It’s summer. And for the elegantly-dressed, hot weather is accompanied by delicate conundrums. Compared to displaying one’s own bare skin, cloth is a relatively uncomplicated affair.
Until recently this question hardly arose as the body was expected to remain covered in polite society from ankle to wrist to neck, and above the crown of the head. With the unwinding of society’s fixation with and disapproval of the public human body these convenient coverings have steadily receded. Today, we are less burdened in summer with devising how to wear all this fabric without resembling a perspiring water fountain. Rather we are doubly vexed by how to present geographically more skin, accompanied here and there by appealingly fashioned scraps of cotton, linen, silk and other cool plant materials.
An advertisement for Keds ‘The shoes of champions’ in the November 1935 edition of Esquire magazine.
The advertisement is accompanied by illustrations of tennis, handball, basketball, the gymnasium, and ‘racquets or squash’. The shoe is clearly depicted as being—as the blurb in the bottom-left former describes—‘for every athletic purpose’. Add to that: dancing.
Swing dance historian Bobby White explains how Keds were essential equipment for professional lindy hop dancers between the world wars:
The basic Keds shoe (called “The Champion” today) and other Keds-like sneakers first appeared in 1917 and were the shoes the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers began wearing to perform fast, high flying Lindy Hop routines… [In] Keep Punching in 1939, we start to see Keds and sneakers on the Whitey’s.[i]
The ‘Big Apple’ scene from Keep Punching, 1939 (director John Clein, writers Rosamond Johnson & Marcy Klauber).