1960s shoes

The Winklepicker

It was last year when Hedi Slimane, fashion director at Saint Laurent decided to introduce in his men’s collection the “winklepicker” shoes, which became rapidly a certified It-essential favored by the frequently photographed It-people elite.

A new wave of original ’60s glam rock hit the runway and inspired several high-street style brands, which followed immediately the trend.

But what’s the story behind these extreme and theatrical pointed shoes?

There is a quaint British seaside tradition of eating “winkles”, periwinkle snails,  from paper bags, using a pin or “winklepicker” to extract the mollusk from its shell, and that’s what gave the exaggeratedly pointed men’s shoe of post-World War II Britain its name.

Their origins even dated back to medieval age, when there was a fashion for wearing pointed shoes (called poulaine) among Europe’s elite.

Medieval shoes

The trend came back during the 1930′s, but it was only during 1950′s that became a must for Teddy Boys uniforms.

As street style evolved, a new wave of Rockers abandoned the shoe in favor of more robust footwear and the winklepicker became the symbol of the smooth-haired, Italian-suited Mods. This was the perfect shoe to cut through the air, while zipping through town on a Vespa, in a perfect Dolce Vita style.



Chelsea Boot from the 1960s

The Chelsea Boot

Mods (aka Modernists) are today another source of inspiration for high styled-shoes.

Mods chose for their original style another boot originated in a previous era. The Chelsea boot was a modern version of the nineteenth century jodhpur boot. Named after the former capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan, the boot was marketed as a riding boot for British colonials. This laceless, ankle-high boot with elastic gusset provided old-school modernity for Mods. Modeled by Beatles and Stones, this was the perfect street style to get noticed and be considered hip & sharp.

Is this a coincidence, that today also Chelsea boots (renewed with unusual fabrics, exotic leathers or heavy embellishment) are a must? Not at all. It seems that the sub-cultural movement of British Mods taught us a lot about stylish shoes.


My Final Thoughts

Contemporary fashion trends tend to be more evolutionary rather than revolutionary. We’re immerse in a reality affected by a constant reminiscence of the past. What seems to be modern and brand new is something that already existed.