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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1 comment:

  1. Always enjoy reading about the history of shoes. I have a blog called foot talk which deals with similar issues
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