Wednesday, November 19, 2014

History of Shoes

History of Shoes

The history of shoes began more than 40,000 years ago with man's need to protect his feet from harm. Our ancestors required sturdy shoes to shield their feet from rocks, sand and harsh weather conditions. But shoe history does not begin and end with the desire for protective foot coverings alone. From medieval aristocrats wearing decorative shoes to denote nobility to our current obsession with celebrity shoe designers, shoes have and will forever be an integral part of our ability to express our fashion sense and individuality.


    The first shoe worn by man was a sandal. Famously crafted by ancient Egyptians out of papyrus leaves and made from soft leather by Persians, sandals also were worn in Greece, Rome and Mesopotamia. During the Middle Ages, sandals were abandoned for moccasins and boots. An early form of moccasin was used by the American Indians as well as the Eskimos. This type of footwear was the standard shoe worn by American settlers until Thomas Beard brought shoemaking from London to the United States in the mid-1500s.


    Shoemaking evolved from producing protective footwear to symbols of status and prestige. Shoe artisans created ornate and decorative shoes for aristocrats in ancient Egypt, Japan and Europe. These shoes indicated social rank in society and were symbols of status and wealth for the wearer. For example, famous monarchs Louis XIV and Henry VII both introduced fashionable shoes in England and France to hide their physical deformities and enhance their wealthy status.


    In the 16th century, wealthy French women and aristocrats in Venice wore the first high-heeled, platform wooden shoes. Similar to modern times in which special shoes are worn for weddings, athletics and dance performances, early shoe history reveals that footwear was created for special events and ceremonies. According to National, in the 15th century, wealthy Italian and French women wore elaborately decorative shoes called chompines. These high heels were precursors to the infamous Italian-named stilettos of the 1950s.


    Shoe styles range from dress to athletic. The material of the shoe and its heel height often determine the type of shoe and its function. According to Wikipedia, the wide selections of shoe types include clogs, platforms, sandals, loafers, boots, slippers, boat shoes, athletic shoes, orthopedic, dance, espadrilles, moccasins, oxfords, pumps and balmorals.


    The evolution of shoes from moccasins to stilettos includes several key moments of innovation and fine craftsmanship. Most shoemaking during the mid-1800s were made using the same shoemaking tools created in ancient times with very few modifications.

    American shoemakers were important innovators in shoe history. Many of these notable shoe artisans improved upon European design and created machinery for mass shoe production. Lyman Blake created a machine to sew shoe parts together efficiently. Gordon McKay improved upon his original apparatus used to attach the soles of shoes to uppers. According to the Paynesville Historical Society, in the early 18th century John Adams Dagyr created the first shoe factory in America. Jan Matzlenger created a machine that could produce upwards of 700 shoes a day. He received a patent for this technology in 1883.

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