Recently I have been binge watching The Crown. It’s better than I expected. The acting is great. The Queen is sort of … uh … hot. And although you find out that everyone in the show isn’t a genius, they all sound so smart. It’s the benefit of the Queen’s English. The Queen’s English also makes the Queen’s personal secretary, Tommy Lascelles, so severe sounding and a bit ominous. It is probably why all the Star Wars Imperial officers spoke with a British accent. Smart and evil. I just watched the latest Star Wars movie recently. BTW. Worse than I expected.
What does The Crown have to do with shoes? Nothing really. I just needed to get that off my chest. I feel better now. The characters in the show do wear shoes. And I know Prince Charles has some excellent pairs. So there is that.
Prince Charles likely has some excellent shoe trees as well. So do I. One of the outcomes of buying and selling a large number of shoes is that I have developed a substantial collection of vintage shoe trees. I have bins of them. I decided I would take a number out of the bins and describe the various styles. Since Charles likely won’t. So selfish.
Shoe trees come either labelled or unlabeled with their size (I prefer “labelled” with the double L but “unlabeled” with the single L. Go figure). The labelled trees will sometimes have a standard US size like “9 D” but occasionally a cryptic size code will be imprinted on the tree instead. Usually the shoe length is the first number and the second number is the width. In the example below, the values “11 4” stands for size 11 D. The first number (“11”) is the shoe length and the second number (“4”) is the width of the shoe. For width, 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, 4=D, and 5=E.
This one is an 11 C (3=C):
A 12 2 tree (12 B):
This one requires no interpretation:
The two shoe trees below are both labelled with the number “5”. This is the width of the shoe tree – E or wide. I have others marked with a “3” or “4”. This style of shoe tree is fully adjustable so it has no true length. But a shoe’s width is relative to the shoe’s length – an 8 E pair of shoes is narrower than a 12 C pair. So a width only size 5 is a bit confusing. Also confusing is the reasoning behind the Empire building yet another Death Star in Return of the Jedi with the same flaw as the first one.
Most shoe trees are spring loaded. It’s a good design. The spring allows you to compress the shoe tree while inserting it into the shoe. Once inserted the spring expands helping to keep the shape of the shoe. Below is a spring-loaded tree.
A spring-loaded shoe tree will generally fit a range of sizes. For example, an 11 D labeled shoe tree will likely fit a 10 C to 12 D well. But don’t try to jam it into in a much smaller shoe.
A somewhat rare variety of shoe trees has a mechanical system (rack and pinion?). The knob in the back of the shoe tree turns and will extend or shorten the length of the tree. This gives you more control on the amount of pressure to apply to the shoe. The knob is substantial and helps you when carrying the shoes around. This is probably my favorite type of shoe tree. In the two photos below, I have the shoe tree fully extended and contracted.
My least favorite shoe tree is the variety pictured below. It has a mid-tree hinge that allows the heel piece to swing up or down. The tree length is adjustable by loosening and tightening the fly bolt. To get the length correct, it takes some effort since adjusting it within the shoe does not work well. It does not insert easily because it doesn’t compress. It frustrates me. But the tree (beech?) in the next photo is good looking. It’s the classic Jaguar sedan of shoe trees – good looking and frustrating.
Vintage shoe trees are generally made from the following materials: hard wood; soft wood (usually cedar); metal; or plastic. There are passionate comments on the shoe forums about whether cedar or hard wood is the best material. But most of the arguments are subjective. Opinions. It’s the internet. I don’t have a real preference but I usually use cedar versions day to day. Either variety is going to help your shoes keep their shape. You shouldn’t worry about picking the best. If you simply use a shoe tree (whatever kind), you are taking better care of your shoes than 99% of the world’s population. Yes, you are the 1% everyone talks about. The shoe Illuminati.
Wood shoe trees generally will have some type of ventilation system. In the cedar pairs below, vents have been cut through the front of the trees. Does this help the absorption of moisture from the shoe? Maybe. It does increase the surface area of the shoe tree. But moisture appears to have a limited path to escape if the tree fits snugly in the shoe.
This wood pair has an unusual ventilation system. Six holes have been drilled leading to center cavity at the bottom of the tree. What’s special about these six drill locations? Probably nothing. Do note the “10 5” label at the top of the tree, it’s likely 10 E not size 10.5.
Plastic or metal shoe trees are not very common. The metal trees below came in a pair of 1940s shoes. I believe the shoe trees were made in that era.
The pair below is a lightweight plastic and wood shoe tree intended for travel. And when I travel I do take a pair like this with me. I believe the wood is cedar. And I believe there have only been three good Star Wars movies. And I further believe I am sucker for paying for the rest of them.
After wearing a pair of shoes, keep the trees in them for at least two days. Three days preferably. The shoes should be free of foot sweat by then. I don’t see a need to keep shoe trees in the pair after three days. But there is no issue if you do. You don’t need a pair of shoe trees for every pair of shoes you own. You can rotate a few shoe trees between your (growing) shoe collection. When you don’t have shoe trees in your shoes, use the shoes to store your wads of cash. Like I do. But don’t tell anyone. Shh.
Often there is a brand imprinted on the shoe tree but I doubt the shoe company made the shoe tree. Allen Edmonds does own Woodlore but I believe most vintage USA shoe manufacturers sourced their shoe trees from a couple manufacturers of shoe trees, namely the Rochester Shoe Tree company. I am also doubtful there are many lasted shoe trees out there for USA manufacturers.
Occasionally you may encounter a handled cherry wood shoe tree like the one pictured below. And in almost all cases the shoe tree measures 7.5 D. These shoe trees were likely for in-store shoe displays and not likely for sale.
Hopefully that information was informative. Leave me comments below.
24 thoughts on “Vintage Shoe Trees”
“empirical” means observed by trial and error, “theoretical” would mean based on a type of conjecture. just sayin’. “the difference between ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ is that in theory there is no difference between theory and practice and in practice there is.”- a wise man
I was waiting for you. You are now my proof reader. The pay is poor
I would be honored to work without pay for a man capable of effortlessly producing double Yogi-isms.
AM VERY PLEASED TO HAVE FOUND YOUR VCLEAT ENTRIES …
I AM SON OF LAST PRIVATE OWNER OF DACK’S AND HARTT BEFORE BEING TAKEN OVER BY CHURCH’S WHO MUCH LATER SOLD BOTH TO PRADA WHO THEN KILLED THEM IN SELLING THEM TO A TERRIBLE USA CORPORATION CAUSING THEIR DEMISE IN 2009 …
MANY DO NOT KNOW THAT DACK’S, FOUNDED IN 1834, 33 YEARS BEFORE CONFEDERATION, WAS AT ONE TIME THE 7th OLDEST CONTINUING BUSINESS IN THE HISTORY OF CANADIAN BUSINESS …
WAS QUITE PLEASED TO SEE A BLACK DACK’S SHOE TREE SHOWN IN A FEW OF YOUR VERY CLEAR IMAGES …
ALL OF WHAT YOU STATE ON YOUR VARIOUS DIFFERENT CARE & MAINTENANCE PAGES IS PRETTY MUCH 99.9 % ACCURATE, MOST INFORMATIVE THROUGHOUT AND SHOULD BE HIGHLY INTERESTING FOR ALL THOSE WISHING TO PRESERVE THEIR TOP OF THE LINE SHOES …
KEEP UP WITH YOUR EXCELLENT ENTRIES AND WISHING YOU ALL THE VERY BEST … COLONEL77
Thanks so much for your comments. I also have a cool pair of Hartt shoe trees. They have a heart shaped knob. Canadian made Hartt and Dacks shoes are highly sought after vintage shoes. Great shoes. Sadly there is not many of them left.
I’m very pleased to say that I have a pair of Dack’s camel skin shoes and I purchase them on eBay and they came with the original Dack’ shoe trees. They are simply wonderful shoes in like new condition.
I have 3 pairs of Dacks, one pair being made of antelope. Today I picked up a set of Dacks shoe trees. While researching these trees, I came across your wonder article.
I would just like to point out that the second Death Star did not have the same flaw as the first as it was designed with a larger number of tiny vents rather than a single large one. Indeed, it’s why the Rebels chose to assault it while still under construction. Rather than dropping a couple proton torpedos in an exhaust vent causing a chain reaction, the second Death Star was destroyed by the much more direct action of flying into the core and shooting at it.
Instead of having an unstable core that easily exploded in the second Death Star, I would have recommended that the Empire build a large number smaller non-volatile power units and dispersed them throughout the Death Star.
I’m interested in your Dack’s black shoe trees. Do you have a pair
of them that would fit a U.S. size shoe 10.5D? I am willing to offer you a good price if you do. Thank you.
I am making some shoe trees in my wood shop and cannot locate the shoe tree spring hardware. Do you have any suggestions? Note, I have spent hours searching for shoe tree hardware with out success.
No idea. Rochester Shoe Tree Co and Woodlore (Allen Edmonds) are the only US shoe tree manufacturers that I can think of. I don’t know where they get their springs.
Matt, I have a few models of vintage trees where the hardware design is simple and the components could be bought at the hardware store inexpensively.
When purchasing cedar shoe trees on line form an independent Seller rather from a shoe store, how does one know whether a shoe tree labelled M is a women’s M, or a men’s M?
I have never seen women’s sized shoe trees so its likely they are unisex.
Shoe tree comments:
I found that metal shoe trees rust from perspiration in the shoes.
I use rolled up newspaper instead of shoe trees. They absorb perspiration better, and are easily replaced.
Shoe storage question: Once the shoes are completely dry inside, does it hurt them to be stored long-term in plastic bags?
Good vintage trees seem to be more difficult to find than are the shoes. Maybe Santa will come up with a couple pair of your Amazon picks for me. I have a hunch they are better, with the twin pistons and cedar, than many vintage trees. My OCD would dictate that all my shoes would have period correct trees, but I deal with it.
I have a couple pairs in which the knobs seem to be frozen. I don’t apply too much elbow grease or I’ll break them. Penetrating oil? Perhaps a tutorial is in order?
And yes, I do read the Vintage Dress Shoe Appreciation Thread, but am technologically challenged for the time being.
That’s a good question. I haven’t taken apart a shoe tree with a mechanical knob so I can’t talk with experience on how to fix one. Maybe WD40?
Report: The knobs on my Florsheim trees are not adjustable. Makes sense as they are spring loaded.
What if the shoes is 9.5d, should I look for the one that says 9.5 4? Or 9 4 would work just fine?
A size 9 tree should work well.
I picked up a single shoe tree of a personally unusable size a couple of days ago, just because I do things like that … of no consequence. But in trying to identify it, I found your pages. Entertaining, informative, even life changing! …. at least for my shoes.
I can’t find a site to tell me how old my shoe trees are…anyone know of any?