White bucks and saddle shoes

That's what the kids all choose

Jeans and slacks of course

Oh, yes, they sure look boss

Getting ready to go steady

Are white bucks and saddle shoes

1958 | "White Bucks And Saddle Shoes" (excerpt)
Written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman

1943 | Washington, D.C. Saddle shoes are still popular at Woodrow Wilson High School
Photograph: Esther Bubley

It was a slow build-up since the beginning of the last century, but the first big break of the saddle shoes came with the well known LIFE magazine cover (June 7, 1937); after that, they went in and out of fashion pretty regularly. 

The Class Of 1937 At Sarah Lawrence College | Bronxville, N.Y.
Photograph: Alfred Eisenstaedt
LIFE magazine | June 7, 1937


NEW YORK - On the campus, college girls from coast to coast like flared or pleated skirts, saddle shoes and short wool socks and sweaters. Sweaters and still more sweaters. For afternoon, dirndls in velvet and velveteen, and Tyrolean jumper frocks are their pets.

Marian Young
Rochester Times-Union | August 6, 1937

1938 | Norman Rockwell
Football Hero (The Letterman) | detail
Saturday Evening Post | Cover | November 19, 1938
Source: The Best Of N. Rockwell (Courage Books, 1988)

Rockwell is the definitive stamp of approval. He also featured saddle shoes in other prominent paintings like "Liberty Girl" (1943) or his "Triple Self Portrait" (1960). However, this fashion presented some issues.


As for footwear, you can't put down those saddle shoes that start out in September looking as saddle shoes should and end up in June with the complete disapproval of the dean and the entire faculty.

Most saddle shoe addicts are convinced that the comfort of their classroom footwear, the simplicity of depending on trusty old saddle shoes instead of having to bother with rubbers or overshoes, are reasons enough for tolerating the dirt and run down look of the campus footwear.

So if you must conform to the saddle shoe tradition, take along some white cleaner and try, once in a while anyway for the sake of the faculty who have to see your feet, to touch up the dirtier spots on those mistreated shoes.

The Times Record
Troy, N.Y | August 27, 1941

Girl In The Can
Year & photographer unknown
Source: Saddle Shoe Habitat

The beginning of the 40's saw the first signs of changing taste among teenagers.


Good-by, brown and white saddle shoe. Hello, shiny moccasins and oxfords.

Schoolgirls are bidding a fond farewell to their beloved, begrimed and be-autographed saddle shoes by government order forbidding the manufacture of two-tone shoes. But they are hailing with equal joy the new fad for well-shined play shoes of brown antique calf or alligator.

... "We're tired of sloppy saddle shoes", says one spokesman. "We want our feet to look neat now - just as neat as our clothes."

Dorothy Roe
The Binghamton Press | November 23, 1942

1960 | Saddle Shoes & Bobby Sox
Photograph: Alfred Eisenstaedt
Source: LIFE magazine | December 26, 1960

The very same photograph used for the LIFE cover above reappeared in an article titled "A Dull Moments Of Mad Fads" (December 1960):

This clamp of distant years, the late '30s, during which a man and a maid could view the moon as a thing rather than a place, also included:

… saddle shoes and bobby sox were thriving, and later the socks were to thicken into the cherished horse-bandage look …

Elliot Chaze
LIFE magazine December 26, 1960

1938 | Norman Rockwell
Football Hero (The Letterman) | Saturday Evening Post | Cover | November 19, 1938
Source: The Best Of N. Rockwell (Courage Books, 1988)