Brothel creeper (sometimes shortened to creeper) is a style of shoe which has thick crepe soles, often in combination with suede uppers. This style of footwear became fashionable in the years following World War II, seeing resurgences of popularity at various times ever since.
History and origins of the name
A version of this style of shoe is said to have become popular with World War II soldiers in North Africa, who adopted suede boots with hard-wearing crepe rubber. Writing in The Observer in 1991, John Ayto put the origin of the name 'brothel creeper' to the wartime years – although he does not say whether or not similar designs existed before the war. The Smithsonian suggests the crepe in the thick sole may have given the shoes the title creeper. It may also be associated with a Ken Mackintosh dance tune popular in 1953 and called "The Creep".
This style of thick soled shoe was first developed commercially in 1949 by George Cox and marketed under the "Hamilton" name, based on George Cox Jr.'s middle name. Initially they came in shades of blue, ranging from pastel shades to electric blue, and were made of suede or polished leather. Later, more extravagant patterned versions were created.
Self-made brothel creepers were picked up by the Soviet subculture stilyagi (rus. стиляги) in the mid 1950s. They were called "ботинки на манной каше", literally men's "shoes on semolina", because they used to call the thick crepe sole "semolina".
Punk and later revivals
The brothel creeper regained popularity in the early 1970s when Malcolm McLaren sold them from his "Let it Rock" shop in London's Kings Road. Teddy Boys were the obvious customers,[clarification needed] but the brothel creeper still proved to be popular among regular customers when McLaren and his partner Vivienne Westwood changed the shop to more rocker-oriented fashion.
The shoe has since been adopted by subcultures such as indie, ska, punk, new wavers, psychobilly, greasers and goth, Japanese Visual Kei, and was the footwear of choice for Bananarama and Saffron (of Republica fame).
Due to the resurgence in popularity of grunge culture, creepers became much more mainstream in 2011 with popular artists such as R&B singers Rita Ora and Rihanna wearing pairs by Underground England. Pop music was not long in following creepers' rise, with Carly Rae Jepsen and Miley Cyrus wearing creeper shoes.
- Mcfarland, Jane (3 September 2011). "Brothel Creepers – the Shoes that are Creeping Back into Fashion". Huffington Post. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
- Ayto, John (19 May 1991). "Words". The Observer.
- Spivack, Emily (16 May 2013). "Where d'you get those creepers". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
- Zolla, Lorenzo. "Creepers". vogue.it. Vogue Encyclo. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
- See also this site for a brief introduction to the history of the shop.
- As per Absolute Radio interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuBMATZDXDg
- The Sun 2010 http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/x_factor/3948296/Rihanna-wears-F-word-shoes-live-on-X-Factor.html