The Search for the Perfect Swing Shoe
by Vicky Youcha
If you’re new to swing dancing here are some resources to help figure out what to wear for lessons and social dancing.
First, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on anything. This is Boulder. You’ll see people dancing in everything – hiking boots, cowboy boots, sneakers, heels, dress shoes – the list is endless. You’ll see jeans, dresses, shorts, athletic wear, leggings, etc.
Comfort and safety should guide your choices. For comfort, clothing should move with you or allow you to move freely. You might want to avoid items that are oversize, need frequent adjustment, or restrict your movement. It might also help to remember that this is a partnered dance. As you choose your clothes, ask yourself if you would be comfortable connecting to the upper body of someone dressed like you? Good personal hygiene goes without saying. You will be moving and most likely glowing, sweating or a least, breathing hard. Just be mindful that you’ll be holding hands with another person. At a social dance, guys frequently bring several shirt changes. Women often have a back up outfit, but I don’t see that as often as I see extra shirts. In warm weather, hand towels are your friend.
As for shoes, they need to be secure. For me, this means laces or buckles. But I see lots of people wearing slip ons – so it’s a very personal decision. Ideally, avoid rubber soles because they can be sticky and can keep you from sliding – something we want to do in swing dancing. If you’re learning Lindy Hop, most people wear flats. You’ll see lots of Keds. Dancers will often suede or chrome the soles. This involves taking your shoes to a shoemaker to have suede or suede-like material glued securely to the soles so they will slide on a dance floor. You can also order do-it-yourself, peel and stick suede. Other folks just wear old sneakers with smooth soles. It’s up to you. You can also wear shoes that have leather soles. Avoid high spiky heels - unless you’re aspiring to be on DWTS.
Here are some men's Aris Allen dance sneakers:
Some people do wear low heels for Lindy Hop, but if you're just starting, I'd recommend flats. For Balboa, follows often wear heels. Heels don't need to be high, 2 inches is plenty. The reason for wearing heels is because they tend to tilt our center of gravity forward and this can be useful when connecting to your partner. As much as I would like to avoid heels, I still find it important to wear them for Balboa. A popular, and expensive Balboa favorite is the Remix brand. I started with Aris Allen's, a less costly alternative. Whatever you choose, it's helpful to be able to try them on before you buy. Feel free to ask fellow dancers if you can try their shoes -- clean peds or socks appreciated.
Here's one example of Aris Allen heels:
Here's what a Remix shoe looks like:
Be aware that you can spend between $25 and $225 for a pair of shoes. Be sure you like the shoe before you spend the money. And, when you find you have shoes you don't wear, you can often sell them online. Lots of people wear their shoes only for dancing. This makes sense if you have suede soles since sidewalks will rip them up. If you have leather soles, brief outdoor ventures may be less damaging.
There are many online venues for vintage clothes, new and used shoes, shoe advice, etc. Here are a few to get you started. The links to Swing Dance LA and Flyin'Footwork have more detailed information on shoes and clothing. Women's Swing Dance Shoes Hunt is a FB group for people selling shoes or looking for help. Soles2Dance is for DIY suede soles. Dance Store sells clothes and shoes.
We want to hear what works for you? Where do you find clothes and shoes?