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The quasi-orthopedic shoe as fashion: Part 2 of a series*

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A question to those of you were there: I know we are supposed to look back at certain items we wore in our youth and laugh—oh, how silly we were! What fun!—and for the most part I can. I can view photos at myself in my Candie’s mules circa 1978, for instance, and think it is positively a scream that I had no idea I was wearing hooker shoes. But I can not do this with Earth Shoes, and I am wondering: can you? Can anyone? Anywhere? My brain positively bends upon considering their fug. And we all wore them—even the popular girls at my high school in Houston, which was like the capital of priss. I recall studying ads like this one quite seriously in the months before my mom bought me a pair, and being fascinated by the Euro-hippie science behind the “negative heel,” which was supposed to approximate walking in the sand, which would in turn improve your posture. (And a lot of good that would do, when you were wearing the shlumpy-ass shoes of the universe.)

Screen shot 2013-03-14 at 6.41.44 PMEarth Shoes stopped being sold in the US at around the end of the 1970s, but you can now buy versions from an updated line. Every once in a while, a trend writer will do a story about how Earth Shoes are coming back, but that’s just because sometimes there are very serious trend shortages, and editors are forced to improvise. This Etsy seller is promoting these as the pair that Lindsay Weir wears on Freaks and Geeks, and they’re probably the best of the old-school bunch, because they could just almost pass as Wallabees.

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On the other end of the spectrum, I feel the world is not only ready, but entirely overdue, for a Famolare comeback of some sort. Remember that comfy, happy, wavy sole? Those Richard Avedon ads with Joe Famolare holding his famous sandals up to his face? That crazy-catchy Famolare jingle (which 30 years later is seared in my brain)? I found this picture of shoe designer Ruthie Davis and hope she doesn’t mind me posting it, because she looks so awesome in her blue Famolares. (I had that exact pair, by the way, except mine were rust. I feel like every pair of shoes I owned for the entire decade of the 70s was rust.)

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The Famolare orthopedic magic lays  in its “synchronized 4-Wave Sole,”—each one of those cute little waves performs a separate and equally important function with each step you take, adding support and comfort. I’m not certain any magic wave juju could make this rainbow bright super-platform all that comfy, but I’m trying not to care.  And I’m trying not to care that they’re used either, because used shoes usually skeeve me out, and I totally want these.

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Joe Famolare retired to Vermont some time ago, and brought the company with him. Most of the stuff they’ve got now doesn’t quite hit me, but sometimes—particularly when I’m feeling especially, stupidly, nostalgic, I like to think this happy red pair would do in a pinch.


*Part 1 Was the Dr Scholl’s post on Monday. But I did not know it at the time. 


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Posted on March 15th, 2013 30 Comments

30 Responses

  1. Donna says:

    Oh, I had the earth shoes! I don’t remember what my 1970’s ones looked like, but I quite like the ones that I have now. They’re sandals and do have a nice design. My only problem with them is that they make a sound when I walk. Kind of like wet thongs make when you slide as you walk. I bought the Earth shoes after I had back surgery, thinking they might help. I don’t think that they helped my back more than any other flat shoes, though.
    Sadly, I keep developing problems where the Dr says “no high heels”. Getting older really does suck sometimes.

  2. lori says:

    Oh, yes!! Or really, NO!!!
    Thank you for the laugh this morning! We all make odd sartorial choices when we are 13 but those things are soooo fug! I remember being so excited when I finally got mine. The 70’s version of Crocs??

  3. Margie says:

    I caved to peer pressure in Sophmore year of HS and bought a pair of earth shoes. Too crunchy for me!!!! Quickly gave them the boot. The candies craze hit right after and I clacked through the halls with the rest of the disco girls. My older sister called us “chick a booms” “which was the perfect descriptive!

  4. Jaimie says:

    No famolares for me but I did own a pair of knock off earth shoes from Bakers. I did sport some big chunky-soled mary janes from Cherokee when I got to college. Recently there was a revival of the old school wooden Dr.Scholls. I have a leopard pair but beware of your foot stepping off the side — extremely painful! I also wore those giant Doc Martens sandals when they were a thing. I wish I could say I now only wear pretty slippers and ballet flats but there are a couple of pairs of regular Docs and Danskos lurking in my closet.

  5. marjorie says:

    oh how i loved famolares! mine were beige. i was sad to see the current site — those are FUGLY shoes, with none of the playfulness they had in the late 70s. the black platform is too heavy! and the imprinted lines make them look like tires. they need the airy tan soles and less birkenstoppy tops. they should talk to the korkease people about how to do this right.

  6. Violet says:

    Oh, the Famolares! I had the strappy sandals but I can’t remember if they were this multi or tan. Probably tan because I was in high school during their reign and my mother would have considered the multi not practical enough. Regardless, they were so great!

    And now I wonder if they have always lurked deep in my brain because I just realized the strappy ones are what I am ultimately looking for whenever I shop for a heeled sandal.

  7. Debra says:

    I am just grateful that there is no photographic evidence of me wearing all of the above shoes except for the memories permanently seared into my brain. The rainbow Famolares were not comfortable but were like quiet bedroom slippers compared to Candie’s mules or the torture of Dr.Scholl’s patented heel slicing wooden soles.

    I remember especially rocking a combo of: the Earth Shoes (the round toe ones in dark brown), knee high argyle socks, a rust colored corduroy wrap skirt, and a qiana knit button up shirt in a teal and cream flower pattern.

  8. Rosie says:

    I had Famolares and my mom wore Earthshoes. Famolares with bitchin tight jeans that we had to spray with water to get on.

  9. blackbird says:

    Two words (or is it hypenated?): KORK EASE.

  10. Gypsy says:

    I loved my Candie’s in the 70’s…what high school in Houston did you attend? I also had Yoyo’s with the hole in the sole.

  11. AmyM says:

    I *desperately* wanted Famalores but they were not in the budget. So wish they would bring back the originals because I still think they’re cute and I’d wear them in a heartbeat.

  12. JoannaWNYC says:

    I only admired the Famolare ads, but never owned a pair. I did have Korkease platform sandals, as wall as platform huaraches, shoes I kind of want to own again …

  13. Dianne says:

    I had Famolares in 8th grade ( 1975-1976). Brown oxford style. My stylish mom hated buying them for me. She and I fought about clothes all the time. She thought I dressed too grungy/tomboy.

    Never had Earth shoes but nearly everyone in my junior high did. Not real ones, but the Thom McCann knock offs. Real ones were expensive.

  14. Belle says:

    Today the most fugly are those MBTs that everyone’s yoga teacher wears. I’m sure they’re good for your back but really expensive and ugly.

  15. Dianne says:

    Candies! I couldn’t walk in heels do I never went there but the were super popular. Remember the ” winter” ones? They had faux shearling lining the clog style front. They were everywhere during my high school years ( 1977-1980)

  16. sarah says:

    I don’t want to make you too jealous, but I bought those high Famolares in black patent on ebay a couple years ago. Just like new, although the rubber has yellowed a wee bit. They are awesome. The rainbow is even awesome-er!

    ps- also had the rust sandals in jr. high 🙂

  17. chicks says:

    Sadly, it you really need therapeutic shoes you can’t even wear these cool retro styles.

  18. sheila says:

    I was obsessed with Famolare back in the day (late 70’s early 80’s)- I had a couple of low heel pairs and Mom had the fun high-heels– and have bought several pair on eBay and the coolness way overcomes the skeevieness of used shoes. They are tremendous. I have a low ‘Get There’ pair with the rainbow straps, and a high pair with tan and they are among my most beloved shoes- never dreamed I’d own any again. Happy!!

  19. sheila says:

    OH- and Gypsy- you had YoYo’s! I started to think I had imagined those- I thought those were awesome but my mom thought they were too grown up for me. I’ve never seen any mention of those since until now!

  20. daisyj says:

    I guess Uggs aren’t an isolated phenomenon. At least you can take comfort that you weren’t wearing them with anything written on your butt.

  21. Laurel says:

    True story : I won a pair of the rainbow Famolare sandals in a pinball contest at Blooimngdale’s. They were wildly uncomfortable but I did not care a bit. Had not thought about those shoes in 25 years, but your story made me call my friend who was with me that day for a great laugh. Thank you!

  22. Lynn in Tucson says:

    Oh, how you’re taking me back! FWIW, I currently own a pair of Earth Shoe slides with rhinestones and I love them to distraction. They’re crazy comfortable.

  23. SERAFINA says:

    Ok so true story- April of 1977 I am a sophomore in high school dragged to Italy for Easter to visit family. I know poor me right? I pack my earth shoes, my overalls, my carpenter pants and my bad Dorothy hamill haircut. One of my cousins turns to my mother and in Italian says “poor thing! When will the doctors let her stop wearing those orthopedic shoes?” faster than you could say Madonna! I was dragged to stores all over town and came home with stilletto heels, dark wash denim and a fabulous new wardrobe. Thank you Mom!!

  24. mims says:

    I think you need to do a post on the dorky socks we wore with these shoes (or lack there of). I actually owned a pair of rainbow striped toe socks that I wore with pink canvas allstars high tops. I shudder to think…..
    but as a catholic school girl who wore a uniform K thru 12, socks and shoes were my only way to carve out some personal style.

  25. ita darling says:

    Next post: WorishoferS!!! (and you must google image search all the brooklyn “it” girls rocking them…) Part 4: nd we can review the tasty offerings of Mephisto and Dansko…Maybe dip our toes further into euro-orthodics and discuss Arche and some of R. Clergerie’s mistakes. In fact! Lets just run the gamut of orthopedics-and pretend we are all single- none of us ever want to get laid ever again and no one cares what we are wearing..YAY! happy feet! We all invest in Taryn Rose and nosedive into fashion oblivion!! I am being terribly silly- (in all seriousness though- if I lived in Brooklyn, I would totally wear some Worishofers like M. Gylenhaal and K. Dunst.)

  26. Mae says:

    My lifelong shoe addiction began in 1975 with Earth Shoes (I had the knee-high boots and two pairs of shoes) and Famolares (rust woven sandals and those crazy huge yellow bowling ball looking clogs that I just saw for sale on Ebay for like $500). Love, love, love that you posted that first ad for Earth Shoes. Seventeen magazine, right?

  27. Tracy says:

    I had rust suede Earth Shoes in jr. high which were worn with rust cords that were long enough to completely hide the shoes. When getting dressed up, I wore my Bare Traps platforms which I loved!! These beautifully showed off the rainbow toe socks. Upon my switch to Catholic school for high school, I got navy blue Famolares (to coordinate with the school uniform). Dr. Scholls were a summer staple. By the end of high school, I lived in clogs, which I have actually considered wearing again, and a few designers have brought them back, but there’s one thing I can’t figure out. The clogs of my youth had tiny nails connecting the leather to the wood sole. Now, they all seem to have sloppy looking stapes. The nails looked much better.

  28. RJS says:

    I just can’t “go there.” I associate this kind of funky footwear, with wearing knee-high support hose and Depends, too. It’s due to my first professional job: assistant program director at a Jewish nursing home. Oy.