This fascinating Article was written by Mr Manoleat.
With the internet and many resources it is quite easy for boot enthusiasts to find their desired pieces. There are even some businesses who cater for the more special stuff or do full custom orders. Also theatrical shoemakers are generally able to make nearly every design you could think of.
Since we often admire vintage fetish pictures from the 1930’s or 1950’s with their amazing high heels and boots one wonders where all those came from. The former e-zine Bootlovers.com quite often had features about bootmakers long gone now. But the earliest that could be pointed to in that magazine were from the 1950’s making for example shoes and boots for Irving Klaw’s pictures.
When looking into 1920’s to 1940’s numbers of the english lifestyle magazine London Life (it was mentioned here before) we find actually some advertisements from companies who seem to have specialized in very high heeled footwear even in larger sizes, fitting possibly men. These ads came from mostly two businesses named National Shoe Stores and Regent Shoe Stores. Another one, Hyman in 1928, might have been a predecessor of National Shoe Stores. And what a coincidence all shops were located in London’s Wardour Street!
It isn’t known how much of such fetish footwear they sold over the decades. As we also don’t know how far they shipped. But the magazine London Life for example was distributed nearly worldwide at some point.
So we wonder how these shoes and boots looked like. It is quite interesting to find out that some of this fetish footwear is still floating around sometimes like for example on ebay. Although it needs a good eye and much patience to find these needles in the haystack.
I was lucky enough to have found over the years two pairs of knee high lace up boots and two pairs of court shoes. Three pairs are from National Shoe Stores and are sizes from round 38 to 41.
The other pair is from Regent Shoe Stores and marked size 43. Well yes, they actually fit me and therefor they tell that these shops really catered also for men who liked to wear really high heels – mostly in private boudoir play as we assume. Especially on this pair the very short toe box should be mentioned. That is something we mostly have been on shoes Bettie Page wore much later in the 1950’s for Klaw’s photographs.
Beyond that I managed to get in contact with a few like-minded people who also own at least one pair of shoes from these stores. One finish lady for example owns a pair of Regent Shoe Stores high heels in brown suede in her size 39/40.
Another English lady lately found a smaller sized high heel pair from National Shoe Stores.
And the ever amazing collection of Shoe Icons also has a pair from Regent Shoe Stores which even sports a much shorter toe box and very high heel. You can see this shoe in the collection’s online gallery here:
Beyond that there are three pairs in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, which you can find in their collection online here:
All this footwear shows best leathers, very tiny stitching and perfect craftsmanship which you don’t find in shoes and boots nowadays anymore. I also admire often the old brand labels that were imprinted in the shoes. And here it gets interesting again: Both brands show a very similar style in the label and state „Made in Belgium expressly for…“
Belgium had in these years a well-known and huge shoe industry with the center in the city Iseghem (now pronounced Izegem).
As we can see from the variety of shoes and boots in these pictures National Shoe Stores and Regent Shoe Stores didn’t one cater footwear for fetishists. But they were obviously ready and even advertising for the special needs of fetishists of both genders. I think this was something very special in the 1930’s already.
Since we featured not too many boots in this post we want to make up for that with one very special picture which can also be found on the internet. It is called „La vitrine de chaussures“ from Claude Cahun (alias of French surrealism artist Lucy Schwob) shot in 1936. Nothing else is known about it. Only a few months ago I learned that she was invited to the International Surrealism Convention in London by André Breton in the year…guess what? 1936! So it is very likely that this might be the only photo known of the shop window of either National Shoe Stores or Regent Shoe Stores in London‘s Wardour Street. What a shop window!
So for bootfetishists in the 1930’s London’s Wardour Street was THE place to go like no other. And I think this agglomeration of specialized shops ws also quite unique in the world back then. Even though it should be believed they might have also sold standard footwear.
Since I mentioned that some shoes or boots can still be found on ebay or at auction houses we would like to hear from you if you saw some or actually own a pair. Beyond that any other information or comment is as always also highly appreciated.