Pumps, ballet shoes, plimsolls, court shoes… whatever you call them, they’re the best go-to shoe to have in your shoedrobe for a quick grab ‘n’ go. Forever a classic, they’re a timeless investment as they work with any outfit, anywhere. We’re delving into the world of pump shoes today, from heels to flats.
A Pump by Any Other Name…
Pumps are American English, whereas Brits call it a Court Shoe because they were traditionally worn in royal courts. For traditional menswear it’s referred to as an Opera Slipper. Adding a strap over the front evolve them into Mary Janes, whilst flat varieties are often called Ballet Shoes thanks to their similarity to classic ballet slippers. A canvas upper often means they become a Plimsoll. Whatever you call them, wherever you’re from, you’ll love them.
History of the Pump
Like heels, pump shoes actually began as a shoe for upper-class gentlemen in the Regency period. They were paired with stockings and breeches, and often had buckles. In the Victorian era the pumps were worn to dance in, which is where the name Opera Shoe came from. Nowadays men will reach for brogues of Oxford shoes instead of pumps, with women claiming the trend for their own.
For ladies, pumps can be heeled or flat, making them extremely versatile and suited to any style. For Brits, pumps are usually flat shoes whilst in America there is usually a small heel. In both styles, shiny, patent leather is often a classic option. Satin styles are the go-to for dancers and ballerinas whilst white leather is commonly associated with US beauty pageants.
Leather is the best option for an everyday flat pump shoe. There’s often a low vamp and the interior is lined with either leather or silk. Traditionally the sole would be sewn on, but nowadays due to mass consumption they are usually glued. A bow is the most common form of decoration - classically made from grosgrain. Aside from a ribbon, they are often extremely simple and low on detailing which is what makes them so simple and versatile. The key is that it’s always an easy, slip-on silhouette.
Heel size for pumps range from a smaller kitten heel to a full-on stiletto heel, making them a great option for finding a slightly more glamorous look that suits your confidence levels. They shouldn’t slip off the feet when worn, as it’s important when wearing heels to get the perfect fit to avoid back problems and aching feet.