This article and a portion of this website is generously sponsored by Stout’s Shoes

Foot and shoe decoder from Women's Shoes in America, 1795-1930

If someone asked you to name the oldest business in Indy, what are the chances that Stout’s Shoes would come to mind?  No person on this earth was alive when Stout’s wasn’t alive and kicking on Mass Ave–think about that.  However, there may possibly be someone living who recalls shoe styles of 100 years ago, but even if you don’t, you’d have to concede that vintage looks are constantly reinvented.

As often demonstrated on this site, life and history operate in a somewhat circular fashion–and the Circle City is no exception . Join in this exercise to compare some historic Stout’s advertising with shoes you will find in Stout’s  Shoes on Mass Ave today. See for yourself how much or how little Indianapolis footwear has changed in the last 100 +/- years.

Take for example this advert from 1899:

While the modern era may have dispensed with buttons or lace-up as the most common closure for boots, the shape, height and construction lines are remarkably similar. Compare the above left boot with the boot below. While the boot below has less ornamentation in lines of construction, the overall shape is remarkably similar.

October 2012, boot on display at Stout's shoes on Mass Ave


Check out the six styles featured in this spring 1911 advert, where Stout’s touts its ‘Snappy shapes which fairly sparkle with style.’


Looking at the six pairs of shoes feature, you can recognize the similarities in shoes that are in Stout’s today. The top left, labeled 1 has a more pointed toe, but you can see that it’s a basic slip on with some sort of ornamentation (hard to decipher its exact makeup from old newspaper). The shoe below has a more rounded toe, but is still a slip-on with some small ornamentation.

The second shoe has one buckle going across the instep of the foot, much like the style featured below–though the one in the advert has a slimmer strap.

The third featured shoe has passed back through fashion history in recent years, but not much with the enlarged toe bed is currently popular. A different style of boot that is popular now at least alludes to the pronounced look of a seam line along the bottom of the shoe–see below:

The fourth featured shoe in the old ad has laces, but the shoe below retains the same overall sort of shape, without the hassle of laces. The 2012 shoe is a snug slip-on that encases almost as much of the instep as the one in the ad.

While there wasn’t a double strapped shoe currently on display at Stout’s, the open design of the decorative strap that crosses the instep area in the grey suede shoes below evokes a similar feel of the fifth shoe in the 1911 ad. It looks like the stitching was prominent or had piping around the opening, as the modern day shoe does. The black shoe that follows synthesizes elements of a couple of the older shoes–the higher up strap across the instep and the abbreviated laced element. If you were going to time travel back to the Edwardian era, you likely wouldn’t blow your cover wearing either of those shoes.

The sixth shoe in the featured advert looks amazingly similar, save for the lack of buttons on the modern day version. The rounded toe bed and the pattern lines between the heel and the side of the instep appear almost identical.

This advert shows the everyday menswear shoe of 1899, and while the ankles are no longer covered in the everyday menswear shoe of 2012, we can agree that the rest of the shoe design is quite similar to most mens’ dress shoes you will find today.

These 1917 shoes are still covering the ankle, and the lacing seems to go closer to the toe than most mens’ shoes today, but you can see that the overall shape has not changed all that much over the years.

This advert from 1913, as well as the above two from 1917, advertise the other Stout’s location, at 12 East Washington Street, back when Stout’s had two locations.

One response to “Sunday Adverts: Stout’s Shoes & the Circular Nature of Styles”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    My current dress shoes were bought at Stouts on Mass Avenue several years ago when my late wife and I visited Indianapolis to see some of my relatives and some of our mutual friends…we were both glad to see Stouts alive and well downtown! (As well as the rest of Mass Avenue “coming back”…)

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