Think back to that time, and what pops into your mind? For many, it’s the chunky high tops, the colorfully mismatched kicks, and loafers that were as comfy as they were fashionable. And who could forget those classic boat shoes? Sperry Top Siders and Sebago Campsides were all the rage, and an absolute must for any preppy ensemble. It was the time when comfort met style head-on, and honestly, it was a match made in heaven.
Moving on to athletic shoes, it was Nike who dominated the scene, making sneakerheads out of just about everyone. The legendary Air Jordans, introduced in 1985, changed the game forever. Meanwhile, running shoes were gaining traction (pun intended!), with brands like New Balance and Reebok carving out their own niches in the booming athletic footwear market.
But hey, the 80s weren’t just about sneakers and running shoes. The decade was also marked by a return to traditionalism in men’s formal footwear. Oxfords, brogues, and loafers in classic shades of black, brown, and burgundy were highly sought after. They were smart, sleek, and the perfect fit for power dressing.
Boots also had their fair share of the spotlight. Duck boots (of all things)! Work boots! Of course, cowboy boots made their way from the ranch to the city streets, adding a dash of rugged charm to urban style.
Oddly enough (in hindsight) hiking boots were all the rage, with brands like Timberland offering sturdy, yet stylish options that were as at home on the trails as they were in town — but most of us never hiked in our 80s hiking boots at all, any more than we rodeoed in our cowboy boots.
Let’s not forget Chelsea boots — these timeless pieces made a big comeback in the 80s, thanks to the decade’s love for all things British (shoutout also to Doc Martens!). Suede or leather, black or brown, boots added that necessary edge and versatility to a collection of 80s men’s shoes.
Whether you were lacing up for a run, hitting the yacht club in your topsiders, or stepping into a boardroom in your polished Oxfords, the 80s had you covered. It was a decade of daring designs, bold statements, and an undeniable shift in the footwear world. So, strap in — or should we say, lace-up! — because the 80s men’s shoes game was nothing short of a wild ride. Have a look below!
80s men’s shoes: How the market was changing
Article from The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, NJ) Sept 21, 1983
BOSTON – Michael Kerstein watches feet for a living. As they have come in and out of his shoe store in Coolidge Corner the last few years, he has noticed a change.
Feet increasingly are shedding wing tips and other traditional shoes with hard soles and little cushion.
Instead, they seem to be jumping pell-mell into either well-padded running shoes or something Kerstein calls casual shoes — more traditional-looking footwear with the light-weight and cushiony comfort of a running shoe. “Somewhere in here is the next big trend,” Kerstein concludes.
And just about everyone in the shoe business, especially the running shoe manufacturers, agrees with him. The running shoe companies are rushing into the casual shoe market, hoping it will help them maintain their high growth in the face of a slowdown in the sale of jogging shoes.
The running shoe companies — many of them based in New England — are the shoe industry’s equivalent of high tech, accustomed to fast growth and big profits. Nike Inc., for example, was generating $30 million in sales just over five years ago. Today, its revenues exceed $700 million, and there is intense pressure to keep the gains coming.
’80s cowboy boots for men
Boots enough enough to meet the demands of America’s truck drivers – Quality Long Haul boots with a sturdy leather foot
Steel-toe footwear: Vintage shoes & boots for guys from the ’80s
Vintage ’80s leather dress shoes for men
Old DieHard work shoes and boots from 1985
Vintage 80s handsewn leather slip-on shoes for men
Vintage 80s men’s shoes
Browse this selection of shoes, loafers, sneakers and boots for men from the eighties!
Fine leather shoes for men: Classic styles & brogues
Traditional 80s men’s shoes were perfect for the office (1983)
Comfortable 80s dress shoes for guys
80s shoes for men: Training shoes, running shoes & athletic footwear
Turf shoes for men: Puma, Hyde & Pony brands
Retro running shoes: Nike, Etonic, New Balance & Puma
Leather cowboy & western boots for men
Leather fashion western boots
Linesman’s boots, Oxfords & service boots
Dapper leather footing
Protective footwear and work boots for men
Leather hiking boots from the 80s
Retro 80s boots & outdoor shoes for boys
Vintage 80s Big Mac work boots with all-leather uppers
Dunham footwear and boots for guys
Vintage 80s menswear: Shoes
Bowling shoes and accessories
Slippers & super-casual 80s shoes for men
Vintage slippers for men – puffy, leather-look, moccasins and slip-ons
Retro waterproof rubber boots/duck shoes
80s men’s shoes: Insulated & moisture-resistant boots for men
Workboots and steel-toe footwear for men from the 80s
80s men’s shoes: Leather work shoes & boots
Classic Texas-style cowboy boots: Rio Grande designs (1983)
Sunbacker casual footwear – Athletic-style oxfords
Vintage 1980s sport shoes – Smooth & sueded leather
Leather 80s men’s shoes with rubber soles (like Topsiders)
JC Penney sports shoes from ’83
Versions of Top Siders boat shoes in the 80s
(Article continued from above)
Creating success with casual shoes for men
By almost every measure, the Rockport Co. is tiny; its $21 million in sales is a mere drop in the running business bucket. But it is this small Marlborough manufacturing company that is showing Nike and the rest of the industry the way. And, ironically, it is the running shoe manufacturers that Rockport credits for its success in casual shoes.
Rockport’s 35-year-old president, Bruce Katz, said the running boom has placed manufacturers of conventional shoes in a bind. Running was never the lifeblood of running shoe sales, he said. Comfort was. And anyone who tried on a running shoe was reluctant to step back into a less-comfortable conventional shoe.
No wonder women walk to work with high heels under their arms and running shoes on their feet, or that Nike estimates 60 percent to 70 percent of its sales are for non-athletic purposes, the so-called athleisure market.
The challenge to Katz was to develop cross-breed footwear that had the same comfort as a running shoe, but in styles that were acceptable in various social environments.
The Rocsport was introduced in 1979 as the shoe a runner such as Bill Rodgers would wear when he wasn’t running. It had a casual shoe look with many running shoe features. These included a lightweight and shock-absorbent ethyl vinyl acetate midsole, a Vibram sole and a cushiony internal support system.
The technique worked. Rockport’s sales have been registering increases of 40 percent each year, and the Rocsport is now the best-selling mail-order shoe on the market. Practically the only complaint of the 5,000 retailers who carry the shoe is that they can’t get enough of them.
New footwear is for more than just running
As Rockport’s sales have taken off along with those of knockoffs manufactured by a variety of companies — the running shoe companies have reported a decline in the number of people using their shoes for nonrunning functions.
“We’re entering a period where people are not using their athletic footwear for casual situations,” said Steven Gomez, product manager for casual shoes at Nike.
So, in something of a bind themselves, the same running shoe companies that so skillfully convinced consumers that a tennis shoe could not be used for aerobic exercises, or that a running shoe was unacceptable on the basketball floor, are now setting their sites on casual shoes.
Steven Tannen, president of Etonic in Brockton, conservatively estimates the market’s current size is more than half that of running shoes, or about $250 million. “How big it will become,” he said, “is difficult to forecast. But one thing’s for sure: It’s not a passing fad.”
Rockport is trying to keep the competition at bay by adding four new shoe lines in the last year alone, including a Dress Rocsport, which packages a running shoe feel with the look of a penny loafer. And just as running shoe manufacturers have kept customers coming back by adding new “technology” to their shoes, Rockport recently unveiled a shoe with a new radial sole.
Rockport also increased its advertising and marketing budget six-fold this year to $1.5 million to position the company as the leader and innovator in casual shoes. “Everyone’s making Rockport lookalikes,” said one ad, “but no one’s making Rockport feel-alikes.”
For their part, the running shoe companies are trying to convince customers to transfer their loyalties in running shoes to regular shoes.
Etonic, a subsidiary of Colgate-Palmolive, markets its casual shoe as a reflection of its running shoe. New Balance in Allston is doing the same.
Converse in Wilmington also is counting heavily on its running shoe reputation to build a business expected to account for 20 percent of sales in 1984.
Nike, the leader in running shoes, is trying to offer the casual shoe consumer something different with its Nike Air Casual. The shoe employs the same air cushion insole used in Nike basketball and running shoes.
Gomez sees the Air Casual as a logical extension of the company’s athletic footwear lines. But he admits the concept is harder to sell, since conventional shoe buyers are less familiar with the shoe technology.
“Marketing air as a concept is difficult,” he said.