If the shoe fits…

I was busy researching the hottest styles for summer shoes, and despite what my husband might think, it actually WAS research for a reason other than shopping. I have more than enough shoes, really. In fact, I probably have too many shoes, but since I’m not (yet) rivaling Imelda Marcos, I think I am fine.

It got me thinking about shoe styles from the Eighties. I didn’t have that many shoes, probably because I was a kid and it’s expensive to keep up with all that growth. My own children, I should note, have two pairs of running shoes each (indoor and outdoor), one pair of sandals, and winter boots. That said, I did have some of these hot styles, and I coveted the rest.

Jelly Shoes

Pros: They came in many colours, so they could match any outfit. I had pale pink jellies to match a pastel striped dress. The dress itself was pale pink, mint green, yellow, and light blue, so I could have chosen jelly shoes in any of those shades, really, and would have still come out a pastel winner.

Cons: Jelly shoes were infamous for being uncomfortable. Wearing them for more than a few hours, especially on a hot, sweaty day, meant your feet would be a mess of blisters and redness.

Desert Boots

Pros: Everyone loved these boots and as I recall, they were pretty comfortable. And so versatile! You could wear them with jeans, skirts, stirrup pants…the sky was the limit.

Cons: They were actually pretty unattractive.

Those Little Flat Shoes With Bows On The Toe

Pros: These were actually pretty cute! Slippery, but cute. Again, very versatile, except that they didn’t go that well with stirrup pants. Skirts and rolled up jeans, though, were a perfect match.

Cons: Their cuteness was diminished with the propensity of our generation to wear them with giant slouch socks. That’s not really the SHOE’s fault, though.


Pros: If my grade seven yearbook is any indication, 75% of the population was wearing Keds or a knockoff at any given time in the late 80s. They were comfortable! Slip-on! You could wear them with slouch socks and bubble skirts!

Cons: They were mostly worn with NO socks which resulted in terrible foot odour. Not for the first time, I feel sympathy towards junior high teachers.

Cougar Boots

Pros: These were the go-to winter boots in my neck of the woods. There were many knockoff brands as well, but the general look stayed the same. They were comfortable, warm, and waterproof.

Cons: I can’t actually think of any. I find them unattractive, but no more unattractive than the average winter boot.

Duck Boots

Pros: These ankle boots were relatively practical on wet, rainy days.

Cons: They were ugly AF, as the kids say these days.

China Doll Shoes

Pros: Of all Eighties footwear, this is my favourite. I loved the look of these shoes, and I still do. I love Mary Jane style, I like that they are black, flat, and relatively comfortable. I had always thought they were called “Chinese Shoes” which seemed vaguely racially insensitive and weird. Yesterday, however, I found out that they are actually CHINA DOLL SHOES which makes so much more sense. All of my many china dolls had shoes like this.

Cons: The buckle was always breaking. They were cheap, in all senses of the word.

Did I miss anything? What did you wear on your feet in the 80s?


3 thoughts on “If the shoe fits…

  1. I honestly spent the 1980s thinking there was something wrong with my feet, because I *hated* jelly shoes. Cuts! Blisters! Sore spots! But everyone was wearing ’em so I did too, even though I can still feel that razor-sharp strap digging into my ankles.

    Duck boots were invented for people who live in urban areas. Out where I lived, duck boots were Use. Less. Our driveway used to flood every spring and no word of a lie, the water would be up to mid-calf or even higher. And yet! I still tried to wear duck boots. I’d try to jump from rocks to sticks to get across the pond with dry feet, because only the woefully-uncool wore boots that would actually keep your legs dry.

    I fondly remember china doll shoes. We too called them “chinese shoes” and I have always wondered why our shoes were casually racist, but now that you’ve enlightened me that makes total sense. They were so effortless and cute! I would wear the hell out of a pair right now, if someone offered them to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had all of these! Not all at the same time, but over the years all of them were found in my closet. The jelly shoes were the worst. I agree with Hannah the blisters and blood! *shiver*. I love love loved my Chinese shoes (seems like the misunderstanding of the name of these shoes was country wide). I remember seeing them the last time I was in Chinatown and thought “oh my arches!”. I actually had Keds that were ankle boots and green, red and blue. They looked like clown boots. And I loved them to death. And while duck boots were useless, we still all wore them. I think the only thing I would add are boat shoes. They were the rage in highschool for me.


  3. Love this!
    (You have totally given me a Leslie Pearl mindworm though.)

    The shoes I loved best were the flat “Sweet Baby Jane”s I had. Dark grey/black leather with a knot on the top of the foot. Slippery as heck, but so cute! I loved those shoes!

    I had many of the ones listed… never jelly shoes… the little China Doll shoes were so popular when I was in about Grade 2 I think. I recall a friend had them… I eventually had some. They broke all the time and wore out. Cute though!


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