Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Link: History of the "Gunboat"

The Vintage Shoe Addict site has a fascinating, well-researched history of the double-soled blucher shoe, which fans lovingly refer to as "gunboats" because of how heavy they feel when worn. This shoe in the long-wing wingtip style, which the article touches on, has always been one of my favorite shoe styles, especially in brown pebble-grain, as shown on the VSA link:



While appropriate year-round, my thoughts always turn to them this time of year, especially in this kind of brown, which I always associate with fall.

This shoe is generally associated with Florsheim; according to the link, they invented it c.1959. However, many other manufacturers made them in the shoe's heyday. 

They also were apparently widely available; I was just browsing eBay for some, and I came across a pair branded for J.C. Penney and another for Sears:




I don't know who made either of them, but I'm sure it was a quality maker. They look indistinguishable from Florsheims, and the pictures of the soles clearly show them to be welted, rather than glued.

My impression is that this style was the dress shoe for an entire generation of American men in the post-war years. And for good reason -- they're great-looking, extremely comfortable, and nearly indestructible. I especially remember an old man from the church I attended when I was a kid; he seemed to only have three pairs of dress shoes: gunboats in black, brown, and burgundy. But they were always meticulously clean and polished, and he always looked sharp. 

These shoes are also appropriate with virtually anything this time of year, from jacket and tie to cords or khakis with a sweater or a casual jacket.

Like with most other shoe styles, the only manufacturers I know of off-hand who still makes these with the old-fashioned quality are Allen-Edmonds and Alden.

I only advise clicking on those links to get another lesson in what the Federal Reserve is doing to the value of our money, especially if you remember what these shoes cost just a few years ago. Once you've seen that, you'll likely be inspired to do the smart thing: go to eBay and find a barely used pair for under $100.