Frankenstein shoes

In Shoes on January 25, 2011 at 6:56 pm
by Ben Watts

 For this week’s mid-week special I’ve decided to stay out of the archives and discuss something new, because I need to discuss it now. It won’t wait until Saturday morning (so you might get an Archives Special then, we’ll see). I need to know what you all think urgently.

Anyway. It’s about these here shoes. I saw them in the window of Prada in London’s Bond Street and they literally stopped me in my tracks.

I immediately snapped this picture and posted it on Twitter with the following comment:

I think these are the ugliest shoes I have ever seen.

Quite a few people agreed with me. But then something happened: I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I kept turning the concept of them – the outrageous concept of marrying the brogue, with the espadrille, with the 80s trainer – over and over in my head, like sucking on a giant gobstopper.

And then I started to like them.

What they are, I’ve realised, is a hybrid clone shoe. The terrible experiment of an evil mad shoe professor, gone horribly wrong. A Frankenstein shoe, made of the body parts of other shoes and just as ugly and scary as that mythical monster.

They also make me think of that saying about God making the hyena out of all the spare parts he had left over from making all the other animals.

But what they finally are – and this was the clincher for me – is a brothel creeper. They are a brother creeper made out of bits of other iconic shoes.  A hyena hybrid brothel creeper. Bring it on.

And I love brothel creepers. They are a properly iconic shoe and what makes them particularly interesting is their long-time association with youth sub-cultures.

They’re said to have developed after WW2 from the rubber-soled army desert boots, but first appeared in the style we know now in the 1950s made by George Cox of Northampton, the traditional centre of the British shoe industry. Thrillingly they’re still in Northampton and still making them.

Back then in the early 1950s, they were immediately adopted by Teddy Boys, becoming part of their classic rig out.

I first started wearing them in the late 1970s when I was a punk rocker. All cool punks wore creepers – see Mr John Lydon on the left here -which was ironic as Teddy Boys were our greatest enemies. But like everything great about punk it was naughty Malcolm McLaren’s idea. He and Vivienne used to sell creepers in their shop Let It Rock, which opened in 1971, so it was natural that the shoes became part of the dress code, when he invented British punk a few years later.


Although I think us stealing their shoe style was one of the things which pissed Teddy Boys off so much about us punks (and as these amazing pictures by Ben Watts show – you really don’t want to piss off a Teddy Boy…).

by Ben Watts

I wore them again in the 1980s – as did Bananarama, although maddeningly I can’t find a pic of them doing it – and last year the idea suddenly crept into my brain that it was time they came back into my life again.

Then, in the way of these synchronistic things, I was having my hair done back in the summer and I noticed that lovely Cetera (who does my colour at John Frieda, if you’re interested…), was wearing them.

Like me she is at the weenie beanie end of the height spectrum and we had a very satisfying chat about the genius walkable plus height-boosting combo that’s unique to a creeper. You can run in a creeper, be it for a bus, or from a Teddy Boy.

In my clubbing youth I used to walk from the Music Machine in Camden, all the way down to our squat in Clapham North at four in the morning without a second thought, in mine.

The same day I saw Cetera’s creepers, I discovered that the very excellent Office shoes were doing them (including a fine style featuring leopardskin), so this iconic shoe is definitely having another fashion moment – and Miuccia Prada is right on it as always.

So I now love the shoes I initially thought were the world’s ugliest. I love them for being a combo of four of my favourite shoe styles and for being so fabulously outrageously wrong. But I don’t think I’m game to wear them. I think I’m just a little too old to be quite so wacky.

But it’s never too late to wear a classic creeper. I’m going to the British Boot Company in Camden to score myself some black suede George Cox originals.

So what do you all think?
George Cox brothel creepers

  1. I think these are a bit to much on the crepe sole side. But I do hanker after a pair of these Trickers/Redwing hybrids from Present London:


  2. I love this post! I wouldn’t wear the shoes, but I can see them being very popular – and copied.

  3. Hmmmmm – I’m still not quite convinced.

  4. My first thought when I saw the picture was “brothel creepers”. I can see them on very cool guys but not on me.
    Maggie, I’m still missing you in my GW on Saturdays…life is not quite the same.

  5. This is exactly the same as my journey with Miranda July.

  6. Dear Maggie,

    I like the shoes……..but something about the beautiful/ugly nature of clumpy shoes like this is always appealing. (But then, I have also always thought ‘ugly’ hyaenas and vultures ‘beautiful’ so there may be a theme there). Hefty flat shoes make women look like they are capable of anything; so sure of themselves that they don’t care what others think, and yet(especially when worn in concert with girly clothing, a fashion which has come and gone in the past)as feminine as they wish to be, all at the same time. So go on, dare to go the clump – surely you are never too old to have a bit of fun with fashion are you………?

  7. I have known several hyenas and have often been affronted on their behalf by the the concept that they were an afterthought of some kind and remembering the Teddy Boys of my youth, I disdained their ugly ‘brothel creepers’.
    On the other hand, do not get me started on their ‘drape coats’, ‘frock coats’ or ‘Prince Albert coats’ (choose your favoured nomenclature) as I have loved and worn same since I grew old enough to purchase my own….
    Thanks, as always, Maggie for providing me with words to contemplate.

  8. My first thought was “fab shoes”. Not fab in the make-me-feel-tall-and-magic-all-at-once sense but fab in that it takes courage and confidence to wear them, but they’d be so comfy that the wearer reaps the rewards. Plus they’re new and I’m feeling uninspired by clothes and shoes at the moment.

  9. Run…don’t walk as far away from these shoes as possible!!!
    Sorry Maggie but they are UGLY! Xx

  10. I think the Ben Watts photos are amazing…love them. Much more than the shoes…

  11. I would leave them to the young, lean, tall. They can wear anything.
    A benefit of being less young is that we don’t have to have everything. Helps reduce clutter too.
    But beware: scientists reckon that the more we see something, the more we end up liking it. Like middle-aged women ending up wearing ‘baby’ doll dresses…
    Just bought a pair of MBT sandals(, look at their video), which may have inspired the Prada curved sole.
    Those are REALLY ugly, but with many benefits. Hence I only wear them at home, as they do wonders to exercise butt/thigh muscles when just walking around (particularly going up the stairs)

  12. Maggie, I have to agree with the naysayers- and remember you hated those plastic boat shoes!

  13. Love brothel creepers on skinny legged, black be-jeaned youths, which is a symptom of growing up in northern england during the seventies.

    But to wear them myself? Not with my shoe size, luv!

  14. Love the Brothel creepers. When I was a teenager, roughly 20 years ago, we wore them. But rather than being Teddy boys, we Were Bell Biv Devoe inspired New Jack Swing, R&B style, with a Canberra twist. Classic.

  15. Those shoes look like the spice girls orthotics range.

    Am also a MBT wearer only after dark when walking dogs – under strict instruction from teenage daughter who won’t be seen in tow with the lady in ‘frankie boots’

    BTW the Goodweekend is getting poopier by the week so you will be glad you aren’t part of it anymore.

    I saw the queen of shops Mary on tellie the other night jabbering on about her secret shopper show and instantly thought you should be doing something in that vein but taking the role of the seriously in need shopper who has t minus 48 hours to get an outfit

  16. I like them too. I recently inherited my grandfather’s last remaining pair of two-tone brothel creepers after he died at 95. Happily, and somewhat weirdly, it turns out we must have had exactly the same shaped feet. I slipped my feet into his shoes and they fitted like, well, gloves.

  17. Oh the lure of the wabi-sabi.

  18. I think those shoes are awful, typical of the designers today not knowing or understanding the fashion/culture where these shoes come from! When Robot shoes shut down, I was in mourning for many years, til I found “real” brothel creepers again in Camden Town at the British Boot Company
    Thanks for the post

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