I found myself at the mall the other day, just doing a bit of window shopping, when I passed by a shoe store. In the window display there were shoes of every type and color. I began wondering who makes all these fashions? What dictates the styles that we wear? Shoes: we wear them daily and yet we know so little about the history of shoes. Here are 10 random and some odd facts that I discovered about the history of shoes.
In Ancient Egypt, slaves had no shoes or wore sandals made of palm leaves. The Commoner wore sandals made from papyrus. Those in higher status were allowed to wear pointed sandals. The colors red and yellow were reserved for the highest society only. It would be easy to see which status of society one belonged to by simply looking at the footwear they wore.
It wasn’t until 1818, that the right shoe was invented. Until that time, there was no distinction between shoes made for left or right feet. The first pair of right and left footed shoes were made in Philadelphia. Obviously, shoes weren’t made for comfort up to this point.
The wooden shoe that is often referred to as clogs were called klompens by the Dutch. Due to the fact that Holland is mostly below sea level, there are many marshy areas. The Dutch found that leather shoes would get wet and ruin easily, which is why they designed the wooden clog. Today it is still a popular tradition to wear these shoes, however they are never worn indoors. All the wooden shoes are lined up outside of one’s residence and only stocking feet are allowed in the home.
The only shoe museum in North America is located in Toronto, Ontario. This museum showcases shoes spanning over 4,500 years. The Bata Shoe Museum has compiled exhibits by Sonja Bata.
During the 16th Century, Aristocratic women began to wear shoes that were extremely high heeled. The heels on some of these shoes were so high that the women needed servants to help them walk. After this, stilt like shoes were invented and became the rave in Venice. Prostitutes wore these shoes and the height of the heels became so ridiculous that a law was enforced limiting the size of heels on women’s shoes. Women would fall to their death off of their shoes. Today, designer’s still like to make outrageous footwear. Alexander McQueen, made a 10 inch heel, known as the Armadillo heels, to be worn in 2010 fashion show. Models refused to wear them because the danger they posed.
Monarchs typically dictated the types of fashionable shoes that would and would not be worn. There are of course usually reasons behind their madness: In England, Henry VIII made wide-tied shoes popular. He made a law that shoes were to be 6 inches wide—the reason supposedly was to cover his gout-stricken feet. Louis XIV,also known as The Sun’s King, was only 5 foot 5 inches. Due to his short stature, he made high heeled shoes popular and mandatory for men.
Some odd traditions surrounding weddings and shoes include:
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” is the famous quote by Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. The boots that he wore when he took the first steps on the moon are now floating in space somewhere. His boots were discarded before coming back to Earth for fear of contamination.
Some people will pay a lot of money to have a pair of shoes that they want. The most expensive pair sold for $660,000 US Dollars. They were the Ruby Slippers, worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz. The ruby slippers were sold at an auction on June 2, 2000.
Henry Nelson McKinney, an advertising agent for N. W. Ayer & Son, was the man who came up with the term “sneaker.” This was a brilliant marketing idea for the newly invented rubber soled shoes. He said that the rubber soles made the shoes “stealth” like so he termed them sneakers. The first sneakers were Keds and they were invented in 1917. Sneakers went international in 1923 when a German man made a sneaker and named it after himself. The sneaker is Adidas, named after Adi Dassler. This brand has been the world’s largest seller of athletic shoes. Adidas, became famous after Jessie Owens won 4 Gold Medals, while wearing Adidas, during the 1936 Olympics.
There are so many interesting facts about shoes and their history. Hope you enjoyed the random facts I shared. I wrote this “solely” out of my own interests. Sorry, I had to “sneak” a pun in there!
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