A Short History of Shoemaking

A Short History of Shoemaking

Dec 20 , 2020

Erandika Mohanathasan

Tags - History of Shoemaking

The earliest shoes, recorded in history, are from 7,000 BC, found in Rock Caves in the US.

Initially, shoes were made of sage brushes, leather using cowhide, bear skin, deer skin and bark string net. From a design perspective, the initial shoes were elementary, as they were just used to cover the foot for protection.

Interestingly, according to studies carried out by archeologists, it was deduced that wearing shoes resulted in decrease in bone development, resulting in short and thin toes. 

Medieval Era

In the medieval era, the turnshoe method was vastly used for shoe making.

In this method, the shoe can be turned inside out to be used and turned when the work is done.

For further use, seam or toggled flaps or drawstrings were used to tighten the shoe.

Material wise, turnshoes were mainly made out of leather.

And, design wise, both sides of the shoes were mirrored.

Later came the rand method where the shoes looked the same with a stronger sole. But, the shoes made this way could not be turned inside out.

15th to 17th Century

In the 15th century, designed/pattern shoes came into use.

This was a precursor of high heeled shoes worn by the rich.

During this time, shoes, such as cracow (long toed shoes) and chopin (20 inch heeled shoe) were created, leading to the innovation of sewn-on sole (leather) shoes in the 17th century.

18th Century

Shoe making became more merchandised as a manufacturing industry during the industrial expansion in the 18th Century.

Initially, shoemaking was considered as a craft but then it was expanded and commercialised to be manufactured in the factories without any personalisation.

In other words, most of the shoes at this time were purely mass produced for economic reasons.

19th Century Onwards

In the 1800s, the first shoe making machine was built by a British engineer, Sir Marc Brunnel

The machine was used to build boots for the British Army.

Revolution of shoes went from hand stitched by a shoe maker to machine stitched, and then simply glued on together. The materials used in shoes were also advanced in a way that it went from leather to rubber or plastic to more biodegradable and comfortable materials.

Fun Fact: The Victoria and Albert Museum in London showcases 2,000 pairs of shoes across 3000 years from different parts of the world around different eras.

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