Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Joyce Shoes

One truth in life is that there is always more to learn. This hit home a few days ago when I was figuring out who the recipients of the Neiman Marcus award were. Much to my embarrassment there were two names I should have recognized but didn’t – William and Faie Joyce, the founders of Joyce Shoes who received their award in 1946. I knew of Joyce shoes, but all I knew was that it had been a large Californian shoe manufacturer bought out by United States Shoe Corporation in 1955 and was best remembered for making slippers. However, now I know the whole story…

Advert for Joyce shoes, 1943

Twenty-nine year old William Henry Joyce Junior was working for a West Coast finance company in 1929 when he decided it was time he became his own boss. After researching various businesses he picked shoes and lined up $150,000 in venture capital to buy a small Brooklyn shoe factory. However, just as he arrived in New York to close the deal, the stock market crashed. With $10.00 in his pocket he returned to Pasadena where he borrowed $250 from his father to rent a space above a drug store. He hired a seamstress to sew uppers for soft leather-soled rehearsal footwear for the theatre and slowly began to build his company. By 1933 his factory had grown to ten employees.

He began making a casual play shoe with a wedge heel that became a hit and by 1938 Joyce shoes had grown to become the largest shoe manufacturer in California with sales of a million dollars a year. That same year William Joyce hired a designer by the name of Faie Jarmel. They were soon married and travelled to England where they launched their first licensing agreement, supplying an English manufacturing company with the designs, advertising, production notes, and training needed to make Joyce shoes.

Advert for Joyce casuals, 1951. With the declining interest in platforms by 1951, Joyce is already trying to use the thinnest possible midsole for the ball of their shoes.

Perhaps because Joyce was so distant from the traditional U.S. shoe making centres of New England, New York, and St. Louis, the company moved away from traditional manufacturing and used a new method for making shoes called ‘California construction.’ This construction was ideal for women’s and children’s slippers, sandals, and casual shoes and could be made almost entirely by seamstresses rather than trained shoemakers, keeping production costs low. The upper, usually a sandal or open toe sling-back style, was sewn to a textile insole as well as the textile or leather covering for a midsole filler. The midsole, usually of cork and thick enough to create a platform often with a wedge heel, was then inserted and the midsole covering was glued and sewn around the midsole to hold it in place. Finally, an outer sole of rubber, leather, or composition was glued to the bottom. This is a difficult process to explain in words but one of the easiest methods to make shoes.

In 1948 the company made 8.4 million dollars in sales from their shoes that typically sold for between $2.95 and $10.95 (marginally more in England.) Further licensing arrangements were made in Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, and France. The downside of this construction was that the midsole created a heavy looking bottom, which was fine for 1940s shoe fashions, but fell from favour in the 1950s.

In 1955 the conglomerate ‘United States Shoe Corporation’ acquired Joyce shoes and the name Joyce gradually became a brand of foam-soled slippers and house shoes.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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49 Responses to Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Joyce Shoes

  1. Jen O says:

    Lizzie’s Vintage Traveler blog’s recent article on Joyce shoes got me to thinking that as a local Pasadena girl, I should be more informed about this ‘heritage’ brand. Thanks for the info here, it really helps to put the picture into focus!

  2. Lena Seng says:

    I found your article very fascinating; especially, since I have been researching one of the designers for the early start up company, Pasadena Slippers. The designer’s name was Marion Hoke. If you or others know any more of Mr. Hoke, I would delight in hearing from you (lenaseng@msn.com). So far this is what I have found:
    1) Hannibal, Missouri, Courier, Friday, 25 Oct 1935 pg 18
    Marion Hoke, son of the late Arthur Hoke, who for many years was engaged in business in this city, was a Hannibal visitor yesterday. Hoke, who now resides in St. Louis, is a designer of women’s fancy footwear and has just been offered a position in Hollywood and was on his way west to look over the situation, but visited his boyhood home on his way to the coast. While here, he met a number of his former friends. One of Hoke’s brothers is a practicing physician in St. Louis, while the other is with a New York detective bureau.
    2) Ancestry.com – 1940 Census substitute
    1936 US City Directory Palo Alto, California. Publication Title: Pasadena (California) City Directory
    a) (Image 160) Hoke, Marion designer for Pasa Slipper Co. h 360 N. Fair Oaks Av.
    b) (Image 253 – pg 503 of the City Directory) Pasadena Slipper Co Inc; W H Joyce jr pres; S M Haskins jr v-pres, T H Joyce sec; shoe mfrs; 335 S. Raymond av.

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks Leda for the info – the name doesn’t ring a bell but you never know who can turn up something!

  3. EJ says:

    In hi school 1945 the dress code for the girls [who were from more affluent families ] included Joyce shoes.
    1. short sleeve white angora sweater
    2. plaid skirt with 1-inch pleats all aroumd
    3. pair of White lace up -wedge Joyce shoes.

    Not all the girls could afford the outfit, especially the shoes.
    I didn’t care for the sweater, it seem to shed on everything.
    I sewed the skirt, those 1-inch pleats were a real pain!
    As for the shoes, I wore a size 10A, & the local stores carried Joyces only up to size 9.
    [when I went to size 11, the stores went up to size 10! ] But I always remember those white Joyces & how bad I wanted a pair. 🙂
    .

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks for the memory!
      Angora sweater as part of a dress code! That’s the first time I have heard of that for school!

  4. Yvonne Felix says:

    When I got my first part time job, the first pair of shoes I bought were Joyce shoes. Black pumps. Afterwards I bought many other styles of Joyce shoes and I still have some of them. Very good quality. I don’t see why designer shoes are so expensive, they are most uncomfortable. I liked your article very much. Thank you.

  5. Simon says:

    Glad I found this article. I’m the grandson of Bill and Faie Joyce (Jarmel) and though I never knew my grandfather (Bill died many years before I was born), I’ve had the shadow of Joyce shoes around me since I can remember. It’s getting fainter each year, especially as those who always wore them get older and older, but it’s always good to see a mention of them. I’ve sent a copy of this to my mother, their adopted daughter, who was quite appreciative of it. Thank you.

    Simon Drew

  6. Melissa says:

    My dad (he died in 2005) used to work for Joyce Shoes. I think they had a location in Xenia Ohio or thereabouts. Anyway, I have a very cool souvenir from the company. It’s a 20th anniversary piggy bank that they must have given to all employees at the time of that anniversary, which was 1949. There’s no way to remove money except for lots of shaking or a hammer. Thank goodness we were never desperate enough to take the hammer to it.

  7. Mary Wilde says:

    For some reason, yesterday I remembered Joyce Shoes from just after the war in England. They were colourful & original & could only be obtained by putting one’s name down with a larger shoe shop in the centre of town. They were made from several different fabrics – canvas, suede & soft leather. Eventually I had a few pairs that I was absolutely enraptured about. Luckily for the Brits, most young women spent the five years war in flat shoes & had no opportunity to get used to heels of any size, so the new designs of Joyce shoes were dazzlingly attractive. As suddenly as they appeared, they disappeared. I wore mine until they fell apart & never saw anything as brilliant ever again.

    You may imagine how I feel after reading the history of these lovely beautifully healthy shoes. I’m in my late 80s & have no corns, no bunnions, nothing like the feet developed by young women from the high heeled styles popular today. Women look lovely in heels, but their feet look painful & not very pretty.

    Thanks for the history – I can’t find anyone these days who remember the shoes in 1948.

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks for your memories of Joyce Shoes. And I agree about high heeled shoes!

    • Kiki Fowler says:

      Oddly enough, I just got off the phone with a cousin who never fails to remind me of how I always wore Joyce Alerts when I was in High School . I am 80 yrs old and I have no bunions or unattractive feet.
      Kiki Fowler

  8. Sue says:

    I am looking for a photo of the Joyce shoes that the more “affluent” girls wore when I was in around 5th, 6th or 7th grade, which would have been around 1959-60-61? They
    were quite the thing and the girls called them “Joycies” (not sure how they were
    spelling that.) They were suede and had a very snubbed toe and came in several colors.
    They almost looked like what later turned into the “Earth Shoe.”
    I think they were a shoe with a tongue, and maybe there was some kind of a tie. Does
    anyone remember these shoes, and have you got a picture???

    • Jonathan says:

      I don’t have a photo of anything like that, but maybe somebody else does

    • Patti Flynn says:

      I remember wearing Catwalks by Joyce. They had a very slight wedge, and so comfortable. Came in almost every color, but we who could only afford one pair usually chose black leather. I think they had about two pairs of eyelets with a tongue. I wish I could find this shoe now. The comfort was so exquisite. But they were probably not glamorous! pfh

      • Jonathan says:

        I am surprised there are so many fond memories of this brand – it seems like someone could revive the styles and have an instant hit!

  9. Veronica Thomas says:

    I just bought a lovely pair of Joyce shoes at a thrift shop,they are silver and perfect for my daughters wedding! Sadly they didn’t fit 🙁

  10. Linda says:

    Someone should start making these wonderful shoes again. I fondly remember them, had a pair in black suede and several in white leather. They were stylish and most comfortable. My aunts wore them and as soon as I could wear “adult” sizes, I had to have a pair. I saved money from babysitting to get them. We used to wear them with angora socks to match the sweaters we wore with our skirts. I’m sure they’d have a tremendous comeback. The baby boomers are more for comfort than for fashion these days, although I think they are quite fashionable. I remember wearing them with my school uniforms. I’d wear them again now. Thanks for the memories.

    • Jonathan says:

      I love the image of matching angora socks with sweaters! This was the early-mid 1950s? Thanks for the reminiscence.

  11. Judy Alender says:

    Joyce Alerts – the white lace-up – was the shoe all the high school girls wanted to wear! This was 1948 – 1952 in southern California. It’s a thrill to find this information and to read others’ comments regarding these memorable shoes!

  12. Betsry-Ann bonnelycke says:

    I just happened to be thinking about the Joyce shoes I used to wear so browsed the web to see if they still made them and foun your blog. Was sad to find they don’t make the shoe I so loved to wear.The Joyce shoes that I wore were the most comfortable and stylish flat Shoe I ever wore. Through the 1950’s and ’60″s I wore several pairs. They were square toed swede with a strap over the arch and with a slight wedge heel. I had both colors which We’re black and brown. I wish someone would again manufacture them which poses the question : what happened to the lasts or patterns for these beautiful shoes so they could manufacture them again? I hope that does not sound too ignorant on my part since I know nothing of how to manufacture a shoe but did see a documentary on the use of lasts for shoemaking therefore ;I posed the question ?

    • Jonathan says:

      The lasts companies use to make their shoes are routinely destroyed or thrown out. Custom shoemakers, like John Lobb in England, may keep the lasts for as long as their client continues to buy shoes, but even they lost their stock of lasts during WWII when their store was bombed. Companies like Joyce that make ready-to-wear lines of shoes routinely make new lasts every year or so, to keep toe shapes and heel heights in keeping with demand. Once a company goes defunct, the existing lasts may linger away in a warehouse somewhere but I suspect the majority of them end up in landfill.

  13. Eunice Alderman says:

    In the late 1940s and early 50s all the girls at my high school in So. CA wore the cute, comfortable white Joyce Coolies. I’ve seen modern shoes that resemble the Coolies but wish that Joyce would make them again!

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks for the memory!

    • Joan says:

      I wore those too. You are right. All the girls at my high school, L.A. High, wore them. Very comfortable and long wearing. There were some copies that were cheaper, which we called, “imitation Joyces”.

      • Jonathan says:

        That’s interesting that high school girls could determine which were real Joyce shoes and which were imitations!

  14. Dorsey Christianson says:

    looking for picture or pair of white wedge shoes for teen girls around the mid fifties. my cousin had a pair. They had a double tongue that looked like bunny ears….and were called bunnies. Can’t find them anywhere.

  15. Marilyn Petez says:

    I have a snapshot of me in about 1948 wearing Joyce coolies. I started wearing Joyce shoes in about 1945 until about 1949. All the coolies were white sling backs of canvass with small open toes that had ties, they were so comfortable & stylish. We usually wore them in So.Cal in spring & summer. We also wore the Joyce baby doll in white leather with ties & also with wedgie heels. However I don’t have a picture wearing them. Have never found anything that measuref up.

  16. maggie says:

    I have a pair of navy mid heel Joyce pumps. They were one of the first pumps I purchased back in the late 70’s. I still have the original box with the price tag and the card inside:
    JOYCE Made in the U.S.A. – congratulations you’ve just purchased a pair of Joyce Shoes exclusively Made in the U.S.A.
    Most people were not looking for that USA stamp back then.
    They are still worn, loved and well taken care of by Tony’s Shoes in Rochester, MI
    Thank you Tony!

  17. Lerato says:

    Oh my goodness this bring some memories I was just asking my best friend about the joyce shoes we would love to lay our hands on then that is what we you to wear here in South Africa can someone please let us know where to find them

  18. Sandra Jackson says:

    I have been wondering what happened to Joyce shoes. They made a suede tie-up shoe with a rippled sole that made you foot look narrow and were extremely comfortable. This shoe sold for 13.00 in the 1960s. I would pay a couple of hundred to have this shoe today.

  19. Kim says:

    Hi Jonathan,
    My name is Kim. I have a question about a joyce shoe coin. I thought that maybe you might have some knowledge about. please contact me at shy1968@gmail.come. Thank you and hopefully you can help me.

    • Jonathan says:

      I have seen shoe coins before – they are used like discount coupons or gift certificates. I have never seen a Joyce Shoes coin before though…

      Jonathan

  20. Kim says:

    Hi jonathan

    this is kim I put in wrong email address. This is the correct email: shy1968c@gmail.com

  21. Kim says:

    hi Jonathan,

    thank you for getting back in touch with me. The coin I am talking about looks like it could be made of gold or copper. The coin has a picture of a shoe in the center, front and back side, and mentions the “profit pair”, “stroller coaster” and the “big game tie”. I have searched everywhere, have any clue where I might be able to find what I’m looking for. Thanks Jonathan
    Kim

  22. Marilyn McKellips says:

    Jonathan. I was commenting on Joyce shoes we wore in school in the early 50s. They had names. I may not remember correctly, but believe saddles were called Alerts. Little Indians were a white boot type. Aztecs were sandals and three strap models were stepladders, triple play etc. my personal favorite was collar pins. A gold bar with balls on the end. They could be removed for cleaning. In Long Beach, CA, there was a store that carried them at discount. Thieve’s market. I thought they were a product of the Brown Shoe Co out of St Louis. After posting my comments on a memory page, I decided to research them. Oh, all of them had a small wedge sole. I wore 10 narrows and they cane in width sizes.

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