‘Vintage Shoes’: a lavish history of women’s footwear

When it comes to collecting vintage clothing, many of us know what to look for -- Chanel jackets, Halston jersey gowns, Yves Saint Laurent tuxedos. But the world of vintage shoes is more of a mystery. Now along comes Caroline Cox, fashion historian and professor of cultural history at the University of the Arts London, with a new book, “Vintage Shoes: Collecting and Wearing Twentieth-Century Designer Footwear” (HarperCollins).

Each chapter focuses on a specific decade, beginning with how footwear design was influenced by world events (when flappers adopted Mary Janes in the 1920s, they deliberately chose a style that evoked youthfulness; steel shortages in World War II led to the creation of the wedge) and ending with the key shapes to shop for, including Beth Levine’s PVC shoes from the ‘60s and Dr. Martens from the ‘80s.

The photos are fantastic, mixing shoe advertisements with magazine fashion spreads, movie stills and still lifes, and there are lots of helpful tips. The book closes with a glossary of famous shoemakers to know, a list that includes André Perugia and Roger Vivier, who began making their mark in the ‘30s, and more contemporary names such as Terry de Havilland and Christian Louboutin (who wrote the book’s introduction). There’s also a guide to caring for vintage shoes, including a DIY recipe for stretching. A source list recommends dealers around the world and online. -- Booth Moore