High Heels in the 50s

Written by nancy hayden
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High Heels in the 50s
Strappy sandals were one trendy high-heeled '50s look. (Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images)

In the world of high heels, the 1950s was a game changer, for better or for worse. The constraints of World War II had determined much about shoe fashions in the '40s. Leather was scarce, so most shoes were made of fabric with thick wooden heels. The 1950s threw off such regulations, and designers introduced heels that were much higher, more pointed and more painful.

Classic Court Shoes

The thick wedge heels of the '40s were on their way out with the dawning of the 1950s. The classic court heel, or pumps as they came to be known, was the common style of high heel in the early '50s. Pumps usually had a 3-inch heel that was thicker at the top and became thinner at the bottom but was not overly thin. Some court shoes had straps around the ankles or cutaway sides.

Swing Dance Shoes

Swing dance shoes served two purposes. The first was that they were comfortable yet attractive for dancing. They were also less formal looking than court shoes and looked more appropriate with casual dresses or trends like the poodle skirt. Swing shoes had round toes, square heels that were about 2 inches high and straps that went across the top of the foot to keep them securely fastened during dancing.

Peep Toes and Strappy Sandals

Dresses in the '50s came to mid-calf and often had full skirts. Designers created attractive, feminine shoe styles to complement the dresses. Peep toes looked much like court shoes but offered a flirty glimpse of a woman's toes, without revealing as much as full open-toed shoes. Strappy sandals had a simple strap that went over a woman's instep and another strap to hold the heels around her ankle, for a barely-there look.


In the early 1950s, clothing designer Christian Dior collaborated with a shoe designer in France to create a new and dramatic high heel. The shoe was named the stiletto, after an Italian dagger with a narrow, tapered blade. Stilettos were first seen in Dior's fashion show in 1952 and were a huge trend by the middle of the decade. They often had heels as high as 5 or 6 inches and had low-cut or V-shaped top front sections, known as the vamp, and toes that came to a sharp point.

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