These old roller skates were cutting-edge in the 20th century – and everyone was obsessed

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When old roller skates were the hottest new tech…

Skate culture is a rich and vibrant part of American culture.

The trend began when roller skating became a popular form of recreation — as well as a social activity — in the late 1800s. During this time, developments in roller skate technology led to a boom in skating popularity.

Revolutionary technology in roller skates led to a national obsession with skating

Technology… in the Victorian age? Yes! In particular, pivoting action in the wheel base that allowed people to skate curves just by leaning into them, as well as the invention of the ball bearing and toe stops, were advancements that made roller skating safer and more enjoyable — and roller skates became more commercially viable.

By the 1930s the golden age of roller skating had dawned — an era that persisted through the 1950s.

At the peak of the trend in the 40s, when those involved in the war effort skated for stress relief, there were approximately 5,000 roller skating rinks in operation in the US.

With 18 million Americans engaged in the sport, roller skating was the number #1 recreational activity during this period.

Old roller skates - White boots
Photo by xavigm99/Deposit Photos

Roller skating was kind of a big deal in the 70s & 80s, too

In the following decades, the sport would enjoy some smaller periods of resurgence. Maybe not to quite the same level of mass obsession, but still… roller disco and Xanadu, anyone?

And, of course, skating remains popular even now, though skate parks outnumber roller skating rinks in the US these days.

Here, we invite you to follow us backward through time, and check out some of the old roller skates that were so well-loved in the heyday of the sport! – BB


The extra-cute suede roller skates in this Sprite ad are fashion-forward & color-coordinated

Trendy eighties girls roller skate with Sprite (1985)

Also see: See how Sprite lemon-lime soda hit store shelves in the ’60s, and soon bubbled its way to the top


Old black & white rink skates

1. Full precision skates — Skates feature full-grain leather uppers and lining, die-cast aluminum chassis and full-ground precision bearings that reduce friction

2. Supreme skates — have full-grain leather uppers, die-cast aluminum chassis and sealed-greased bearings.

3. Adjustable toe stop skates — Let you “customize” your skates to your stopping requirements, give you more control.

4. Roller star skates — Have vinyl uppers, sealed-greased bearings and nickel-plated steel chassis.

5. Children’s skates — Have vinyl uppers, sealed-greased bearings, and polypropylene chassis.

Old black and white rink skates (1985)


Old roller skates for kids: Fisher-Price re-invents the wheels

Here they are, roller skates that grow with your kids, as they learn to skate.

How? Our unique wheel control switch lets you set the skates for beginners, so the wheels only go forward for a steadier ride.This also makes it easier to push off and gives beginners the extra stability they need.

When your young skater acquires more confidence and becomes more sure-footed, the same switch can be set to allow the wheels to go forward and backwards just like regular skates.

And because kids like to do things “all by myself,” we’ve made these the easiest skates to put on or take off. No buckles or laces. They attach with Velcro brand fasteners.No bolts or skate keys either. Just squeeze the size adjustment buttons to lengthen or shorten.

Fisher Price Roller Skates. It’s about time.

Plastic clip-on Fisher Price roller skates (1984)

Must see! Remember playing with these classic Fisher-Price preschool toys?

Vintage roller skates in 1980s ad for Babe perfume

There’s a new Babe in town. 
And it’s you.

Babe by Faberge — the fragrance for the fabulous new woman you’re becoming. It’s exciting. It’s romantic. 
And it’s you.

Woman roller skating in 1980

Also see: 50 most popular vintage perfumes from the ’80s

Old roller skates in early-80s beauty & fashion magazine photo shoot — featuring actress Phoebe Cates

Did you know? Before landing her first movie role in 1981 at age 17, actress Phoebe Cates (famous for 80s classics like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Gremlins, and who later married actor Kevin Kline) was a model.

In these roller rink snaps from a 1980 issue of Seventeen, she’s pictured second from the left in the first two photos below.

Retro roller rink skating in 1980

Retro roller skating rink in 1980 with young actress Phoebe Cates

Retro roller skating rink in 1980


Xanadu video: Choreographed roller skating sequence

Xanadu video Choreographed roller skating sequence

This (cult) classic Xanadu roller skating sequence featuring 68-year-old Gene Kelly on roller skates is an underrated treasure!

YouTube video

Also see: The movie ‘Grease’ cashes in on Travolta & nostalgia (1978)


Old roller skates in 1980s catalog — featuring Velcro, Cabbage Patch Kids & Care Bears

Velcro closure

easy open/easy close Skates

Join Cabbage Patch Kids and the Care Bears for more skating fun!

Old roller skates from the 1980s


Old roller skates for kids — JCPenney catalog

(A) Full-Precision skates — Full-grain leather uppers, leather lined. Padded tongues. Double-cushioned trucks. Polished aluminum footplates. Full precision bearings.

(B) “Super Patriot” skates — Full-grain leather high-top boots. Padded tongues. Lightweight but sturdy aluminum footplates. Ground precision bearings. Women’s skates are white with white wheels. Men’s skates are black with white wheels.

(C) All-Leather “Supreme” skates — Have high top boot. Padded tongues. Double action trucks. Polished aluminum footplates. Sealed* bearings. Recessed axles.

(D) “Derby Star” skates — High-top vinyl boots give firm ankle support. Tongues are foam-rubber backed. Double-cushioned trucks. Aluminum footplates. Sealed bearings. Recessed axles. Firm heel counter. Medium widths.

(E & F) Fireball skates — Wipe-clean high-top vinyl boots. Padded tongues, cushion sock liners. One-piece molded steel footplates. Sealed bearings. Girls’ skates are white with red/blue stripes. Boys’ skates are blue with white/ red stripes.

Old roller skates and vintage roller skate tote bag pictured below

(G) Walt Disney character skates for children — Mid-height vinyl boots, decorated with skating Minnie and Mickey Mouse. Padded tongues. Double-cushioned trucks. Polypropylene footplates. Loose bearings.

(H) Roller skate tote — Heavy-duty nylon with 2-way nylon zipper. Padded handles and detachable shoulder strap. Collapsible bottom. I.D. tags. Blue with white trim.

(I) Children’s juvenile jogger skates — With vinyl and nylon low cut uppers. Double-action cushions with die cast hangers. Polypropylene footplates. Semi-precision bearings.

From the 1980s Old roller skates for kids


Late 70s American Express ad featuring groovy skates & that roller disco vibe 

Now when you take the American Express Card

to Bloomingdale’s, anything is possible.

The American Express Card. Don’t leave home without it.


Roller skating at Bloomingdale's - Amex (1979)

Don’t miss! Mood rings: The colorful new-age ’70 trend – and what the colors meant


Friends skating in the park for exercise and fun

Roller skates

Remember the… ‘Good Times’ TV show – including the theme song & lyrics (1974-1979)


Mail order old roller skates: Men’s and Boys’ Rink Skates

Professional-quality full precision Skates with three way response have fully sealed conical bearings for extra-smooth ride and durability.

8 Full precision means better control. Full-sealed conical bearings touch wheel and axle only — not each other — minimizing friction and wheel “play” for a smoother, controlled ride. And concealed bearings lock out dirt and grit, so they’re longer wearing.

Beveled toe-stop for better braking control. Cushioned, triple action trucks deliver forward-backward, side-to-side, and angular response. Die-cast aluminum footplates. Elk leather uppers, leather lined.

Rugged plastic wheels. Polyurethane foam padded tongue. Rubber soles. Black. “D” (medium) width only. 

Mens and boys rink skates - Black roller skates (1973)


White boots – These mail order old roller skates for women came with a with carrying case

Old white roller skates from the 70s (1973)


Old roller skates for outside: Sidewalk shoe skates for boys and girls

You’ll sail down the sidewalk looking like a pro!

Boys’ and girls’ sidewalk skates with rugged steel wheels and oversized composition wheels… greater stability for young skaters.

On, laced and ready to go in seconds… no keys to lose, no clamps to fuss with. Heavy steel wheels hold the pavement. Ball bearings smooth your ride.

Offer greater stability than most skates because wheels in both front and rear pairs stand extra-wide apart.

Smooth-rolling ball bearings. Vinyl uppers clean easily with a damp cloth. Composition rubber soles. Cushioned insole. Uppers from Taiwan.

Retro 70s roller skates in blue white and black


Old roller skates for children and adults: Zip-Fit skates slip over your shoes – Length adjusts without keys!

Youth sidewalk shoe skates with extra-wide composition wheels provide greater stability for young skaters, help make skating smoother, faster than our steel wheel skates.

Indoor-outdoor zip-fit skates — Quiet rolling composition rubber wheels ride on long-life ball bearings. sturdy enough to take tough outdoor use. yet wheels won’t harm indoor floors. One size fits all… push-pull steel frame adjusts from 8- to 10-3/4 inches. Red vinyl coated toe pieces adjust for secure fit. even over sneakers. White ankle pads cushioned with foam rubber. Adjustable leather ankle straps.

Steel-wheel outdoor skates — Just buckle up and you’re on wheels… no key required. Steel frame adjusts 7-1/4- to 9-1/2 inches long. Leather strap is adjustable for extra room and has a white foam rubber cushion across instep for comfort. Metal toe piece fits all widths of shoes, even sneakers. Ball bearings for smooth rolling. Steel wheels stand up to lots of rugged outdoor use.

First Skates — Ideal for the young ones… steel frame adjusts from 6-3/4- to 8-1/2-inches long. No key needed. Steel wheels. Laced leather toe strap and buckled ankle strap.

Sidewalk Shoe Skates — Sixteen-bearing oversize composition wheels teamed with wide wheelbase chassis for the smoothest, best handling sidewalk skate we sell. Cushioned insole. Composition rubber soles. Vinyl uppers lace snug to give ankle support and more stability than clamp-on type skates.

Sidewalk skates with rugged steel wheels — Heavy-duty steel wheels ride on 6 ball bearings for smooth skating. Wider chassis than clamp-on skates means better stability, control. Shoe skates save wear on hard sole shoes… youngster skates in a shoe designed to give ankle support and built to stand up to hard skating use.

Zip-Fit skates slip over your shoes


Old roller skates in JCPenney catalog: Fun and exercise for the family with Penney’s roller skates

Boys’ and girls’ “Royal” skates by Roller Derby. Hightop shoes add ankle support. With soft-grained-finish easy-care vinyl uppers. Ball-bearing wheels are made of long-wearing plastic. One-piece, hardened-steel chassis.

“Street King” Children’s skates — Lace-to-ankle boots for snug fit, added support. Long-lasting vinyl uppers. Rugged steel wheels for outdoor skating. One-piece molded steel chassis.

Popular Skates — Handsome grained-vinyl uppers. Single-cushion aluminum chassis. Long-wearing plastic offset wheels. Recessed axles, steel shanks provide comfortable support for arches.

Roller Derby specials — Full-grain leather uppers. Tongues lined with foam rubber. Triple-mounted cast-aluminum chassis. Built-in toe stops. Track-tested double-race plastic wheels. Recessed axles.

Our finest skates — Soft, durable, full-grain leather uppers. Fully leather lined. Form-fitting 2-piece foam-rubber-backed tongues. Polished cast-aluminum chassis with built-in toe stops. Mounted synthetic rubber shock absorbers. Fully sealed precision bearings with no wheel play and minimum friction.

Fun and exercise for the family with Penney’s roller skates (1970s)


The new popularity of roller skating

Ad supplement from The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington) November 15, 1970

Participation sports and spectator sports are expanding into the largest industries in the world. This increase can be partly attributed to the fact that today Americans have become more aware of physical fitness, because they are living in an automated society, the century of the push button.

They have concluded that exercise is important. Not only can it prolong life, but is an enjoyable break from a fast-moving everyday environment.

One sport which is growing rapidly in American popularity is roller skating. Not only can it be an individual sport, but it is an inexpensive activity that the entire family can enjoy regardless of age or skill.

Photo by mrdoomits/Envato
Photo by mrdoomits/Envato

Today, millions of people are roller skating throughout the United States. Over 15,000 skaters from fifty states are participating in state and regional competitions which lead to the North American Championship in figures, dance, freestyle, speed and roller hockey.

In 1972, by entry from the Olympic Committee, roller skating is scheduled to make its debut as an exhibition sport, in preparation as an eventual Olympic competition.

Adding to the sport’s popularity is an increased number of new and modern skating facilities.

Old roller skates circa 1970: Rink skates and Firefly Skates in Sears catalog

OId rink skates and sparkly roller skates from the 70s

Sears Best! Old roller skates for little kids in the 1970s

Retro clip-on rollerskates from the 1970s


Old roller skates and an old roller rink: Tiffany’s Skate Inn skating rink advertisment; Spokane, Washington

NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE (May 5, 1969) states that: “More new rinks have been built since 1967 than in the previous twenty-five years.

But even with the increased popularity of the sport and the increased number of new buildings, roller skating still has room for a tremendous amount of expansion. The big swing towards roller skating has allowed Tiffany’s to assist in leading the roller skating industry.

Old roller skating rink in 1970

Tiffany’s Skate Inn of Spokane, Kent, and Puyallup, have just recently been acquisitioned by a Seattle Corporation. Over three generations of qualified roller skating experience is credited to the new corporation, and will aid in their growth and expansion of the sport.

Tiffany’s Skate Inn of Spokane carries the proud distinction of being the finest roller skating center in the United States and is equipped with the very newest in high top rental skates, sound equipment and skating surface.

Tiffany’s is indeed very proud to represent the Inland Empire with the latest and most modern concepts in roller skating. The adaptation of roller skating to a community is exciting and has far-reaching benefits.

Its greatest asset is that people of all ages can participate and it encourages families to play together. Many families have discovered that roller skating not only encourages family participation but also is a constant challenge for any member who wishes to excel in the sport.

Young people today are discovering that roller skating centers are the ‘in’ thing. A place where they can meet their friends and enjoy the excitement and fun that comes from group participation.

Your visits to a roller skating center will afford you many hours of wholesome recreation while under the auspices of a supervised atmosphere. We are hopeful that the following pages will further illustrate the many benefits that a community can derive from a sound and exciting roller skating program. Please be welcome to the new world of Tiffany’s Skate Inn.


Here’s a cute illustration of a boy and a girl who are wearing old roller skates that strapped on to their shoes

Kids roller skating (1950)


Old-fashioned metal skates that attach to your shoes: Colorized photos of two friends wearing old roller skates from the 40s

Portrait of two young women with roller skates skating on the road and smiling - Colorized

Don’t miss: Spring makeup tips from the 1940s

Antique roller skates from the 1940s

Roller Skates on Black


Colorized photo of a young woman wearing old roller skates

Young woman on roller skates - 1930s-1940s


Old roller skates all blinged up: Sparkly antique roller skate

Blinged-out old metal roller skate from 1920


Performers dancing on a very early version of old roller skates

Couple dancing on roller skates from the 1910s
Everett Collection/Deposit Photos

Also see: 47 dangerous old playgrounds that our great-grandparents somehow survived

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