According to Wikipedia these rather unique looking shoes originated in the British Army in the second world war when the footwear of choice was the crepe soled desert boot or shoes. Odd that these should once again be hot property but as a bit of a shoe connoisseur I see little resemblance between crepe soled desert boots and the thick soled shoes known as Brothel Creepers or, as they are called now, no doubt to avoid the clutches of the PC brigade, ‘Creepers! Well lets continue the story – and something that Wiki leaves out! Local London cobblers loved the idea of using crepe with suede and started making cemented heavy soled fashion shoes based around the idea. The simple fact is that desert boots are stitch downs so the only similarity was the materials themselves – suede and crepe!
Difficult to handle, crepe has to be ‘cooked’ as it is a form of natural rubber, so the soles would have had to be injected in to a mould with the upper set in then heated up to cure the raw latex rubber.
The designs hit the shops in the late 40’s but it wasn’t until the late 50’s that the shoes started to be worn by the Teddy Boys, (names after the long Edwardian coats that they used to wear) These were the British Rock and Rollers, famed for the DA’s (Haircuts – abbreviated from Duck’s Arses!), drainpipe trousers, string ties, ‘drapes’ (The long Edwardian coats they wore) and flick knives! They were a pretty violent bunch!
By 1953 the term Teddy Boys had been coined and the shoe of choice was the Brothel Creeper. Here is an original 50’s ad courtesy of the fantastic website http://www.edwardianteddyboy.com which is a superb document of the Teddy Boy culture. Denson was one of a host of small factories in and around London that made the original shoes.
The Teddy Boys or ‘Teds’ as they became known were known for there music, Rock and Roll of course, their dancing and their violent behaviour. The rockers who followed the Teds set themselves against the Mods of the early sixties who wore slick Italian suits, pointed shoes, desert boots (ironically) and suede loafers – one listened to rock and roll, the others (mods) the sounds emanating stateside, soul and Tamla Mowtown. Pitch battles took places in seaside resorts like Brighton where Mods and Rockers fought tooth and nail.
As the fifties gave way to the sixties the movement kind of died out, sure there was a hardcore, like every trend that continued but essentially things had moved on. In the early 70’s the look reappeared once more and the iconic shoes had a brief resurgence from 1972 – 1974 when Bill Haley was back in the charts with ‘Rock around the Clock and bands like Showaddywaddy lead a kind of Glam rock and roll revival!
They hit the top reaches of the charts with songs like ‘Hey Rock and Roll’ and ‘Three steps to Heaven’ the old Eddy Cochran number. With their outlandish, almost cartoon version of the look, brightly coloured drapes and two tone shoes I can only imagine the attitude of the original Teds towards them – but – hey, they helped bring the look back!
Roll forward only a couple of years and the commercialism that Showaddywaddy brought to the look quickly faded as in Autumn 1976 Johnny Rotten made his first appearance on TV singing ‘Anarchy in the UK’ with ‘his’ band the Sex Pistols. This time the look was no accident. Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne westwood ran a shop on the King’s Road called ‘SEX’, it was canny young malcolm who, after a stint in the US managing The New York Dolls, came back to the UK with a vision to create the ultimate manufactured punk band. He held auditions at the shop and in walked a young John Lydon – who was asked to sing an Alice cooper song. With his yellowing teeth and sneer he was dubbed ‘Rotten’ and the rest is history. Dressed by the couple in Westwood ‘Seditionary’, ripped T Shirts, Brothel Creepers from George Cox, ripped cashmere, tartan trousers and safety pins – they were the ultimate punks and Rotten was their leader – you have to hand it to them, they made great music. (Written by Glen Matlock – who was fired by McClaren for being too good and too pretty!)
After the Pistols split and punk faded through the 80’s the look kind of faded too, and apart from a few hardcore fans the humble Brothel Creeper was consigned to the dump bins. A few specialist shops upheld the tradition and some brands still made a decent living from selling their shoes to original Teds, revivalists and those just wanting to look different. Underground, George Cox and more recently T.U.K. had versions in their collections for years but it took to the end of 2011 before the look started rearing its head again. By the time March 2012 came and the fashion shows got going the ‘Creeper’ as it was know known was everywhere. Original versions of course, but more outlandish versions with leaopard skin and tartan vamps and big thick thermoplasic rubber, (as opposed to crepe – its cheaper) became the vogue and the shoe was reborn.
One thing is for sure with fashion! what goes around, comes around whether it be Doc Martens, Platforms or Creepers. Looks get re-launched, revamped, rehashed and restyled slightly differently and then explode. The same thing has happened this time around with creepers – look out for them they will be around for a while yet! then wait for another 25 years and you might see them again! so hang on to your ‘originals’! 😉
You can buy our collection of Creepers at Shoes.co.uk with free delivery and returns here: TUK Creepers