A Brief History of Brazil Samba Platforms!
Posted on 27 September 2016
At BrazilCarnivalShop we are asked by our customers what is the authentic samba shoes to be bought, so we decided to write this brief summary on the samba platform history for samba. We hope you enjoy it!!
So when you look at a professional samba dancer in Brazil, i am sure your eyes are all over the costume and the dancer, but did you ever noticed a platform sandals, gladiators or platform boots? No? Well, take a closer look now.
Platform samba shoes are the trademark of a Brazilian samba dancer.
Samba dancers in Brazil use a platform sandals, and that platform usually starts at 12 cm thick heel. The lower heels will not have a platform and you will not achieve that "Brazilian samba look", however you can still dance in smaller heels. Ballroom dancing shoes for "Latin", rumba or samba does not have platforms or thicker heels. Ballroom shoes typically has suede insert sole and dancer who dance samba on them will often complain that their feet will slide down when dancing. Those shoe have a more glamour look, smaller thinner heels and many side straps. They typically resemble a more romantic 40's style party shoes.
Original platforms shoes were made of cork and wood, and until this date, the core of samba shoes are hand made, sculpted on wood. During the 2nd world war, wood or cork was easy to purchase so most later popular styles was fabricated with primarily wood.
So when did this "look" started, who spread the fashion into samba? Who placed the platform sandals in the spotlight? In Brazil samba history, actress Carmen Miranda not only became a synonymous for her plastic fruit accessories, but she popularizes around 1930's the platform sandals.
To every fashion history there is always a reason why a trend starts...Well, to Carmen there was a reason why she used platform shoes. Carmen was short, very short, so she had a Rio de Janeiro cobbler make an orthopedic sandals for her. These were not any shoes, these were thick-soled to boost her height. Remember, she was just 5 ft tall. Around the same time Moshe Kimmel was designing a pair of platforms for Marlene Dietrich that later was considered the "first" official platform shoes. Carmen was the highest paid actress in Hollywood, and her platform shoes became her trademark. With movie, magazine and celebrity life style, her shoes were the translation to Brazil look.
Carmen used Brazil inspired costumes, dances and accessories to have a look or trademark of her own. She even made the hem of her dresses shorter so that she would look taller with her platform heels. Those platform shoes were very noticed and everyone wanted to have one.
She introduced to the US a different look, inspired by Afro-Brazilian female street vendors inspired by Brazil Colonial times. Brazil thanked her and she became an inspiration for the local samba dancers at the time. If she was dancing the "Brazilian dance", then the samba community wanted to bring to their feet exactly what Carmen was using when she was dancing: the platforms. If she could dance on those heels, the samba dancers would dance in them too!
Miranda's rise to Brazilian stardom was directly linked to the growing popularity of a her Brazilian style of music: the samba. So Carmen Miranda became popular, Brazil's nationalism was on it's peak during President Getulio Vargas, and of course samba platforms became an instant hit not only as a new addition to the samba dancers but among the ladies around the world. She put Brazil on the map and introduced samba to the consciousness of the world.
So what kind of shoes did samba dancers and revelers use before Carmen introduced them? This is a very good question and after looking at many old photos, videos and movies, we could notice some similar styles among the samba ladies. Prior to the 1930 we noticed French and Italian inspired shoes on the "samba floor". Shoes mainly inspired by the movie divas...The predominant colors pre-war was black, brown and white. These styles would be some high heels, thin narrow closed front, pump styles, "Mary Jane" styles are also seen in the samba or carnival parties. A "proper lady" would use outside their homes a shoe that would cover her feet, and more masculine collection was readily available for the ladies, like oxfords and Edwardian boots. In 1923, the Ferragamo shop called "The Boot Shop" was already the to go store for local and international artists. Also around that time, around the world the "flappers" -young liberal woman - would introduce shorter dresses and shoes were adorned with brooches, embellishments and sequins. This same style was seen on the more upscale carnival parties in Rio and São Paulo.
Black patent leathers or synthetic material was seen with most costumes around the streets of Rio. Flip flop styles and ballerina slip on where also seen on the carnival parades of Rio and São Paulo.
The Great Depression of 1930 created the lack of basic materials at cobbler's box. Italian shoe designer Ferragamo discovered that steel of a lesser quality would not work for his heels, so he brought back to fashion a type of heel used back in Ancient Greece: the anabela heel. This was a heel made of cork! Around 1939, 86% of Ferragamo's shoes were made of anabela heel. In Rio specially smal family owned cobbler shops started to copy Carmen's style and until this date our Brazilcarnivalshop still uses this second generation cobblers for our samba shoes maintaining the same tradition as in Carmen Miranda's time! We are proud to say we sell authentic hand made samba shoes!
Anabela Heel, designed by Ferragamo for Carmen Miranda
Carmen with a Ferragamo platform
Brasil Colonial street carnival
Carnival at a club in Brazil, for the elite. Notice the ladies using Mary Jane style shoes.
Revelers using flip-flops
Samba ladies using pump heels
A samba dancer using flat ballerina shoes
Carmen with a anabela style shoes
Sequined shoes made for Carmen Miranda.
So how what is the essential Brazilian samba shoes look when we are referring to samba shoes? We list some points below:
- Samba shoes will have a basic 30-40-50's look pretty much just like Carmen Miranda's sandals.
- They are hand made by a local cobbler that serves the samba community. Samba shoes are made mainly in Rio.
- Each pair, or each side will have an artisanal look, you will see small differences pertaining to a hand made pair of shoes. One side is never 100% like the other.
- Heels are generally 12-15 cm (or more) with a front tall platform.
- The high platform will not allow your feet to be so arched up, in that case your feet feels more comfortable.
- Heels are thick and straight, however some styles are seen with thinner, curvier (coned) heels.
- Sandals will have side straps, ankle straps, cross over straps.
- Toe closure will be small, this is specially designed so that your toes will not fall out when you dance.
- Most sandals will have a cross front over the toes closure, classic samba look.
- Shoes are basically gold or silver
At our shop you will see over 80 pairs of samba shoes. Some are classic styles and other are an updated version of samba shoes with heels a bit thinner, or even small heels for tall dancers. All of our shoes are made in Brazil, by local cobblers, hand made by these professional shoe makers that serve the samba community in Rio. We must say it's a profession that is harder to find, and less and less "cobbler" is a profession...usually it's a family business. Their dedication to each pair is seen on the customer's reviews and happy faces of our sambistas around the world.
Here photo of some of our most popular samba platforms:
Next time you think of getting an authentic samba shoes, give us a call, email us. We would love to help you get your 1st pair of samba shoes. For sure, your look will be of a Brazilian samba dancer !