Music and fashion in the '60s liberated a generation from convention, and led to the kind of eclectic experimentation that affected just about everything; even shoes didn't escape dramatic change. There was no overall shoe-style for the decade, because different people subscribed to different fashions, but the '60s popularised influential shoe styles that remain popular more than half a century later, including Pilgrim pumps, espadrille wedges, Cuban heels and knee-high boots.
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While knee-high boots became popular in the '60s--showcasing the minimal couture silhouette--the decade is also remembered for ankle- or calf-height go-go boots, a high-fashion accessory every girl wanted. They complemented miniskirts, accentuating legs, and made use of modern materials and colour. Go-go boots were simply styled, and fastened with a back or side zipper. Designer Andre Courreges is often credited with popularising the style after his 1964 "The Moon Girl" collection, which included shiny white injection-moulded plastic boots. Go-go boots were more commonly made from leather.
We might remember striking images of '60s space-girl couture or Woodstock's hippies, but not everyone subscribed to these "out-there" lifestyles. For those more in the mainstream, fashions changed slowly over the decade. In the early '60s, conservative women still wore stilettos. A new style worn by Catherine Deneuve in the 1967 film Belle du Jour, the Roger Vivier Pilgrim pump was a smart, mid-heeled slip-on, a chic shoe that's remained popular with conventional dressers.
With '50s stilettos still popular at the start of the decade, go-go boots, sandals and pumps led the way to more comfortable shoe heights for most of the '60s. A new and popular heel of this time was the espadrille. These came to fame in the mid-'60s, when Yves Saint Laurent commissioned Catalan shoe manufacturer Castaner to make its traditional shoes and add a wedge heel. Seen on celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot, wedge-heeled espadrilles have been a popular summer style ever since.
Men of conservative dress still chose brogues and loafers throughout the '60s, but men's shoes became more experimental during the decade. Suede shoes and round-toed slip-ons were established by around 1965. Beatles-inspired footwear included Chelsea boots and Cuban heels, two styles that quickly gained popularity with fashion conscious men.
Even the most conservative shoe design of the decade showcased the explosion of colour that we associate with the '60s. Patent leather was popular, and with this came shoes in every shade. Women wore coloured shoes with equally bright socks and stockings, complementing miniskirts. Men's suede shoes often also came in a range of shades other than the traditional black and brown.
By the late '60s, new shoe styles were brought to the U.S. from the East, and strappy sandals with Indian and African beading became popular. These suited the long, flowing hippie styles of the end of the decade. Men and women also wore moccasins with this style of casual dress.
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