Shoes sometimes have funny names, don’t they? We often use these words without giving a moment’s thought to their derivation, so in a new regular feature we’ll be looking at those names and finding out about where they come from. We’re going to kick things off today with one of the stranger ones: the “Brothel Creeper”.
At first glance the reason for the name seems obvious: we are clearly talking about a shoe that guys at some point used to wear while creeping around Brothels. After all, these are traditionally establishments where gentlemen might not wish to draw too much in the way of attention, and the ‘creeper’ style features a soft crepe sole that keeps noise to a minimum. But why was this style popular among a certain type of gent in the first place?
The creeper shoe was originally a forces’ shoe, worn by soldiers in the desert regiments during World War II. Their hard-wearing crepe soles were ideal for the climate and environment. However, those same soldiers quickly found the quietly creeping shoes were also perfect for wear in a wholly different environment: the London nightspots they frequented while off duty.
Later on, perhaps encouraged by the shoes’ and their wearers shady reputations, the Teddy Boys of the 1950s began wearing the shoes along with drainpipe trousers, draped jackets, velvet clothing and quiffs. The look was also worn by punks in the 70s and 80s when they were brought back in vogue by Malcolm McLaren and other luminaries of the rock scene.
The shoe is still popular among certain subcultures including rockabillies, psychobillies and goths, and is widely sold by brands like Underground England, T.U.K and Demonia. Mainstream fashion’s obsession with all-things 80s looks likely to bring them back to prominence along with the revival of punk, and we’re seeing the shoes decorated with suede and other fabrics in every colour of the rainbow.