Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn at a shoe fitting with Salvatore Ferragamo.
In the vintage world, there are a few standout designers that when found, a vintage dealer either must a.) squeal with delight upon finding or b.) squeal with delight AND horror upon finding, since said piece is just too rare of a find to give up, but most likely costing a pretty penny, too.
Thankfully there is middle ground. One of those coveted names that meets middle ground in terms of a.) excitement and b.) price point are: Ferragamo Shoes.
Read on for the Ferragamo family history and their achievement of the “American Dream” and ensuing hop into Hollywood, as well as the happiness that these vintage prizes can add to bottom of your closet and why the name should be at the top of your list of vintage style must-haves.
Full Name: Salvatore Ferragamo.
Born and Raised: Bonito, Italy; born 1898.
Claim to Fame: Created unique hand-made footwear to many Hollywood stars in the 1920s to his death in 1960. The height of his popularity was during the golden age of Hollywood and his footwear designs are considered leading 1950s women’s fashion trends. Fame immortalized with the “cage heel” and “wedge heel” inventions to his name.
Origin of Talent: His family couldn’t afford to buy his sisters new shoes for Communion. This loving brother — at the mere age of 9! — sought out to make them new shoes by using leftover materials from the nearby cobbler.
His success translated to his own shop at age 14, and then the move to America in 1914 where he began his shoemaking career on an assembly line in Boston and after realizing his design dreams could never be attained in a sweatshop, moved to California where his career — and vision — took off and created the brand that exists today.
The American Dream: After moving to California from Boston, where Ferragamo and his brothers worked on the assembly lines of shoe factories in the depths of the immigrant-friendly Bean town, his career took off after opening a shoe repair shop in Hollywood. It was here that he became “shoemaker to the stars,” fashioning and handcrafting female foot candy for the stage of the cinema and its red carpet actresses.
Classic Comfort: While names synonymous with celebrity footwear today [ahem, red-soled Loubies] may be eye candy, that doesn’t always equate to foot comfort. And that is where Ferragamo is different.
Ferragamo studied anatomy at the University of Southern California while his popularity grew in Hollywood. He then returned to Italy where he opened a workshop and began applying for patents of his visionary designs and ahead-of-its-time shoe structure. In 1950, his workshop expanded to 700-employees plus producing 350 handmade shoes a day.
Vintage Investment: Ferragamos don’t have red soles like the all-too-coveted [not to mention expensive] Loubies, but they do have an ubiquitous design element that speaks to style, grace, and of course … good vintage taste.
With new shoes retailing for $200 and upwards at your local Neiman Marcus or chichi department store, grabbing a pair of one-of-a-kinds costing you $40-$60 is the most return-for-your-investment on a designer shoe crafted for style and crafted for comfort, too.
Visit: The Ferragamo Museum
Sammy Davis Vintage Ferragamo pumps, available on Market Publique, size 9.5 / $40
Sammy Davis Vintage Ferragamo studded wooden clogs, available on Market Publique, size 9 / $40
MORE FROM THE ’50s
INSPIRATION: Why the 1950s Makes You Feel Like a Lady
CELEBRITY: Where to Buy Marilyn Monroe’s ’50s Clothing
STYLE: Why Casey of Elegant Musings Loves the Shirtwaist Dress
PLUS: More on 1950s Fashion from Fashion-Era.com