Exploring Swing dance shoes: a chat with Harlem Shoes

What's with those Swing dance shoes?!

With a growing collection of Swing dance shoes and a keen interest in the latest trends, I found myself drawn to Harlem Shoes. Together with Mariya and Zulfiyya, the minds behind Harlem Shoes, I embarked on a journey to explore the evolving landscape of dance footwear. Curious about what’s trending and the essential colors for every dancer’s collection, we delved into the vibrant world of Swing dance shoes. Join us as we navigate this captivating realm together and uncover the insights that Harlem Shoes has to offer.

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Mariya and Zulfiyya Harlem Shoes Swing

They embarked on a mission: to create stylish Swing dance shoes designed to cater to every foot, regardless of its unique shape or requirements.

Harlem Shoes compared to other Swing dance shoes

In my online meeting with Mariya and Zulfiyya, the founders of Harlem Shoes based in Istanbul, Turkey, their story immediately grabs my attention. Both passionate dancers, they once found themselves limited to wearing sneakers on the dance floor—not by choice, but out of necessity. Their personal struggle to find suitable Swing dance shoes, particularly for those with wider feet or higher arches, struck a chord with them. Determined to address this gap, they embarked on a mission: to create stylish Swing dance shoes designed to cater to every foot, regardless of its unique shape or requirements.

Handmade versus machine made Swing dance shoes

The distinction between handmade and machine-made Swing dance shoes is quite evident. Handcrafted shoes offer the flexibility to adjust minute details, ensuring a snug fit tailored to your feet. Whether you have wide feet, a high arch, an orthopedic insole or fall on the extremes of shoe sizes, Harlem Shoes has you covered. “We offer sizes ranging from 33 to 49, ensuring inclusivity regardless of gender or foot shape,” Mariya elaborates. While Harlem Shoes maintains a limited inventory of pre-made shoes for Swing dance festivals, an impressive 90% of their sales are customized. In contrast, machine-made Swing dance shoes lack this personalized touch, leaving little room for individual preferences.

Making Swing Dance Shoes Harlem
Welting Swing Dance Shoes Making

Creating your own Swing dance shoe

Apart from the personalized adjustments tailored to your foot shape, handmade shoes offer additional benefits. You have the freedom to select your preferred colors and heel heights.

Colorize your Swing dance shoes

Another notable advantage of handmade shoes is the ability to choose your desired colors. Whether you lean towards metallics, pastels, or color-blocking, the possibilities are endless. Mariya and Zulfiyya are adept at providing guidance on harmonious color combinations, offering a range of color cards to showcase complementary options.

Harlem Shoes Dance Shoes Collection

Go high or low on the heels of your dance shoes

Whether you opt for a modest 0.5 cm or a striking 6 cm, Harlem Shoes can accommodate your preference. Personally, I find comfort in 2 or 3 cm heels during workshops (trust me, even the most comfortable shoes can’t alleviate the strain of standing all day in 6 cm heels). For social events, I often gravitate towards 4 or 5 cm heels. While 6 cm might be too lofty for my liking (especially considering my height), I can understand its appeal for Slow Bal or Balboa dancers.

Emerging trends in Swing dance shoes

Amidst discussions on customizing Swing dance shoes, my curiosity piques about the prevailing trends in 2024. Mariya observes a growing inclination towards shoes that provide a barefoot sensation, allowing toes to splay naturally rather than being constricted. She notes their intention to incorporate this feature more extensively into their shoe designs. Adding to this, Zulfiyya highlights the trend of utilizing various types of leather within a single shoe. Additionally, she emphasizes the rising popularity of vegan options, as many dancers are inclined towards eco-conscious choices to contribute to environmental sustainability.

Gold Swing Dance Shoes Trend Harlem
Most popular Swing Shoe model Spring HArlem

Essential colors for your Swing dance shoe collection

When asked about the must-have color for every dancer’s wardrobe, Mariya and Zulfiyya enthusiastically agree: “GOLD!” “Gold complements any outfit,” Zulfiyya explains. “Contrary to popular belief, black isn’t always the go-to. Many colors don’t pair well with black.” They recall that red was once a favored color when they first started, but nowadays, dancers are embracing vibrant hues like green and yellow, reflecting a shift towards more colorful choices.

Currently Harlem Shoes most popular shoe model is called Spring. (red shoes on the left)

Swing-Style Shoes: not just for the dance floor

One aspect I hadn’t considered until chatting with Mariya and Zulfiyya (apologies to my bank account) is the option to order Swing-style shoes with street soles. Trust me, strolling the streets in your dance shoes is a recipe for sole damage, especially in wet conditions, not to mention the slippery surface. However, with street soles, those concerns vanish. This versatility makes them ideal not only for dancing but also for complementing wedding outfits!

Harlem Shoes Street Shoes
harlem shoes butterfly shorts

Did you know:

Harlem Shoes doesn’t only have beautiful shoes. They also sell Swing dance clothes! Like the practical panties and my personal favourite: the Butterfly shorts ! Stay tuned, because more is coming!

Get your own Harlem Shoes, some practical information

Ready to order your own pair of Harlem Shoes? Here’s what you need to know: Once you’ve selected a model you like, simply measure your feet and send the details to Harlem Shoes via email or Instagram. They offer personalized advice on sizing, adjustments, colors, and heels. With worldwide shipping available, ordering is convenient. Keep in mind that since the shoes are handmade, delivery typically takes 7-8 weeks. If you’re unsure about the fit, you have two options: try them on at a festival where Harlem Shoes is present or order them directly. If the shoes don’t fit, they offer exchanges for another pair.