With shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire ruling the small screen, vintage styles are more popular than ever. The person that buys vintage is the kind that likes the unique and special. Some may even be considered old souls. They are treasure hunters in their own right, searching through their grandmother’s attics, consignment shops, or the local thrift store; perusing the internet or seeking out funky vintage boutiques.
While vintage clothing, jewelry, handbags and other accessories can be found with little effort, buying vintage shoes is not always as simple. Unlike a vintage blouse, skirt or pair of pants, a pair of vintage shoes can’t be tossed in the washer, or tailored to fit; they show their age easily because of the nature of their wear. This doesn’t mean they can’t be found though - you just have to know some tips. Here are a few pointers for being successful in your vintage shoe hunt.
Ignore the size. People always say Marilyn Monroe wore a size 12 dress, but guess what? That’s like a 4 or 6 by today’s sizing standards! The same applies for shoes. The only real way to know is to try it on but that's not always possible. If you’re shopping online, ask the seller to measure the shoe’s insole and width or if that's not possible, know that the size may not be accurate and be prepared. In some cases, leather can be stretched if the shoe is too narrow, but there’s nothing (spare a magic wand) that is going to make that shoe longer.
Consider repair costs. If you happen to find a pair of 40 year old shoes, it’s safe to say they’re not going to be in perfect condition. Things that can be replaced are heel caps and soles; loose stitching can also be fixed. Before buying you may want to check with your local shoe repairman on what the cost will be; that way you know what’s a bargain and what’s not worth it.
Use a critical eye. It’s easy to be blinded by the fact that you might, just MIGHT look like Jayne Mansfield in those vintage shoes, but you have to be logical. There are some things that can’t be repaired or fixed; cracked leather, torn holes, missing buckles, eroding straps, strong discoloration, deep scratches, etc. The only thing that shoes with these problems may be used for is perhaps decoration on a book shelf.
Make friends with Google and Wikipedia. Most vintage shop owners are honest people who are happy to be dealing in a medium they love. However, don’t be taken advantage of because of lack of information. Vintage is generally defined as anything older than 20-25 years. Which means that the 80’s and early 90’s are all of sudden considered vintage! Decide if you personally consider that vintage because you’re probably not willing to pay as much for a pair of shoes from 1992 as you would for something from 1962. Also consider that designers make shoes that look vintage though might not be. Take a look at the shoe and if you can find a designer name or label of some sort, plug it into Google or Wikipedia. You should be able to find some information on that brand including a time frame, popularity, styles, etc. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll have a better idea of how much you should be paying. You may even find a similar shoe for a better price this way!
Don’t be afraid to buy vintage shoes, it should be an enjoyable and rewarding process. It should never be an impulse purchase, but you’ll be happy you took your time as soon as someone asks “Where’d you get those fabulous shoes?”