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What are Saddle Shoes?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 23, 2024
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Throw off that pleated skirt, baggy sweater, bobby sox and loafers and grab your poodle skirt and saddle shoes, it's time to rock and roll!

In the post-war era of jive, jitterbug and The King, Elvis Presley, a two-toned snappy shoe replaced the respectable penny loafer. That crazy new footwear was the saddle shoe and it bunny-hopped and bee-bopped its way into popular culture.

The classic saddle shoe is a dress-style shoe with a leather white toe box and back, and a black instep and vamp, which includes the throat, tongue and eyelets. The instep and vamp together form a shape much like a saddle in the center of the shoe, hence the name. A contrasting black strip also ran up the rear of the shoe at the back of the heel, often with a buckle at the top. The rubberized composite low-heeled sole was coral colored.

With the popularity of the saddle shoe other two-toned colors emerged, including black shoes with white saddles, white shoes with red, and tan shoes with brown. At one time or another it's likely that nearly every conceivable color combination has found its way into the saddle shoe.

In 1957 Elvis Presley thrilled a generation in Jailhouse Rock with his ultra-cool blue eyes, sexy gyrations and deep resonate voice -- and he did it in saddle shoes as well as in another up and coming shoe that would eventually replace the saddle shoe: the humble sneaker. James Dean, who died in 1955 at the age of 24, was another icon and lightening rod for youth. One of the most famous photographs of James Dean shows him standing in jeans and sneakers. With Dean and Presley both embracing this new trend it was just a matter of time before saddle shoes ended up at the back of the closet, and sneakers took their place up front.

Still, despite the more casual dress of today's fashions, saddle shoes continue to be widely available at most department stores, bearing testament to their enduring appeal. They bring to mind an era of innocence, naivety, youth and the sounds of a generation caught between the greasers of the '50s and the hippies of the '60's. Their classic look and styling has endured the changing times, and on those occasions when sneakers won't due, saddle shoes remain a hip choice for eclectic shoe lovers everywhere. Try a pair on and see if you don't feel the magic!

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon992004 — On Aug 05, 2015

We called them dink shoes when I was a kid. I don't know why.

By sunshined — On May 30, 2011

I also will think of saddle shoes and poodle skirts going together, but I have also seen several saddle shoes for men. It is also interesting to see the different color combinations.

I have seen a mixture of many different colors - not just the usual white and black. Maybe they aren't authentic saddle shoes, but the are created to look very similar to them.

By Mykol — On May 29, 2011

Oh yes - Saddle Shoes! I did not grow up in the 50's, but during homecoming week at our high school we always had a 50's day where we would wear our finest clothes from that era.

You saw many poodle skirts and saddle shoes and there was just something special about lacing up those shoes. Anytime I see a pair of girls or womens saddle shoes, I am reminded of those fun times, and imagine that many people even have better memories than that when they put on a pair of those shoes.

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