So you’ve found your vintage jeans, dresses, and blouses – but what about shoes? Before many shoes were made from faux leather and plastic, shoes were made from durable leather and suede. This means the premium footwear from the 20th century will long outlast the cheaper models made by fast fashion retailers today. However, finding high-quality vintage footwear can be even harder than other apparel. If you’re on the hunt for footwear, here are our top tips to finding a true hidden gem.
Unfortunately, the 20th century also had cheap models that weren’t destined to last, similarly to car manufacturers. There are some vintage cars that aren’t around anymore for a reason, but you can still see an occasional 1960’s Cadillac.
For women, this likely means traditional designers like Chanel, YSL, and Christian Dior. For men, the historic menswear brands like Florsheim Imperial, Hanover LB Sheppard, Bostonian Crown Windsor, and Johnston & Murphy Aristocraft will still be in great condition today.
Unfortunately, looking for these brands in traditional vintage or thrift shops is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Finding a reputable reseller – maybe even one that specializes in shoes – is the best way to find what you’re looking for. eBay, Etsy, and designer resellers like Vestiare Collective are great online resources but don’t be afraid of searching at smaller stores like ThisBlueBird or Vintage Shoes Addict. Often, these smaller stores are more knowledgable when it comes to the brands you’d want to invest in.
It can be easy to be swayed by vintage Chanel kitten heels when you’re actually looking for ballet flats. Knowing exactly what you’re looking for (and sticking to it) is important to stop impulse shopping. Write down the footwear staples you’re missing so you know what to search for when hunting for your next vintage buy.
The shoes you’re buying will be 20+ years old, so don’t be afraid of having to put in some regular maintenance. Getting the shoes resoled or treating them with a leather cleaner or polish is part of maintaining the integrity of the shoe. For this reason, if you find a pair of shoes you love but they need some work, they’ll likely be at a lower price than a pair still in their box. Take the worn out pair to a local cobbler or shoe repair shop and see if they can repair the shoes for you to bring them back to life.
Vintage sizing is a lot different than modern sizing, as you probably already know. Make sure the seller provides measurements (if you’re not buying in person) to ensure the shoes will fit your feet properly. If you’re buying from eBay, you cannot return your items because they don’t fit. Luckily, you can resell them for about what you bought them for, but it’s best to buy from a store with a good return policy if the pair doesn’t fit.
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