Saturday, August 17, 2013
Dance Shoes Part Three (Jive to Disco)
Bobby Sox and Loafers
War played a major role in creating the cult of the teenager. With men over eighteen in the service, younger boys stepped in as "heads of families". As big men about town they picked up easy pocket money because of the scarcity of labor. Young girls too earned money by babysitting for adults on night shift. For the first time teenagers had disposable income and Madison Avenue etc., were determined to milk it off them. Saturday nights, crowds of teenage kids converged on their local dancehalls. By the late forties girls had a uniform of pleated skirt, baggy sweater, bobby sox and loafers (two tone saddle shoes).
The juvenile delinquent
After the war the great North American population felt the years of hardship behind them now deserved better and for the next two decades they turned their back on realism in search of magic. An absent father and working mother attributed to the alienated teenager who roamed the streets at night and was dubbed the juvenile delinquent. By the close of the decade American teens were wearing motor cycle jackets t shirts, jeans and boots or else penny loafers.
American Bandstand (1952 – 1989)
American Bandstand and Dick Clark were primarily responsible for highlighting each new dance craze to the eager youth of America. The show featured teenagers dancing to Top 40 music and was broadcast live, weekday afternoons. In 1959 the show had a national audience of 20 million. American Bandstand frequently used extended camera shots of dancers' feet so that viewers at home could learn the dances. The influence of this TV show was immeasurable to new dance crazes and even although each craze only lasted a short time, they came thick and fast throughout the fifties.
Post war youth throw off the old image of dancing locked together in the embrace of the waltz and tango and by the fifties jive was established as the frankest portrayal of sex yet performed in public. Kids no longer needed the dress as their forebears but instead wanted to be free to move. The jive had been around since early 1930s but after the war it became the dominant form for popular music. It was never far from criticism and Alex Moore; famous ballroom dancing guru said that he had "never seen anything uglier". Kids wore saddle shoes or sneakers.
The hand jive is a hand dance associated with rhythm and blues. It resembled a highly elaborate version of Pat-a-cake and involved a complicated pattern of hand moves and claps at various parts of the body, including thigh slapping, cross-wrist slapping, fist pounding, hand clapping, and hitch hike moves. It became popular in clubs where there was no room for dancing.
Dancing was very much part of the emerging youth culture and the spasmodic body contact interspersed with vigorous gyrations more reminiscent of the Kama Sutra than the Ballroom Gazette necessitated freedom of movement. The humble sneaker was adopted for the purpose. Canvas topped, rubber soled shoe was escalated to the fashion icon of rebellious youth and remarkably has remained there, to this very day. By the 1950's sneakers had become the preferred footwear of teenagers and the symbol of rebellion. Because they were cheap, the shoes were worn by students around the world. Elvis Presley is credited with raising the profile of saddle shoes as he often wore them onstage.
An American brand of canvas shoe with rubber soles. Originally they were to be called Peds (Latin for foot), but that name was already a trademark. Had been worn by cheerleaders and were quickly adapted to be worn at sock hops . Keds were worn with ankle socks, tight sweaters, and short dirndl styled skirts with poodle transfers. Pony tails were popular among young teenagers.
The Bunny Hop was a conga type dance. Participants held the hip of the person in front of them and moved left from right with their feet, as they hopped to the beat.
Bop, Slop and Stroll
The Bop followed and consisted of couples faced each other, jumped up and down and on landing furiously ground their heels into the floor. The dance is thought to have originated from Southern California and was discovered on bandstand. A laid back version was known as the Sloppy. To bop while skipping in place was called the pony, whereas doing the bop to other animal mimicry became the chicken, monkey, the dog and the alligator (both danced were banned from the program because they were considered too risqué. A line dance reminiscent of the old fashioned Virginia reel know as the Stroll.
The Wild One
The Wild One was released in 1953 and became an iconic American outlaw biker film. Many of the former soldiers of World War II were unable to adjust to their return from the war and lived as feral bikers. Their wayward ways were attractive to would be delinquents and Brando's sartoria became popular with rebellious youths. Brando's haircut inspired a craze for sideburns and bikers’ boots became popular. The film was banned in the United Kingdom for fourteen years.
Rock ‘n’ Roll
Rock ‘n’ roll (Boogie) evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, from primarily a combination of African-American genres such as blues, jump blues, jazz, and gospel music, together with Western swing and country music. The beat is essentially a blues rhythm with an accentuated backbeat, the latter almost always provided by a snare drum. Beyond simply a musical style, rock and roll, influenced lifestyles, fashion, attitudes, and language. The term Rock ‘n’ roll was a sexual analogy and popularized with white audiences by Alan Freed, a Cleveland, Ohio disc jockey in 1951.
Blue Suede Shoes
The most famous shoes of the rock and roll era were Carl Perkin's Blue Suede shoes. Although Elvis Presley had the big hit the credit was always given to Perkins. The idea for the song came from his early days when he and Johnny Cash were queuing for some tucker. Someone in front cried a warning to another in the queue not to tread on his foot. 'Hey don't step on my blue suede shoes". Cash was moved to say to his companion that would be a good title for a song. Later, when Perkins was playing in a dance hall he noticed one of the dancers gesticulating to his partner not to stand on his feet. The following morning, or so the story goes, he woke up with the song lyrics in his head. Unfortunately a road accident prevented him from performing the hit and Elvis, in need of a follow-up to Heartbreak Hotel took 'Shoes' the top of the charts and the rest, as they say is history.
Shoes with attitude
The shoes united the world’s youth in rebellion but the shoe styles were quite different in the US and the UK. In American they were quality ‘penny’ loafers worn by preppies, whereas the Teddy boys in the UK; Halbstarke in Germany; and Blousans noirs in France wore crepe soled shoes which were like dessert boots on speed. These were cheap and crude shoes made specifically for the emerging youth market with soles more like platforms. The critical thing about suede was it was regarded as an effeminate medium previously worn only by lounge lizards and homosexuals.
Skiffle and Beat Generation
By the mid fifties in the UK there was a revival in 20’s jug music and as young musicians took to makeshift orchestration with kazoos, washboards, broom handle basses and liquor jugs the ’angry young men’ of the Beat Generation dropped out wearing sandals (thongs) or no shoes at all. Skiffle did not contribute significantly to popular music per se, but did give prominence to the guitar. When the anger was taken out of the first onslaught of the rock generation fashions became less aggressive and suede shoes were popular particularly with the university students, their duffle coats support for CND and their love for Trad Jazz. Beatniks were usually young intellectuals, who followed the beat generation as typified by Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kourack, wore sandals or preferred to walk bare feet as an alternative break from convention. This generation were the new moderns and forerunners of the Mods.
Rising hemlines ensured legs were at a premium and when the French designer Roger Vivier created the Stiletto heel (4" in height) it became a fashion phenomena. Known as the "Cobblers Delight" because the bottom tips needed frequent replacement the heels pierced dance floors and were banned in aircraft and many public buildings. Despite their bad reputation by the end of the 50's stilettos were the only shoes a fashionable woman wore. High heels were considered symbols of playful defiance, and heightened sexuality, and the shoes became the trademark of the naughty girl. Later the advent of seemless stockings without heel reinforcement brought the sling back into fashion.
The popularity of transistor radios sparked a change in popular music listening habits, allowing people to listen to music anywhere they went.
Dance on, cha, cha, cha
The Cha Cha Cha was danced with elbows bent at right angles, chest puffed, feet shuffling snugly side by side. The 'cha' embodied the dance's extra step rhythm. The dance originated in Cuba in the early fifties and was a variation of the double step mamba. The name is thought to be an echoic, deriving from the doing of the dance. Couples only make fleeting contact and for most of the dance each concentrates on their own footwork. Popular with old and young because it allowed youngsters to display individualism and older people were already familiar with the dance steps of the mambo and rumba.
The burst of newly invented dances and improved sound systems meant there was a upsurge in ballroom dancing which had enormous appeal to the over 25 age group. Professionals like Lionel Blair analyzed, codified, published and taught a number of standard dances. In the US the Arthur Murray organization, and the dance societies in England, such as the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing were highly influential in promoting ballroom dancing. Come Dancing was a BBC TV ballroom dancing competition show that ran on and off from 1949 to 1998, becoming one of television's longest-running shows. The format of the newer show has been successfully exported to other countries under the name Dancing with the Stars.
After the deeply sexual couplings of rock & roll, the '60's brought a very strange phenomenon - a dance with absolutely no body contact. Permissive society had arrived and there was no need to simulate it within dance. Instead adults adopted the music and style and moved the 'in crowd' from dancehalls to small clubs or discos. The twist was described as a dance, which required you to initially move the shoes in a left and right fashion as if stubbing out a cigarette, then to combine this with swinging the arms and hips as if an imaginary towel was drying the back. Clothes became more tailored and suits were the order of the day. Wrinkle pickers or needlepoint shoes replaced the cumbersome crepe soled shoes. They were lightweight streamlined shoes with dandy looks yet menacingly dangerous.
Winkle pickers and Slingbacks
Wrinkle pickers or needlepoint shoes replaced cumbersome crepe soled shoes. They were lightweight streamlined shoes with dandy looks yet menacingly dangerous. The heel of the female foot was thought particularly erotic and sling back mules were all the rage, and attention was drawn to the naked heel by novel designs. High heels are considered to make even the average bottom look more pert, round and trim. The advent of seamless stockings without heel reinforcement brought the sling back into fashion.
Between the years 1960-63 Tin Pan Alley moguls kept cash registers filled by adhering to the tried and tested systems of previous decades. Stifling originality a return to tailored suits and patent leather shoes was the stage fashion as the beat generation metamorphosed into the new Mersey Beat.
In the early days of the Beatles the group wore Cuban heeled boots. Needless to say the fashion became ubiquitous before the toes began to widen and the Chelsea boot or chisel toe became vogue. The boots often incorporated a French seam or central stitch running from ankle to toe on the upper. Beatle attire was the brainwave of manger Brian Epstein who was keen to custom the traditional stage clothing with a youthful look. Epstein had the original Beatle Boots custom made by stage clothiers and the Fab Four wore them in leather and suede.
Mini Skirts and Pantyhose
Women's hemlines became shorter matching the length of men's jackets. Tight fitting bolero suits (or bum freezers) for men and two piece outfits for women were accompanied with trendy pointed slip-ons. Court style shoes took on in the sixties when Jacky Kennedy made them the shoe. Tights and mini skirts meant legs became the focus of attention and the longer the better. Although definitely not the first girl group the Shangri-las captured the sultry look by wearing slacks and high heeled ankle boots.
The Stones - the bad boys of pop
If the Beatles were the conventional side of pop then the Stones were definitely not. Anarchy ruled, or at least so it was portrayed, and the scruffy lads expressed their individualism on stage by wearing clothes that suited their personality. Perhaps the only physical link that united the five piece band was the sneakers they wore. The Mashed Potato
The Mashed Potato was a variation on the twist and starts by stepping backward with one foot with that heel tilted inward. The foot is positioned slightly behind the other (stationary) foot. With the weight on the ball of the starting foot, the heel is then swiveled outward. The same process is repeated with the other foot: step back and behind with heel inward, pivot heel out, and so on. The pattern is continued for as many repetitions as desired.
But the mid-sixties exuberant youths could be divided into two rival factions: the nouveaux moderns or mods that danced to black music and wore designer clothes; and the macho rockers, or neo Ton Up boys . Needless to say they did not enjoy each other's company or their favourite music and took every opportunity to rumble. In England, Mods and Rockers terrorized coastal towns on Bank Holidays with enormous running fights. As they fought over the beaches they wore the trademarks of their generation, i.e. boots verses shoes.
Shoes versus boots
Mods wore designer shoes or light dessert boots to protect their ankles from the hot exhausts of their Italian scooters; Greasers sported t swashbuckling styled engineer boots. . Their style included leather jackets with colours, jeans & studded belts, T Shirts and cowboy boots. Their music was distinctly Rock & Roll and they listened to it on jukeboxes, drinking coke or expresso, in coffee bars. Later the popularity of 'Easy rider` assured the urban cowboy image was legitimised and the Hollywood cowboy boot became a macho icon forever. The Stomp
The Stomp had dancer go barefoot and was often so loud and potentially damaging to dance floors many dance halls banned the dance. The stomp was a form of Opvnkv Haco (a traditional dance of the Indigenous American tribes common to southeast) and in Cherokee, Creeks and Seminole societies the dance had both social and religious significance e.g. fertility ceremonies. There were different dances for men and women and the movements were a mixture of shuffle and stomp which resembled the movements of an inebriate. The dance emphasized movements of the feet and postures for the head but the arms were not considered important. The dance usually took place inside confined floor space and whilst the Stomp was not meant to be a physically challenging exercise, all the participants were likely to dance most of the night. The dance became popular among beatniks, ton up boys (pre-rockers) and Australian surfies.
The Summer of Love
Naturally the fashion for classic long line fashion followed in the 70s. Most young idealists followed the road to enlightenment and self discovery and many rejected materialism displaying this symbolically by going barefoot. The thong became part of the accepted outfit along with kaftans, bells, loons and Afghan coats. Woodstock, was the highest achievement of rock culture in the 60s. The cream of the pop culture were there and doing their own thing. Hippies and rockers mixed in what was three days of love, peace and music. With unpredictable weather the thong or barefoot was definitely the foot dress of choice.
Skinheads and Doc Martens A counter culture grew among working class youths who shaved their heads, wore tailored shirts, half mast Levi Jeans and Dr Marten Boots. Skinheads preferred Jamaican and Black American Soul. Disco
By the 70s dancing took place within the confines of high tech disco's with light shows and glamorous settings. Statuesque dancers needed to stand out and the fashion for elevated or platform shoes came to pass.