The 10 Greatest Pop-Culture Footwear Moments of the Modern Era

Plain and simple, shoes make the man. Here at DETAILS, we appreciate the power of a great pair of shoes for making a statement, starting a conversation, or taking an outfit to a higher stratosphere of cool. But sometimes those statements are more than stylistic—sometimes they're part of pop-culture history. Below is our list of our 10 favorite famous, or infamous, moments in men's footwear from the past 60 years.



Only the King of Rock and Roll could pull off singing a song about these casual kicks, inspired by a black airman's fondness for his blue-suede footwear. Not only was it a watershed moment in footwear, it was a turning point in rock and roll.


According to some admittedly contradictory reports, Nikita Khrushchev threw a Cold War-size hissy fit at a UN session during an opponent's speech by banging his shoe on a table. See, footwear is useful even in international diplomacy.


With more sequins than an elementary-school dance recital, the piano-playing king of expensive chintz made sure that even his loafers were included in his over-the-top style. Man, the sixties were trippy.


Considering how much time he spends in bed with his harem of beautiful, surgically enhanced blondes, it makes sense that lady lover Hef's shoe of choice is a custom-made black-velvet loafer by L.A.'s cobbler to the stars, Pasquale Di Fabrizio. They are slip-ons that helped define an era of louche excess.


Long before Bono, Mick Jagger, and Tom Cruise stepped out in shoes with lifts, Elton John played the piano while wearing a wide variety of eye-poppingly tall platform boots. Before he came out of the closet in 1976, these shoes were a stylish step in the right direction.


The strut, the stare, the suit, the song, and the shoes. With just a few simple ingredients, John Travolta proved that men could actually look cool and masculine in heels, a lesson that we have somehow unlearned over the years.


Initially these sneakers cost $65 but sold so poorly you could find them on clearance racks. Also, the NBA briefly banned them from in-game wear because their color was deemed too vibrant. Now, because of the link between urban and athletic fashions that defines our times, they are the most reproduced Air Jordan, with over 90 colorways.


Contrary to popular belief, some of the red loafers worn by His Holiness are produced not by Prada but by Geox (and feature its sweat-beating technology). Still, when paired with his Serengeti sunglasses and a mitre, they show that, in our era, even the oldest institutions in the world are fashion-savvy.


In Season 3, HBO marked a moment of pre-recession excess when Vince hooked up sneaker-obsessed Turtle with $20,000 custom Nikes by the (imaginary) graffiti artist Fukijama. Five years later, fans are still trying to make the kicks into a real pair of marketable shoes and we're still waiting to buy them.


Seeing an Iraqi lobbing his shoes at an American president was a bit of shock; it was also a fitting punctuation mark to the era of the "Bush Doctrine." The culprit received a three-year jail sentence for the incident but was released after nine months for good behavior and, presumably, keeping his shoes on his feet.

By Tania Jachens

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