Did Disco Stu’s Disco Shoes Ever Really Exist?

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

While writing about the TSA last week, I got on the subject of Disco Stu and his disco shoes, as one does. To refresh your memory, here are the shoes in question:

Upon seeing the shoes, Homer points out that the fish are dead, to which Stu sadly replies “Yeah, I know. I can’t get them out of there”.

This points to just one of the many problems there would be with such shoes. Ultimately, it all led me to search the web to determine if such a thing really existed back in the ’70s.

The first thing I happened on was this current, available-in-the-year-2019 product

These shoes feature a plastic fish inside a small, water-fill compartment in the heel. They’re utterly ridiculous, though if you’re attempting to create the perfect Disco Stu costume, they’re as essential as visible chest hair. However, a fake fish doesn’t really match what we’re looking for.

The more precise question is “Did any disco aficionados in the 1970s wear shoes with fish in the heels?”, which is a very strange and specific thing to be asking, while also being terribly difficult for the internet to answer. More digging turned up an interesting article from just three months ago.

Back in the ’70s disco era, fish were briefly subjected to physical injury and death (as well as humiliation, along with really bad music) when someone came up with the idea for the disco fish platform shoe. One could plop a live goldfish into the platform sole or heel, which was composed of clear acrylic or Lucite.

While many are convinced [the existence of these shoes] was an urban myth, I had a friend who owned a pair of these. (Which largely explains why she soon became my ex-friend.) The legend comes from the fact that no seems able to produce an actual pair of these shoes or even a picture of them from their brief heyday in the 1970s. The lack of evidence could be because the shoes were not mass-manufactured.

No offense to Alissa Wolf, but I’m unwilling to put much stock in the claim of one lone author who “has an ex-friend who owned a pair”. It has the ring of an uncle who works at Nintendo. Still, her general explanation seems logical:

Instead, the clear platform heels or soles were either removable or had some kind of flap at the back that lifted so that the wearer could fill with whatever he or she wanted. People report filling the heels with teddy bears, gumballs, marbles or crinkled colored tissue paper.

It certainly seems possible that shoes with a clear compartment existed back then (they’ve absolutely been made since). It also seems possible that a few terrible people put live fish in that compartment before taking to the dance floor. Still, a complete lack of physical or photographic evidence from the ’70s leaves me unwilling to give a definitive answer. Perhaps some future archaeologist can uncover more.


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