The 1970s were an intensely tumultuous time, with various cultures and subcultures coming out into the open at once. Cynicism abounded as militant feminism, Civil Rights, the Watergate scandal, and the Vietnam War brought gritty reality to the forefront. These influences gave designers new ammunition, and the public was eager for the latest fashion wave.

Dressing to shock was popular, and the Punk and Glam movements took it to an extreme. Designers pushed the envelope by decorating shoes for adoring—and outrageous—customers such as Elton John, David Bowie, and Cher. Designers took platform shoes to new heights, building 7- to 8-inch stacked heels and covering them in rhinestones, sequins, and other adornments.

Movies and television shows such as Charlie's Angels were having an increasingly profound affect on fashion. Cultural icons such as Wonder Woman created a lust for interesting boots—often teamed with hot pants or short skirts. Boots might be shiny, textured, bejeweled, or covered with psychedelic or floral designs, but they were seldom boring.

Yet another segment was reacting to the economic depression and political crises of the 1970s, taking a conservative approach by wearing simple pumps, sandals, and boots. Still others went for the natural look, hoping the "back-to-nature" approach might cast some much-needed sunshine over an otherwise dreary outlook.

The media compensated by illuminating the romantic and beautiful. Historic revivals, covering many periods of history, continued. This trend, embraced by design houses such as Biba, Ossie Clark, and Yves St. Laurent, is apparent in the Edwardian-style court pumps, Roman-inspired sandals, and squared-off toe—reminiscent of the 1940s—of some mid-1970s garishly colored pumps.

Late in the decade, the film Saturday Night Fever propelled the disco movement into the mainstream, creating massive demand for strappy platform heels for women and platform loafers for men. The disco movement was short lived, but its effect was so far-reaching it became an indelible symbol of the decade.

The Nike brand debuted in 1972—the result of a fateful bit of ingenuity meeting a waffle iron. Running became a popular pastime, and running shoes were a functional necessity. The athletic craze was only just beginning …

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