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The Puffer Chronicle

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This is the first chapter of ‘The Puffer Chronicle’ – an account of my modest involvement with high heels over the years.   If you have any questions or constructive comments, I will do my best to answer them, but please understand that certain things in my life must remain confidential. 

Looking back over what is now quite a long life, I cannot really remember how or when my interest in high heels (or, indeed, women’s footwear in general) truly started.   It probably stemmed from an accumulation of minor experiences and observations gained as a young boy.  I had a growing perception that there were distinct differences between ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ and how they normally dressed and behaved.   I realised that some ‘girly’ things were not permitted for boys (or men) and were therefore somewhat mysterious and, in their way, both attractive and enticing.

Certainly, there was little to stimulate interest at my home in West Middlesex in the 1950s.   I had a younger brother (but no sisters) and a father who was distinctly old-fashioned in dress – and usually in outlook too.   My mother (aged 30 when I was born) never had any aspirations to a glamourous or even particularly fashionable appearance.   She was something of a ‘free spirit’ and could well have been a hippy if they had been invented when she was a teenager.   She rarely wore footwear with any sort of heel (and never above about 2” or stilettos) but liked flat sandals, although here again they were generally more frumpy than smart.   I don’t recall any relatives, family friends or neighbours whose clothing or footwear was particularly elegant either – but we were still emerging from the austerity and rationing that followed the Second World War.   The one exception was a cousin by marriage (aged around 30 in the late 1950s) who was fairly short and invariably wore 4” stilettos; a pleasure to see when we met perhaps once a year.   Of course, there were sightings in the wider world – this was the start of the ‘rock-and-roll era’ and plenty of young (and not so young) women were embracing its typical fashions.   Tight or full skirts, beehive hair and, of course, pointed stilettos were everyday-wear for many.

I started at infants school in the autumn of 1953.   Unusually, my teacher for all three years there ‘moved up’ with my class.   She had a kindly and effective influence (and imparted in me much valuable knowledge, well-remembered to this day) and we were all fond of her.   As she had at least one daughter living abroad, she was probably in her early 40s and was tidy and presentable rather than intentionally smart in what she wore.   The other teachers - all women - dressed similarly, although the headmistress was always well-groomed and usually wore low-heeled suede court shoes.   (It was rare to find any teacher, male or female, whom one might consider to be ‘well-dressed’ – and my observations suggest that nothing much has changed in 60 years.)

I had to go into the local hospital to have my tonsils removed, and in fact was there on my seventh birthday - so got an extra helping of jelly and ice cream.   The nurses were talking about Bill Haley and Elvis Presley, then relatively unknown but soon to become famous.   Those were the days when nurses wore ‘proper’ uniforms, with seamed stockings.   Matron and some of the other senior nursing staff looked very elegant in their close-fitting dresses with starched aprons and caps, and wore high-heeled ‘Oxford’ lace-ups - a style that I will always associate with ‘women in uniform’.

Back at school, my perception of my teacher changed dramatically towards the end of my final year in her class in 1956.   We had some sort of formal event at the school – probably a visit by the mayor or some such – and she dressed quite elegantly for the occasion.   I was blown away by the sight of her black patent court shoes, with pointed toes and stiletto heels that must have been close to 4.5”, which she wore effortlessly.   Alas, there was no repetition and mediocrity reigned for the rest of my time there, with little change following my 'promotion' to the junior school, as I shall describe in the next instalment.

Edited by Puffer
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I remember one or two of my teachers creating something of an impression, but not until I was into my senior years. The music teacher was one of the prettiest women I'd ever seen in real life - at that time. My math teacher.... Not a stunner by any means, but the look of a woman who promised much.  Strangely, more than a lifetime later, I am in touch with the Math teacher again. I fixed the door handle on her lounge door toward the end of last year. Sad tale, I shall keep to myself.

There were no women in heels at any school I ever attended, for any reason, and I think I've mentioned the only two young ones at the school when I was. All the rest had been there since the Neolithic age. Honestly, either impending pensioners, or those well past pension age.

My first recollection of heels and an interest in them (as we understand 'an interest') would be when Freeman Hardy and Willis brought out a girls high heeled loafer with what I think was a 4 inch block heel. Fortunately for me, no-one in my class wore them.  :rolleyes:  Thankful for small mercy's. :huh:

I've looked many times, but tonight I found something that's a "dead ringer" for the style:

 

768586027_Womensloaferx2.jpg.c5338407752af38da91a989c564ff09b.jpg

 

 

Same colour, (ish), but without the patent. Heel height about right, and claimed for these Calvin Klein "Retro" shoes, at 4½ inches.

 

I'm liking this Chronicle thing. As I've said many times, we might think we live dull lives, but they are generally interesting to other folk.  B)  If they weren't "soaps" wouldn't be a 'thing'.

 

 

 

 

Edited by FastFreddy2

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I hope that your former 'maths' teacher ['math' is purely the American version, and should stay there] discovered the peep-hole that you also drilled in her door - or is that extra mural activity the subject of your withheld 'sad tale'?  :o

I'm pleased you like the initial Chronicle offering - more to come.   But I have to say that I belive that most of us really do lead dull lives - perhaps one really decent stiletto sighting per annum that comes to mind when researching my memoirs.   And that is, in retrospect, a great disappointment.  :(

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Now, that loafer is a nice shoe!   The loafer style (with anything from a 3" block heel to a 5" thin stack) is surely one of the best unisex styles; serviceable and sleek without being clumpy.   A man's shoe purloined by the ladies and given a higher heel.   About time we took it back into our wardrobes.

These are well-suited to blokes:   image.jpeg.f59e04cf678b614273763ec869bcd0f2.jpeg

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Chapter 2 - At junior school

In the autumn of 1956, I left the infants school and moved into the adjoining ‘junior mixed’ school for the next four years.   The scene was much as before – a sea of matronly frumpiness but with the addition of rather stern men in sports jackets.   The deputy head, another pleasant and effective teacher in her 40s, was however an exception.   She was a diminutive and neat woman who invariably wore stilettos – usually black suede ‘baby dolls’ with a heel of at least 3.5”.   Her glasses were retained by a cord round her neck and perched on her fairly prominent bosom when not being worn.  

A never-forgotten event at the end of my third year was the retirement of the headmaster, a well-respected man whose rather formal ‘tweed suit and brogues’ appearance belied a kindly nature.   During his retirement speech in front of the whole school and a number of parents (many of them former pupils), he burst into tears.   He had been understandably overcome by the emotion of the moment, which we all briefly shared sympathetically with him.    For the first couple of years, the secondary modern school on the same site was also ‘mixed’ and the older girls there (14 – 16) were not obliged to wear uniform and took advantage of that, with some seen in the prevailing fashions, including winklepickers and kitten or modest stiletto heels. 

Outside school, I had joined what was then known as the ‘Wolf Cubs’.   In addition to ‘Akela’, there were two or three young women who helped with our activities from time to time.   One of them, in her early twenties, was fairly tall and slim and in the summer often wore thinly-strapped slingback sandals with 3” stilettos.   Not the most practical of footwear for active service but nice to look at; I have favoured them ever since.

For the record, my experience of wearing any women’s footwear during this period was limited to a few attempts at trying-on a few of my mother’s shoes or sandals, out of pure curiosity.   Alas, my feet were almost too big and anyway her styles were unexciting.   How I envied those friends whose mothers or sisters had what was (to me at least) better and more adventurous taste – although I doubt their shoes would have fitted either.   Once, during a game of hide-and-seek in a mate’s house, I found by chance a pair of his older sister’s white stiletto courts.   Alas, they were just too small, despite being marked as an ‘8’ – probably American sizing but this puzzled me for years.

I left the junior school in the summer of 1960 and, having passed the entrance exam, was awarded a free place at a good grammar school in West London, starting there in the September.   This opened-up a whole new world for me, as I shall describe in the next part of this chronicle.

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On 5/9/2019 at 11:23 PM, Puffer said:

For the record, my experience of wearing any women’s footwear during this period was limited to a few attempts at trying-on a few of my mother’s shoes or sandals, out of pure curiosity.   Alas, my feet were almost too big and anyway her styles were unexciting.   How I envied those friends whose mothers or sisters had what was (to me at least) better and more adventurous taste – although I doubt their shoes would have fitted either.   Once, during a game of hide-and-seek in a mate’s house, I found by chance a pair of his older sister’s white stiletto courts.   Alas, they were just too small, despite being marked as an ‘8’ – probably American sizing but this puzzled me for years.

I've been luckier. I used to have a size 7 foot, right up until I "settled down" and my waistline spread. I can still get into most styles, though the Chinese manufacturers tend to be less generous on sizing. I have slim feet, but I wouldn't mind if my feet were half an inch shorter. Ho-hum.

I too started of trying some of my mothers shoes, one pair being some white open toe mules. Not unlike these:

780458175_Wedgemule.thumb.jpg.b8d11676e7a10e84a5a3bc43d16745a1.jpg

 

When walking in them, the wearer could enjoy the 'flip-flap' of the insole striking the heels with every stride.  Very attractive sound I still enjoy. B)

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Chapter 3 - At grammar school

In September 1960, I started at an all-boys’ grammar school in West London.   I travelled there by train, with one change in the morning and two going home, taking about half-an-hour.   (My free season ticket proved very useful as it could be used at weekends too and got me most of the way into central London.)   I soon got to recognise a number of regular travellers, either on my trains or waiting at the stations I used.   A number of women whom I saw regularly were dressed smartly ‘for the office’ and usually in stiletto heels.   One I well remember seeing most days when I changed trains was around 50, had ginger hair and invariably wore high black patent stiletto courts – at least 4.5” – although her gait was not very elegant.  

The many students at any of the several colleges along my line generally followed the prevailing fashion, albeit often not quite so elegantly as those commuters in employment.   The girls favoured pencil skirts and the boys narrow trousers, in both cases usually teamed with winkle-picker shoes.   My school, although fairly relaxed in terms of ‘rules’, had a compulsory uniform and forbade the wearing such trousers or shoes.   But a number of the boys did so and generally got away with it – a particularly popular style was the pointed Chelsea boot, typically with a high zipped or elastic shaft.   The Beatle-inspired boots with Cuban heels (typically 2.5 – 3” high) appeared a little later, around 1965.   One of my classmates wore a very pointed pair – but it was to be another 45 years before I got some for myself!   I did however get some chisel-toed flat boots and side-buckled shoes, after I overcame parental objections, and wore them regularly to school.   Many pupils from several other schools I saw frequently broke wholeheartedly whatever uniform rules applied – especially those requiring caps or hats to be worn.   Some girls in particular endeavoured to wear tighter skirts, discreet make-up and jewellery, along with kitten heels – or anything but the prescribed flat ‘school’ shoes (with ankle socks for the younger ones).

I got to know most of West London well, as various school trips (and the weekly journey to the hated sports ground for an afternoon’s purgatory) took me to most parts.   The sights and sounds of this cosmopolitan area made quite an impression, particularly that of the growing immigrant West Indian population.   But this was not long after the Notting Hill race riots and discrimination was common and quite blatant.   A number of the rather run-down tenements along Shepherds Bush Road, for example, clearly displayed notices declaring ‘No blacks; no Irish; no dogs’ to deter potential tenants.   But those who had found a home there seemed generally colourful and cheerful, even if their houses and jobs were not.  In the warmer weather, the women typically wore brightly-coloured dresses, teamed with hats and white stiletto courts, and their children usually looked very smart when in their best clothes for church or outings at the weekend.  In my view, they set a good example which was not easy to beat.

School work took up much of my time, along with my essentially indoor hobbies - particularly model making and stamp collecting.   There was limited opportunity for socialising outside my immediate family group, and both that and leisure trips were somewhat restricted in scope as we never had a car.   However, public transport links were quite good and I made much use of them for weekend jaunts, by myself or with the family.   We joined regular summer Sunday excursions by train to the Sussex coast and our annual fortnight’s holiday in an English or Welsh destination was invariably reached by train.    Although these expeditions permitted some ‘girl spotting’ (and discreet heel appraisal), there were few opportunities to meet the girls themselves   That situation prevailed, alas, until after I had left school, as I shall touch upon in the next chapter.

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  • No I am not going to comment on this thread or any others, do not want to upset anybody, end of story.

DWW.

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8 hours ago, dww said:
  • No I am not going to comment on this thread or any others, do not want to upset anybody, end of story.

DWW.

That's a bit unkind. ;) :D

I know for fact, Puffer is looking for some appraisal. I'm the one who is touchy about off--thread wandering.... :o

 

My comment?

More detail please. (You are going too quickly.) And a shame there are no photo samples to illustrate looks and shoes. A picture worth a 1000 words, innit. ;)

You know its a unfortunate (a real loss) we didn't have the ease of image capture back then, that we have now. This won't be a problem in 50 years time, with FB and Instagram now detailing lives on a daily basis. But imagine the value of capturing the scene in Shepherds Bush back in the early 60's as described in the Chronicle. A social anthropologists gold mine. 

I'm enjoying the Chronicles, but at this speed there's no room for Season 2. :D

Edited by FastFreddy2

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My reaction to dww's comment was one of sorrow.   I invited comment at the outset but (Freddy excepted) have had none.   There must be something to say that is not necessarily 'off-thread', especially given the broad coverage of my exploits?   I had thought that dww in particular (who must be a close contemporary in age) would have something to say, given his recent brief account of his own 'formative years'.

As to the content of my Chronicle, there is not much of substance that I could add; my other sightings and experiences, if remembered, would be little more than repetition.   But the later accounts, yet to appear, may be more detailed as more happened and more is remembered.   One more chapter may be expected before I take a brief holiday.  Yes, I could find some illustrations - but they would be library items rather than my own and you, dear reader, can find them as readily as I can, if interested!   But here are a few pics of women in 'smart' fashion typical of the period around 1960, as worn for more formal business or social activity.   The accompanying stiletto heels were often rather higher than those shown - anything from 3 - 4" was commonplace and 4 - 5" favoured by some women, of all ages.   Perhaps surprisingly, women quite often dressed formally within the home, or outdoors for local shopping etc - in dresses and stilettos and sometimes with a hat.   

 

Late 50s/Early 60s Review-Women

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On 5/17/2019 at 11:54 AM, Puffer said:

My reaction to dww's comment was one of sorrow.   I invited comment at the outset but (Freddy excepted) have had none.   There must be something to say that is not necessarily 'off-thread', especially given the broad coverage of my exploits?   I had thought that dww in particular (who must be a close contemporary in age) would have something to say, given his recent brief account of his own 'formative years'.

As dww will confirm (if necessary) I have apologised quite sincerely in a PM over any incursion regarding posting. I'm not sure why there need be any reluctance?

 

Quote

As to the content of my Chronicle, there is not much of substance that I could add; my other sightings and experiences, if remembered, would be little more than repetition.   But the later accounts, yet to appear, may be more detailed as more happened and more is remembered.   One more chapter may be expected before I take a brief holiday.  Yes, I could find some illustrations - but they would be library items rather than my own and you, dear reader, can find them as readily as I can, if interested!   But here are a few pics of women in 'smart' fashion typical of the period around 1960, as worn for more formal business or social activity.   

As you are a relatively 'young and exuberant' (naive but enthusiastic) author, let me pass you a bit of golden advice: You have never once read a story where pictures could easily be included regarding social or anthropological history, and the author has omitted the opportunity to include images to demonstrate a viewpoint or experience. And you certainly have never read same, with comments suggesting the reader find their own references. Tut tut young Puffer, take 50 lines ....  :D

I for one am not going to spoil or ruin the flow of your story by 'wandering off' to find images of the time you mention while reading the article. Surely you must be the arbiter of the images your memory offers? And from that you are the only person qualified to support the narrative with images of things as you saw then. (So images through your eyes, not mine or anyone elses.) They don't have to be exact replica's, but like the maroon court shoe I used to illustrate the FHW shoe I first owned, it was good enough to convey what I was trying to describe. (In fact the resemblance was uncanny. I just had to wait almost 50 years to see a copy.)

An example might be a comment along the lone of "she wore a leather skirt". Without some further detail, (or a picture) I would be disappointed if I couldn't find at least 5 different styles, and likely 10 at a push. A picture helps people with little imagination (could be me) and those with an over-active imagination (more likely me). :)

This is a request of course, not an order. B)

 

 

 

Edited by FastFreddy2
Typo's ....

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