Friday, February 20, 2009

Shoes...A Short History Part 3

Last time we looked at the Middle Ages. Remember you can find this information and much more at .

Remember all that isolation in the Middle Ages? The independence? Well, times were changing. People started to discover one another. Feudal lords were gradually disappearing and new political powers rose. It was the era of discovery. Columbus discovered America and suddenly Spain was reaping the rewards. Merchants began to trade amongst each other introducing new textiles. There were political changes, industrial and commercial developments and an increase in wealth over all.


Slimmer shaped shoes eventually replaced the broad Duck’s Bill, most likely due to the fact that people got tired of waddling, first to a low cut style called escaffignins which were not quite so wide but puffed at the toes and then the heelless eschapins which were also slashed.

Right: St Lucy before the Judge.
1532. Lorenzo Lotto,
Oil on wood, Pinacoteca Civica, Iesi.

During the later half of the century, wealthy men started to wear shoes with tapered toes, keeping the ever popular slashing and pinking but with the added decoration of ribbon rosettes. And hello mule, welcome aboard!


Women basically wore the same type of shoes as the previous century with the added interest of a new crazy shoe fad that originated in Venice and quickly spread to the rest of Europe. Like the patten, the chopine was a type of over shoe with a raised platform sole meant to be worn over other shoes to give the wearer height. And similar to other shoe fashions, they fell pray to exaggeration whereas the soles got higher and higher until some were up to thirty inches. Walking on such tall shoes would be like walking on stilts except you had nothing to hold on to, but women wore them anyway requiring a maid or cane to help them walk. Oddly enough, the church approved of Chopines but for all the wrong reasons. Chopines impeded movement and movement was required for such sin producing activities such as dancing. And if you can’t move, you can’t dance. Everyone is happy (or at least the Church was.) But they were eventually outlawed in Venice after a number of women miscarried after falling off their shoes.During Elizabeth’s reign, high heels and pumps made their first appearance. The Italian pantofle and the Venetian heeled slipper replaced those pesky fat toed escaffignons so popular during the previous era.
Well there it is, the 1500's and what that period of history brought to us for footwear. It's funny how the footwear has played such an evident role in causing the church to be happy or sad...and we thought that the 21st Century was too illicit...perhaps not as much as we thought.
Check back with me next week when we look at the 1600's, I'm sure it will be an interesting time period as well I'm on the web at &
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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Shoes...A Short History Part 2

Last time we went from the prehestoric man to the time of the Romans. In this episode, we will look at the Middle Ages and what they had to offer us in the way of footwear. And again, remember I am getting this from the website


When it comes to shoes there’s going to be a bit of disappointment. All that sophistication developed by the Greeks and Romans got lost somewhere along the line. Somehow, some way, suddenly no one had a clue.

Thank heaven for the turned shoe, the awakening of the shoe development world, the epiphany of footwear. Turned shoes were sewn inside out then turned right side out, something never thought of prior so it was quite the innovation of the day.

Some odd shoe fashions developed in the middle ages. One being the Poulaine or Crakow shoe which began to appear in western Europe in the 12 century. Rumor has it that they were developed and popularized by Count Fuld of Anjou who needed to cover up some kind of deformity but it is more likely a style adopted by the Crusaders who were influenced by the traditional pointed toed footwear found in the near/middle east. So again we are back to the pointed toes.
Pointed toes are hardly odd, but the fact that they became hugely exaggerated is. The toe gradually became longer and longer to the point of absurdity for some were so long it was difficult to walk. Some even attached small bells to the end to indicate they were interested in a little flirtation. Bells. Flirtation. Surely you saw the connection? Maybe that’s where the whole “footsie” thing started?
Of course the church tried to ban poulaine shoes spouting their “apparent indecent phallic symbolism” but the fad continued well into the next century. However, towards the middle of the 14th century, people started to wear soled hose which did away with the need for shoes altogether. Now why would anyone want to do that?

The pointed toe fad disappeared around 1460-70 being suddenly replaced by a new shoe fad called Duck’s Bill shoes (also called Bear’s Claw) during the reign of Francois I. Duck’s Bill shoes were made of silk, brocade or velvet and were heavily padded, puffed and embroidered with the upper part slashed so that colored hose showed through.

Colored hose for men were all the rage and a slashed shoe such as this was the ideal way to display them to the utmost. But again exaggeration took hold and the shoe became broader and broader in the toe until eventually some measured up to twelve inches in width making the wearer waddle. Apparently, it was quite fashionable to waddle around with big fat floppy clown shoes.
None of the shoes stated above were very good for snow or muck or the average dirty street so another type of shoe was developed called the Patten. Pattens were shoes to be worn over other shoes which raised the feet up over the muck and gunk. They consisted of a very thick sole made of wood or leather with leather straps that you stuck your feet into. The first clogs were also developed around this time which was probably a variation of pattens of some sort.

So there you have the Middle Ages and what they brought to the footwear industry. Interesting that our forefathers may have started some things that we never thought of huh? Check back later when we will venture into the 1500's and see what that age gave us.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Shoes...A Short History

Shoes, it's something that we all wear. Now maybe there are some of you who don't really like to wear them, as is the case with my oldest child. He would prefer to wear flip flop sandals, and does on almost every occassion, regardless of the weather. So, I thought it might be interesting to take a journey back in time and learn a little history about shoes. I will go on record right now as saying that I am researching this, and it is not my own material. I will cite where I get my information so that if you intrepid explorers want to find out more you can. Okay, let's get started....

Prehistoric...The Ice Man Cometh

No one knows when the first shoes were worn for there are no records of such things so we can only make assumptions based on relics and primitive cave paintings. For sure, the development of some sort of covering was one of the first things primitive man did considering all of that outdoor activity such as hunting which required traipsing over jagged rocks and burning sand. Never mind the winter.

So the first shoes were developed quite early and they were most likely bag-like wrappings made of fur or skins. Cave Paintings (c.8000 BCE) show these foot bags and some even show images of shoes that look like fur boots. The earliest European shoes discovered were that of the Ice Man found in the Alps which date all the way back to 3300 BCE and were made of rawhide bearskin and woven plant fibers.

Egypt...Flip Flops & Pharoahs Can Leave One A Bit Peaked

Sandals are believed to be the first crafted footwear which is not surprising considering their simplicity. They were plain, practical and consisted of only two parts: The sole and the thong. The first “flip flop” so to speak. Except these first sandals weren’t made of colorful plastic or rubber obviously, they had to be made from whatever was available. Which wasn’t much.

The first sandals were basically made from a footprint in wet sand. Braided papyrus was then molded into the sole prints and then they were attached to the foot by palm fiber by way of the thong. But once the Egyptians learned to tan hide, sandals were made from leather and these early leather shoes were not made to accommodate right and left fittings, instead constructed exactly the same giving no allowance for the big toe or instep which I imagine made walking a bit awkward to say the least.

In ancient Egypt, the sandal was the sign of power and rank, because they were considered a luxury and not everyone could afford good ones. Which makes sense. But those Egyptians went so far as to allocate class by color. Gold and jeweled sandals were for the king and his court, pastels for dignitaries with red and yellow being the only colors allowed for the middle class. What about the poor and the slaves? They went barefoot, of course.

What's the difference between a common man's

sandal and the Pharoah's? The peak, the peak!

Greece...I'll have the simple life with feta cheese please
The Greeks were known for their sandals, right? They excelled at shoemaking and by 400 BC shoe and sandal making attained a high degree of sophistication and people’s obsession with footwear accelerated to a point where social “rules” came into play regarding them. Like shoes were only worn outdoors, the exact opposite of today’s no shirt, no shoes, no service policies. And certain shoes were for certain occupations. Soldiers wore this type, brides-to-be wore another, priest one type, actors another; each type designated and accounted for.

Oh, shoes, shoes, glorious shoes. How art thy the boundary between death and rebirth. How art thy the difference between darkness and light. Let thy body absorb the vital energies between the boundary of human and divine.

Rome...Veni, Vidi, Vici and the war machine

And while the Greeks were perfecting their elegance and beauty, Rome had their mind set on perfecting the conquest, which I think I already mentioned several times. The Roman Empire was ever growing and the soldiers uniform had to be practical and steadfast, shoes included. As a result, shoes were developed more durable and sturdy.

Although Roman shoes were more practical and less elegant than that of Greece they shared the same class distinction thing with the styles and colors. Red was restricted to the emperor only, while black and white was designated for senators and pale colors for the wealthy. And again the slaves and poor were barefooted or wore the plainest of sandals.
A Roman would never enter a house without removing his shoes so outdoor footwear was quickly replaced by banqueting slippers called soleae which were carried by a servant. Oh, shoes, shoes, glorious shoes. Thou art the meaning of life. Thou art thy favor of god. (which is why you slaves aren't allowed to wear them. Now get back to work!)

Let me know what you think. How would you have liked to wear flip flops that had a giant curl on them? We've made huge strides in the advancement of human footwear. Next week, we'll head to the Middle Ages and see what they were able to add to the developement of coverings for the feet.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Tips For Healthy Feet

You are born with a pair of these. They can carry you places all over the world. And they are probably one of the most neglected body parts of all. They are your feet.

Your feet stay for the most part, enclosed in an unforgiving enviroment of darkness, moisture and bacteria. Yet they are expected to take you from place to place, sometimes in a hurry. You expect them to be with you for the entire length of your lives, yet do you actually make it a point to keep them in decent shape?

I am writing this today, as the beginning of a series of various ways that you can help your feet to last your entire lifetime and be healthy. I will come back every week and add to this extensive list, so please subscribe to my blog and check back often.

One of the things that while relatively simple, is overlooked on a continuing basis is that of basic foot hygiene. The simple washing with soap and water is the most effective way to combat the effects of trapping your feet inside shoes all day. The use of soap and warm water on your feet is amazing in that it flushes away dead skin cells, and refreshes the pores of your feet. Not to mention the fact that a lot of times, (especially as teenagers) this will go a long way to helping your feet to smell better.

One product that I have found that really works well (especially when dealing with foot fungus) is the Foot Fixer Kit, from Dr. Roth's website (click the image to go there)

Remember, you only have one set of feet and they are intended to last a lifetime. Take care of them, and they will take care of you. Until next time, here's to happy feet.

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