How to say it: sling-bak

Traditional Features: 


  • open back
  • strap around the back of the ankle to hold shoe on foot with a buckle or elastic
  • can be a variety of styles

21st Century Slingback Shoes

Slingbacks are still extremely popular on the modern footwear market and are available in a huge variety of styles, heights, and colours. Whilst once strictly a summer shoe, the slingback, in all of its many guises, is now available all year round from high street stores and designer boutiques alike.

Christian Louboutin Cole Haan

Christian Louboutin, Cole Haan

JCrew Sophia Webster

J.Crew, Sophia Webster


…of the style: Surprisingly, the history of the slingback shoe is not easy to follow. It seems to have entered the fashion world in the 1940s, but I could not find any information regarding who first created the style or why.

Much like the peep toe style, it is likely that slingbacks were so slow coming onto the fashion scene due to the ideals of female modesty in the 20th century – it wasn’t until the 30s and 40s that exposing part of the foot became an acceptable practice for women, and designers became to play with the shape of shoes.

Slingbacks in the 40s were simple, sophisticated styles, worn both day and night, with evening styles sporting higher heels than the day versions, which had square heels as low as a 1/4 inch.

Since the 1940s the slingback has remained a fashion favourite, particularly once stockings lost the thick, unsightly heel seams, or were abandoned all together. In the 21st century, the slingback is applied to almost every style, shape and height of women’s shoe, from inexpensive, flat sandals, to high, designer stilettos. Despite the tendency of the heel strap to slip down the foot, the slingback remains popular with women everywhere and it is unlikely that the style will disappear from the footwear market anytime soon.

…of the name: Again, I couldn’t find any hard evidence of why the shoe bares the name slingback, but I assume that it has something to do with the ‘sling’ that passes around the back of the foot.

Random Facts

  • the slingback style is considered very flattering as it lengthens the wearer’s leg.

For more info on Slingbacks try Wikipedia, Wisegeek, Vintage Dancer or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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