Manufacture and Materials

Rationing was probably the biggest influence on wartime footwear in both the United States and Britain. The U.S. government conserved leather and limited shoes to six colours. Heel heights were fixed at one inch in the United States, and two inches in Britain. The fashion industry was told to promote styles that would remain in fashion, releasing factory space for wartime endeavours. Shoppers were told to buy sensible, high quality clothing and shoes that would last the duration of the war.

In Britain, clothing was rationed by coupons from 1941 through 1949. Rubber soles were banned in England in 1942, as the rubber was needed for army boots and other supplies. In the United States, people were limited to two new pairs of shoes a year. The soles were thinner, and for sports shoes soles were made of plastic or reclaimed rubber. In occupied France, leather shoes could not even be purchased. All shoes were wooden-soled, with uppers of string or fabric.

With the rationing brought upon by the war, last stocks of leather not suitable for army boots were often used for civilian shoe manufacture. A number of crocodile, snake, and lizard shoes came onto the market, for those who could afford such a luxury. Canvas and heavy cottons began to be used for uppers and layers of coloured kid could be built up to form a heel. Cork was used to make wedge heels, but it was now uncovered.