Bright Side

16 Famous Shoes and Sneakers That Revolutionized Footwear

Some might say shoes are as essential as any other garment, and that they even add a particular character to a whole outfit. After appearing in famous movies or conquering fashion shows, some shoes and sneaker designs became iconic. They also became key pieces for designers, some of which took them as a source of inspiration for their own creations. And then there are also other shoe designs that became classic and are constantly imitated to produce more accessible replicas.

Bright Side wants to introduce to you a collection of 16 shoes and sneakers that revolutionized the fashion industry. They dazzled almost everyone who saw them in classic movies and today are loved by millions. Their influence was so strong, they set fashion trends that continue to this day.

1. Judy Garland’s red shoes in The Wizard of Oz

Dorothy’s ruby slippers are a crucial piece in the plot of the 1939 classic blockbuster, The Wizard of Oz. When the girl arrives in the strange land of Oz after a tornado, Judy Garland’s character realizes she must click the heels of the ruby slippers together 3 times and repeat the phrase “there’s no place like home” to go back home.

Several pairs of these shoes were manufactured for the film, and their exact value is unknown. 5 pairs survived, one of which was stolen from a museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 2005, and recovered 13 years later. The emblematic red slippers are made with mixed materials like silk threads, plastic, glass, cellulose pulp, etc. Red sequins cover the shoes and bows and add shine and color.

These shoes have caused fascination to the point of being stolen. They’ve also been imitated and reproduced for all kinds of merchandise. An adult pair of these imitations costs around $40.

2. Chuck Taylor All Stars

Made of a combination of rubber and canvas, the popular Converse All Stars are the best-selling sneakers of all time, which inspired several brands to imitate their design. They have a long history dating back to the 1930s. The tennis shoe model changed its name thanks to the charming basketball player Chuck Taylor, a star who was 18 when he started his professional career.

Taylor approached Converse with the complaint that the All Stars made his feet hurt and suggested a couple of adjustments like better cushioning. The American company was delighted with him and included his signature on the shoes. From that moment, they began to be known as Chuck Taylors or Chucks. The sneakers became a complete success while, at the same time, basketball started working its way up to being an Olympic sport.

Over time they evolved into other models, and the materials were improved, but they never lost their popularity, which they enjoy to this day.

3. The ballet shoes in The Red Shoes

The Red Shoes is a successful 1948 British drama starring Moira Shearer. For many years, and to this day, this film inspired the making of red pointe and demi-pointe ballet slippers.

The movie is based on a fairy tale and tells the story of a dancer who joins a ballet company established by an acclaimed director. After working hard to achieve her goal of becoming a great ballerina, she finally has to put her dream to the test. She faces a decision where she has to choose between her career and her romance with a composer.

The Red Shoes is famous for featuring a 17-minute ballet sequence (from a ballet titled The Ballet of the Red Shoes) as its centerpiece. This particular scene and the film itself caused several generations of girls to dream of becoming ballerinas and to dream of the day when they would step on the stages where Moira Shearer’s character triumphed in red shoes.

4. Nike Air Jordan I

Air Jordan is a brand of basketball, sports, and casual wear shoes produced by Nike. The line was initially created exclusively for former NBA player Michael Jordan, who’s considered by most specialists to be the best basketball player of all time. The original sneakers featured a combination of blue and black. They were designed for the basketball star in early 1984 and finally launched to the public in late 1984.

In the late 80s and early 90s, there was a real fever for these sneakers. A popular Nike ad showed a character played by actor Mars Blackmon trying to find the source of Jordan’s talent. He ends up convinced that his achievements were due to his sneakers. The commercial generated a high demand for the shoes, and some people went crazy for them, even resorting to stealing them at gunpoint.

The Air Jordan I was originally out on the market from 1985 to 1986, with relaunches (known as “retro”) in 1994, 2001, 2004, and 2007 to 2018. They varied greatly in color, design, and materials, but always retained their essence.

5. Michael J. Fox’s Nike sneakers from Back to the Future 2

Surely, all Back to the Future fans dreamed of having the “self-adjusting” Nike that Marty McFly used in the future and with which he rode his flying skateboard. The design, called MAG, became the source of inspiration for several editions of the shoe, with the help of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

The American Eagle SoHo store in New York released the exclusive sneakers for $50,000. There are 89 exclusive pairs, the same as those that were sold on eBay in 2016 to benefit Michael J. Fox’s foundation that supports Parkinson’s disease.

Despite looking spectacular, specialists agree that they wouldn’t be useful on a daily basis due to their weight and uncomfortable interior.

6. Christian Louboutin’s “Pigalle”

In this case, French designer Christian Louboutin wasn’t inspired by a movie when he created these shoes, but rather it was the celebrities who popularized the Pigalle, the classic stilettos characterized by their red sole and stiletto heel. Louboutin designed the pair of pumps not only to set a shoe trend, but as a basic piece that would last a lifetime in women’s wardrobes.

It’s one of the most wanted pair of shoes and a true emblem of the firm. The heels were launched for sale in 2004, and soon after became the staple shoes of many celebrities, not only on the red carpet but also at other events and even in their everyday lives. The Pigalles have countless versions, but they always maintain the character of the original model.

7. Julia Roberts’ patent leather boots in Pretty Woman

The blockbuster film Pretty Woman (1990) not only fast-tracked Julia Roberts to stardom, but they also became a wardrobe piece that was a benchmark in the fashion of that time. Roberts was 23 years old back then, and her spectacular 44-inch-long legs, as she herself declared in the film, looked perfect in those thigh-high patent leather boots. According to the production team, the boots were bought from a store called NaNa, in Chelsea (United Kingdom).

The newspapers of that time referred to Vivian (the character played by Julia) as a “Cinderella in vinyl boots.” So it’s not strange that these shoes captured young women’s attention, making them go look for boots like this to show off in.

8. UGG boots

These warm boots have an ambiguous origin, but are believed to have been created in New Zealand or Australia in the early 1800s.

They were used by pilots in World War I, because they fit on airplanes without pressure. In the 1920s, shearers in rural Australia started wearing them, and in the 1960s and 1970s, competing surfers and swimmers began to use them to keep them warm when they were out of the water.

These unisex boots are made of double-sided sheepskin with a fleece inside lining, a tanned exterior, and a synthetic sole. They’re still in production as of today. What’s more, in the 2000s, they became a hot trend in the United States, which led to an increase in their sales globally. These boots have been so inspiring that there was litigation over their trademark, in addition to many productions of fake models and imitations.

9. Tom Hanks’ Nike sneakers in Forrest Gump

The movie Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, touched the hearts of millions of people around the world in 1994, and suddenly became a classic. Thanks to Nike’s Cortez sneakers, the film’s leading character was able to run miles and miles, while remembering his best friend’s phrase, “Run, Forrest, run.”

Actually, these sneakers originally date back to 1972, long before the movie was released, but became far more famous after it. Models are available in various colors, for both men and women. In 2017, Nike relaunched the classic red, white, and blue model that became iconic with Forrest Gump.

10. The Chanel 2-tone shoe

Chanel’s 2-tone shoes, originally made as slingbacks, are a classic that continues to reinvent itself. It has become the “obsession” of many women. If you can afford it, contemporary pairs are always a smart purchase, because they don’t go out of style. With their combination of beige and black, the high-heeled ones and the flat ones, made of goatskin, cost over $800.

There are cheaper options from brands that have been inspired by the classic shoe and have released their own versions, like Zara, Uterqüe, Loéil, etc.

Coco Chanel introduced this design toward the end of her career in 1957. Her goal was to create a timeless shoe that went with many different colors and allowed women to always be well-dressed and stylish while hiding dirt (hence the black toe cap). Based on these results, it seems that the French designer accomplished her mission.

11. Sarah Jessica Parker’s “Manolos” from Sex and the City

Sarah Jessica Parker, in her role as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, turned her inseparable “Manolos” into footwear that became desired by almost every woman. The pair that almost everyone remembers is the one she wore the day she married the love of her life, Mr. Big: the refined blue satin heels with jewelry decorations.

The shoe model is known as Hangisi, and its sales skyrocketed after the 2008 Sex in the City movie was released, making it Manolo Blahnik’s best-selling design. In turn, these shoes are one of the most cloned models in the world. Even Parker herself, who’s also known as a shoe lover like her character, produced very similar ones for her own line, SJP.

One of the latest Hangisi imitations belongs to the British firm Marks & Spencer, which launched an affordable version of the model. While the original “Manolos” cost around $985 to $1065, Marks & Spencer’s version retails for only $47.

12. Alexander McQueen’s armadillo shoes for Lady Gaga

McQueen’s armadillos are the iconic shoes that singer Lady Gaga wears in the video for her hit Bad Romance, though it seems impossible to take more than one step on them.

Right before his death, British designer Alexander McQueen debuted his last creation, these iconic Armadillo boots. They amazed the public with their innovative structure, somewhat grotesque appearance, and originality — the details that break all the molds.

Its structure is so complex that he only produced 21 replicas. Since then, these armadillos have become a museum piece. They were also turned into a charity piece in an auction, where Lady Gaga bought 3 pairs of these exclusive shoes. She clearly loves them and wants to make them famous.

13. Lily James’ glass slippers in Cinderella

In 2015, during the filming of the movie Cinderella, Lily James, the leading actress, was really impressed with her shoes which were decorated with Swarovski crystals. She was aware that they cost a lot of money, even mentioning that they were worth more than her apartment.

Austrian businesswoman Nadja Swarovski, the brand’s leader, said that since the glass slippers were a central icon in Cinderella’s plot, the shoes had to be “perfect.” So to create the legendary glass slippers from the classic fairy tale, a team of 8 people designed 6 different versions. The designers ended up picking an exquisite pair that were made with 221 crystals, as the final model.

Then the market was encouraged to produce several replicas, but more affordable ones, using acrylic since it’s cheaper. It also inspired the emergence of all kinds of merchandise like key chains, hanging decorations, wedding gifts, etc.

14. Michael Jackson’s anti-gravity shoes

In 1988, the king of pop, Michael Jackson, released the video clip of Smooth Criminal and the dance sequence at the end of the song totally defied the laws of gravity, which amazed his fans.

Here he and his dancers’ bodies lean at about a 45° degree angle from the floor, thanks to the “anti-gravity” shoes that Jackson himself patented in 1996. He later used them on his tours and during concerts.

To do this, he contacted 2 inventors who helped him design the shoes. They worked thanks to the cleats, which would hook onto fixed screws on the surface of the stage. Thus Jackson and his dancers could bend in midair at an impossible angle. According to the summary of the patent and the images from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, it’s a perforated shoe that enables a person to fall forward, beyond their center of gravity, without losing balance.

15. The “shoe-phone” from Get Smart

The family-friendly series Get Smart was released in the United States in 1965, and soon after became popular worldwide. This parody of spy movies and shows, starred Don Adams, as Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, and Barbara Feldon, as Agent 99, who later get married together.

The 2 agents were assigned to infinite missions, but Smart’s incompetence always caused problems. Despite this, he never failed any of his missions thanks Agent 99’s help and, most importantly, to his infallible shoe-phone: An advanced cell phone for its time, that had the body of a shoe and a disc on the sole.

What no one imagined is that this shoe would inspire a British artist to come up with a similar design to reuse old mobile phones by turning them into footwear dubbed the “Walkie Talkie.” The prototype lets users feel a vibration on their foot when they receive a call, after which they can remove their shoe, bring it closer to their ear, and chat.

16. Bella Swan’s wedding shoes designed by Manolo Blahnik

Kristen Stewart portrayed a beautiful bride on the big screen when playing Bella Swan in the Twilight series, one of the most romantic vampire sagas in film and literature. One of the most impressive accessories from the whole movie saga were her wedding shoes, created by Spanish designer Manolo Blahnik exclusively for the film.

Afterward, these went on sale to the public in white, black, and blueberry. They also inspired many brands to create different replicas at a much cheaper price later on. The originals were sold on the website of the online boutique Neiman Marcus. However, you can find them on eBay at an approximate value (including tax) of $1,500.

The shoes, which were named Swan in the character’s honor, are lined in satin, finished in a round toe, and are decorated with a fine crystal appliqué. These luxury heels became part of the designer’s collection, and continue to make young girls sigh.

Which of these shoes do you like the most? Which one would you like to have in your wardrobe? Have you ever paid a significant amount of money for a pair of shoes that you were dying to have? Tell us in the comment section!

Preview photo credit Arroser / Wikimedia Commons, Chanel