered pretty ugly by most people, and is more of a 70s thing. that being said, i have a pair of near mint condition docs that i never wear. although, i never wear the docs i can't bring myself to get rid of them. maybe because i see all these scenesters/hipsters in the mission wearing all these new made in china docs, while i have the made in england one.

    for everyday wear i prefer my alden or loake loafers

  10. The best shoes I ever bought were DM tassled black loafers. The perfect combination: the look of a nice pair of loafers (I wanted shoes like the ones on the cover of the Two Tone Dance Craze album) and the confort of a DM Aiwair sole. I got them for my high school graduation and gave them away 16 years later to a homeless guy while on a backpacking trip to Asia. They still looked great!

    Last week I bought my first pair of Loake's for my upcoming wedding. Your classic black Chelsea slip on boots. I think they will go well with my grey bespoke suit.

  11. David, unfortunately, I don't know a good pair of shoes to wear for motorcycling because, y'know, this is MOD Male, not ROCKER Male. (I kid! I kid!) In all seriousness, that is a tough one and I wouldn't blame you for wearing some type of boot (Docs or otherwise) so that you don't break your foot.

    Also, I'm one of those guys who always chooses style over comfort. That said, since I tend to walk a lot up here, I usually use insoles to add comfort to the shoes. I don't know how I lived without them before! Next week, I think I may research newer shoes for a post which may solve the comfort problem.

  12. Eugene, shoes can't look ugly on you, Norwegian basketweaves or otherwise!

    Patrick, you totally reminded me of why I thought I needed those wing-tip tassle loafers back then... they were the shoes on the cover of Dance Craze! Oh man, that's why I got them! I really don't know how I forgot that.

    Right now, I think my favorite pair of everyday shoes are these dark brown D&G slip-ons my wife got me several months back. I totally fell in love with them! Comfortable (without an insole), narrow, and a soft point.