Sunday, November 29, 2009

Problems with fit

The concept of shoe fit is largely a subjective one. Size alone is not the only determining factor. Research from the Battelle Memorial Institute has shown there are at least 38 individual factors influencing or involved in shoe fit. Many of the 38 factors were subjective involving the opinion and attitudes of consumer and fitter alike. In the end it was the customer who determined whether the shoe fitted or not.

Asymmetry and anatomical variation mean many people are challenged when seeking an ideal fit. Both style and pattern of a shoe bear influence on sizing and fit is determined by the distribution of foot mass within the shoe. Heel height and toe spring are critical for functionality. Shoe types such as fashion footwear and work boots may be fitted with a bit more volume allowance than the slightly snugger fit of an elegant fashion or dress shoe. The type of shoe construction can bare an influence. e.g. welts, cements, slip lasted, stitchdown, injection-moulded etc, will show slight differences in fit on the foot. Some manufacturers or brands apply their own particular specifications of dimensions on their lasts e.g. backpart, forepart, tread, etc. and this makes a difference in fit among different brands on a given size. The foot fitted in the morning will be smaller than the foot fitted in the afternoon. Toe shape of the shoe may influence the fit. Shoes with narrower toes may need to be worn a half size longer (when available).

Further Reading
Belanger R 1997 Big black boots: how to pick the right size
Byrne M Curran MJ 1998 The development and use of a footwear assessment score in comparing the fit of children's shoes The Foot 8 215-218.
Ceeny E The form of the foot in relation to footwear The Chiropodist 304-311.
Foot Fitter Genovation
Gardener R 1856 The illustrated handbook of the foot London
Ledger FE 1985 Put your foot down: A treatise on the history of shoes Melksham: Coin Velton.
Manning JR 1966 Size standardisation: Europoint The Chiropodist 21:6 187-200.
Mondopoint: A metric system of shoe sizing and marking Australian Podiatrist August 1976 102-103.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shoe width fitting

According to Rossi (2000, p.202) standard width fittings were introduced in 1880. The ball width on the last determines ball width on the shoe. This measurement is not a linear side to side measurement across the foot but instead the girth which captures the volume of the forefoot. Several standard and width fittings are available in the UK size system to accommodate differences in three-dimensional girth. In women's shoes, A is the narrowest and G the widest. For children the range is A to H; and for men it is from 1-8. The girth increase between fittings is normally 6.5mm (one fourth of an inch). Most lines are only available in one size usually women's D and men's 4. The girth around the ball of the foot of the foot increases by 5mm for whole sizes up to children's size 101/2 and 6.5mm for whole sizes above this. In the American system it is two less, eg AAA is the equivalent to the UK A. There is no equivalent Continental width fitting system and the shoes are generally narrower than in the UK. In the American (or Standard) System the first number in the code represents the width (1 = A, 2 = B) The second number followed by a zero denotes the whole size: when the second number is followed by a 5 it indicates a half size. In the American (Arithmetic standard width measurement) this ranges from AAAAA to EEEEEE.

Rossi W A (ed) 2000 The complete footwear dictionary (2nd ed) Kreiger Publishing Co. Florida.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shoe Size Systems

The length of the foot is the most commonly used measurement but so too is the width of the ball when fitting shoes. Measurements for the last are more complicated with additional data such heel width, heel to ball length, waist and instep girth necessary to the fit of the shoe. There are several shoe size systems used throughout the world but the four major systems are United Kingdom, American, Continental (or Paris Point) and Japanese. Attempts have been made to introduce an international shoe size system called the Mondo Point but to date this has not been successful

UK Shoe Size System
The first description of a shoe sizing system was made and recorded by British genealogist, Randle Holme in the Academy of Armory and Blazon in 1688. The UK System starts from zero, at 102 mm with 8.4mm (1/4 ") between whole sizes (4.2mm between half sizes). Adults sizes range from size 1 to size 15 (equivalent to 12"). The UK Shoe Size System for children is divided into 13 parts. Sizes start at five inches long and every fourth part of an inch thereafter until, size 12. Size 13 or short 13 and consists of length of 8 inches and a quarter. This also starts the Adult size 1. Until the time of Queen Victoria, children's shoes were made as miniature adult shoes, with no special feature for growing feet. The children of the Middle Class in Victorian times wore shoe styles more akin to fancy dress which may account for why the design of today's shoes contain motifs which refer to previous ages and classic periods of history. Going barefoot is still within living memory and many children went without footwear as a normal practice and not through poverty. Work shoes were often handed down with the better off wearing them before passing them to siblings. It is not clear why a unit of 13 was used to judge a critical point between child sizes and adults. The origins of this remain clouded but there are several theories. It is understood early English shoemakers started with the smallest size (0 or 1) at four inches. Four inches was an easy measure to record because it was the width across the knuckles which happened to correspond to the size of a child’s foot need their first pair of shoes. By coincidence 4.22 " measured 13 barleycorns. The next easy measure was the span of the hand or 9". Measure across the knuckles (4") plus the span of the hand (9") gave 13". This measured the average length of a child's foot at puberty. Adult sizes would logically start at the end of the child's size. Another belief is based on a foot measuring practice at the time. Some historians believe shoemakers accepted 13 as the base unit for measuring feet. The shoemaker's size stick was twelve inches long with the units measured from zero. This meant twelve became thirteen. There have been several attempts to standardise measurements of shoes and adopt the quarter inch unit, however arguments have always failed due to costs and problems of changing to a new system. As early as the seventeenth century a "guild of shoemakers" had agreed on a common size scale based on a quarter inch rather than the third of inch. However little had changed by the nineteenth century and a shoe sizing system based on one-third inch, scale was still preferred. The barleycorn, for all its metrological shortcomings, continues to be used in both American and English sizing systems.

American Shoe Size System
The first shoe sizing system with detailed proportional measurements for lasts and shoes came from North America. The instigator, Edwin B Simpson of New York, prepared the first chart of standardised last measurements in 1880. This included shoe widths but it was another seven years before the Retail Boot and Shoe Dealer's National Association adopted the system. Much of the impetus to introduce a size system had arisen during the American Civil War (1861-65) where mass produced shoes were made in left and rights for the first time. As the main shoe manufacturers were in the North then orders for soldiers required a size system. To make it easier for the Army to order shoes for their servicemen, each soldier was allocated a shoe size as well as a nametag. Despite the availability of in flare footwear, these were not comfortable and many complained. The Confederacy fought barefoot. Right and left shoes were not commercially available for another half century. Although North America legalised the use of the metric system the industry did not adopt it as the only means. Regular reviews of regulation have meet similar non-compliance. Consequently there remains little standardisation of shoe sizes within the US. Ironically the industry continues to use Imperial measurements and each manufacturer determines how large a certain size will be. The only standardisation is each full size is 1/3 of an inch longer than the previous size. Women's shoes are marked 1 1/2 sizes different than men's (a size 9 women's shoe is equal in length to a size 7 1/2 men's shoe). In the American (or Standard) System the first number in the code represents the width (1 = A, 2 = B). The second number followed by a zero denotes the whole size: when the second number is followed by a 5 it indicates a half size.

Continental System (Paris Point metric)
The Europeans use a metric system and hence each full size (or two thirds of a centimetre) is less than a full size but more than the half size. North America is one of the few countries, which is still using imperial measurement whereas most other countries have adopted a metric system. Gabriel Mouton, a French abbot, first introduced the metric system in 1670. In 1801 after several modifications the French officially adopted the measurement system. The French system does not support half sizes. Infant sizes start at size 15 (equivalent to 0) and each size then progresses by two thirds of a centimetre. By 1875 several nations had got together to discuss adoption of the Paris Point System and whilst countries like North America legalised the use of the metric system, the industry refused to adopt it as the only means.

The Japanese Shoe Size System
The Japanese system is based on the length of the foot in cm.

Mondo Point
This was a proposed international shoe sizing system for last and shoe based on the metric system and incorporated a girth measurement. The idea was thought to have originated in Australia and was adopted by the British Shoe and Allied Trades Research Association (SATRA) with the intension of replacing the English, French, Italian and other size systems. Mondo Point provided a uniform system of shoe sizes among the nations of the world. The sizes were based on millimetres. Shoes were described as 255/98 or 255 millimetres long and 98 millimetres broad. Sizes progressed from the smallest to the largest, from children's through to adults without interruption. Foot size was determined with the person weight bearing. Although adopted by several countries the Mondo Point shoe size system has fallen into abeyance principally because it was not accepted by the US manufacturers. However it is still used in sizing ski and snowboard boots.

The Brannock Device
Rossi W 2000The complete footwear dictionary (2nd ed) Kreiger Publishing Co: Florida.
The true story of shoe sizes New York: Sterlinglast Corp 1977

Useful Sites

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Shoe Stick

A continual frustration for many who care for the foot weary is the absence of an international standard shoe size system. Although metrology and reliable measurements have been in existence for over two hundred years, the concept of shoe sizing is relatively recent. Shoe sizing systems based on standard metrological measurements have only been in existence for just over 100 years and shoes made in half sizes for only half that time. As part of the protection many craftsmen operated in early times, shoes were individually coded. Like a painter signing the canvas, shoemakers marked the inside of the shoe with their personal codes. This deliberately kept the size a secret from the customer and virtually ensured their continued loyalty. The remnant of which are still in evidence today with many manufacturers maintaining individual size systems. The first US record of shoes marked with sizes dates back to between 1860 and 1870 and the procedure soon followed in England. It was only full sizes recorded (half sizes did not appear until the late 1880s). In 1886 the Hanan Shoe Co. was the first manufacturer to stamp their name on their shoes. In 1888 the first fitting stool was introduced to the trade by Sollers Shoe Manufacturing Co., Philadephia.

The origin of shoe stick dates back to antiquity and were described in Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece. Shoe sticks were used by shoe and sandal makers. For centuries each craftsman was free to use his own method of sizing. A common practice was to use parts of the bodies especially the hand and arms as gauges. For example an English yard was the length of the arm i.e. shoulder to fingertips or sometimes nose to fingertips. Troubles arose when the foot was used to measure land because everyone’s foot was different in length this eventually became a source of civil dispute when buying or selling land. In ancient Rome, the inch (which was one twelfth of a foot) measured the width across the (interphalangeal) joint of the thumb. By the 7th century in England, the barleycorn became a standard measurement with three ears of corn, laid end to end, equalling one inch. It took until the thirteenth century before the inch was officially sanctioned. Under pressure, Edward II (r. 1307-27) eventually succumbed to appeals from scholars and tradesmen to issue a decree to standardise measurement (Ledger, 1985). Henceforth an English inch was the distance measured across three barleycorns. Thirty nine (39) barleycorns laid end to end became a foot, and 117 laid end to end became a yard. Whilst the barleycorn decree of Edward II had nothing to do with shoe sizes per se, many shoemakers began to use shoe sticks. Tradesmen had traditionally used the hand span method of measurement, which preferred the quarter of an inch unit, but after the introduction of the barleycorn measure, many began to adopt the third of an inch unit. With 39 barley corns approximating the length of a normal foot this was graded Size 13 and became the largest shoe size. Other sizes were graded down by 1/3 rd of an inch or one barleycorn. It took until 1850 before the first uniform shoe stick using the English size system appeared. Ironically this took place in France and shoe sticks were not accepted in North America, until after 1900.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Shoe Styles

Shoes are defined as footwear with a mechanism capable of holding the foot in the heel of the shoe and a facility to support the foot during the stance phase of gait. The two most critical aspects of the upper is a band around the instep and a section corresponding to the human heel. To prevent unnecessary movement these need to be firm and fit the foot. The variation of shoe styles is immense but according to Rossi (1993) there are only eight basic shoe styles with the rest variations on the theme. The eight basic styles are: the boot, the clog, the lacing shoe, the moccasin, the monk, the mule, the pump, and the sandal.

Any footwear extending above the ankle. There are numerous designs and types for a variety of uses and made from a number of materials. Originally boots were shoes with wrap around leggings and date back approximately 4.5 thousand years. Much later when the leather leggings resembled a bucket, the French called then 'butt' meaning water bucket. These evolved in ‘boute’ and finally boot. Over the centuries boots have undergone many changes and been gendered for their troubles. Boots as a fashion invariably follow war and represent coping with threat. Certainly the most contrived style is cowboy boots which have little to do with real Wild West and more to do with urban macho wannabes. The cowboy boot invokes heroic myth of the west, which promulgates rugged individualism, independence, quiet strength, and alienation from civilisation. They are a sign of authority and suggest strength by adding stature and stability. A boot's snug contact with pressure sensitive Pacinian corpuscles of the lower leg provides tactile reassurance while supporting the long tendons that run to the feet. Boots stabilise the ankle. Research has shown women find men in cowboy boots more attractive. Highly decorated boots express the gentler feminine side of the narcissistic wearer who may be rather superficial but always entertaining, if only for a short time. Boots with pointed toes indicate intense ambition. Whilst the suave and sophisticated sharpie may give out assured confidence and good humour that is as much as you are likely to get from them. The fashion for sharp toes can be traced to the resurgence of paganism and in particular a celebration of Pryapus. Men challenged by the absence of height prefer high heels. Wearers of biker's boots appear control freaks. No surprise there. This who sport elasticised boots may be free spirits who enjoy the simple comforts in life. Modern guys prefer the Yellow Suede, Hiking Boots, suppressed machismo, emaciated by modern day domesticity. Most will lack adventure in their lives but have four wheel boots to show they are ready (if not always willing). Doc Martens lacing boots are the mark of natural loners who may not seek close relationships. Many have leadership qualities with total commitment to passionate causes. The physiological benefits of boots may give the feeling of security on the street. According to Australian journalist, Jane Fraser, Ugg boot (sheepskin boot) is to the foot what Vegemite is to the tongue. What she might be surprised to learn is elsewhere in the global village creative souls designed for success but tired of convention, wear Ugg Boots. This makes them a personality, which is both unpredictable and capable of the unexpected. The fashion boot without doubt has given liberated women freedom style and support. Not to mention a lot of pleasure to men.

A thick soled (wooden) shoe sometimes with leather upper.
Clogs describe wooden soled shoes traditionally worn by peasants and more recently associated with Scandinavia. Two basic types are the sabot (or wooden shoe) and the more fashionable clog (wooden soled shoe with a leather upper). Clog wearers are considered complex and intriguing characters usually cool types with a strange and difficult past that will leave you better for knowing him. One clog devotee is Brian May of Queen. Once a cloggie then always a cloggie, or so it seems. Many men are turned onto clogs by seeing well turned ladies wearing them. Some are even attracted to the noise the clog makes. Hence there are a lot of closet clog wearers out there.

Lace Up
Any low cut shoe fastened by lacings e.g. Oxford or Blucher. Lacing shoes were introduced in the seventeenth century in England. At first they were thought to be rather effeminate but later took a fashion hold when fops at Oxford University wore them in the eighteenth century. The Oxford shoe became a foot corset designed to highlight the curves of men's feet. Worn tight to the foot the shoes were smaller than the foot and always with a heel. This meant the man minced which became accepted norm for real me. Corn cutting became a popular service during this time. It took until the nineteenth century before the fashion crossed the Atlantic and came with English invasion. This movement would influence adult costume for the next half a century. To accommodate broader feet Bluchers were adopted and lacing shoes become synonymous with conservative dress attire for both men and women. Patent Leather was developed in the thirties as a waterproof material for shoes. Now solid dependable types, stalwarts of community, wore lacing shoes. Not without its irony and despite their origins lacing shoes are classified as eunuch shoe for men, and sexless or comfortable footwear for women. The later is a euphemism for lesbianism. According to Rossi people who wear lacing shoes wish to voluntarily withdraw from natural concerns of sexual attraction e.g. funeral directors, paramedics, and nurses. Non conformists may wear brogue patterns or two-tone uppers indicating a psychosexual masquerade with the masculine costume smothering the peacock inside. Jack Kennedy was a man who preferred high fashion in footwear but conformed for his public image. Neuter shoes are neither sexy nor sexless neither fashionable nor non-fashionable. They exhibit a glimmer of promise at first inspection, but on a closer look are found wanting, i.e. an eunuch like quality. A conservative fashion with medium to low heel, semi-rounded toe, closed rather than open toe box. The colour subdued, the materials conventional and the ornamentation, if any, minimal. Passive styles for psychosexually passive people (Rossi, 1993).

The sandshoe which is a canvas Oxford was an invention of the 19th century and although had humble beginnings without doubt heralded the beginning of the most popular footwear of existence. Middle class preoccupation with sport and recreation meant sport kits included dedicated sports shoes. By the middle of the 20th century they became the icons of youth. Lacing shoes with attitude have become inseparable from youthful rebellion. Sport shoes are now perceived an essential part of ritual garb associated with both the best of being human as well as its darker side. From the time Jimmy Dean endorsed coolness, when he was photographed wearing tennis sneakers to MC Hammer rapped praise on his Adidas sneakers, the sporting Oxford has ruled supreme. People who wear sneakers are not too concerned with their looks but do prize comfort and security over anything else. Wearers of designer trainers are probably ambitious, motivated and driven in all their endeavours. Their materialistic outlook and competitive nature however puts them under enormous internal pressures. The carefree casual appearance of those wearing bowling shoes (a leather top hybrid) belies a passionate conversationalist who is intensely romantic. These people are often well travelled and strongly opinionated. Traditionalist too self-conscious to be really cool wears running shoes. These people are not part of the 'in crowd' but would dearly love to be. Large size, bold contrasts, and loud colours suggest youth and physical fitness. Often more theoretical than actual. Identification with team sports (especially star players) are preference for informality and comfort.

The senior statesman of shoes is the moccasin, dating back 15,000 years. The term moccasin originates from the Algonquian language and means foot covering. The Algonquians inhabited the region along the Ottawa River and near the northern tributaries of the St. Lawrence River. Although strongly associated with North American Indigenous population the moccasin was thought to originate from the Mongol tribes who migrated along the Bering Strait into North America (circa 30,000 BCE). Moccasins described a simple one-piece hide, wrapped round the foot and held on with rawhide thongs. Later they were stylised with fringes and coloured beads. Each tribe had their own distinctive style and decoration, much of which would depict rank and occupation. Today’s moccasin shoes (Loafers) usually describe imitation moccasins, which had their origins in Norway. The Norwegian Peasant Slip-on (or weejun) was first imported to the US by tourists in the 1930s and later Gucci made a leather loafer in refined calfskin with a metal snaffle bit across the instep. Slick, successful sophisticates flocked to wear them. The Rolls Royce of shoes celebrated craftsmanship, grooming and conformity but with just a hint of excitement. During the 30s loafers were available in the spectator style (two colours) and by the 1950s the Penny Loafer was all the rage on Ivy League university campuses in the US. Made in ox blood they were also known as the Norwegian slipper. The Low vamp loafer was designed for females and was made from soft kid leather and cut low. Snaffle decorations became popular and shoes were adorned with tassels and sometimes chains. The origins of tassels relate to prehistory and keepsake tokens taken from the vanquished i.e. testicles. Semi-precious metal chains would suggest affluence and by the 1950s younger people preferred a luck penny worn on the snaffle. Penny Loafers and Saddles Shoes reached their fashion peak during the era of Rock’n’Roll. Low vamp loafers were designed for females and made in soft kid leather. College kids wore suede loafers, which was the source of inspiration for blue suede shoes. Imitation moccasins are thought to represent sensuous shoes, typified by the stylised flair, slightly feminine but overtly masculine overtones and these shoes are preferred by the lounge lizard that is both vain and domineering. Charmers with intoxicating personality the shoe's exaggerated proportions and adornments give a clue to the wearer's true persona. On the positive side moccasin wearers value quality over trends and exude a relaxed elegance that is timeless and very alluring. These people are confident and comfortable to be with. They enjoy looking cool and revel in the good life. Beware bad lots who are attracted to square toed loafers these fellows suffer illusions of grandeur are often brash and certainly preoccupied with cash. Loafers for women are conservative or neuter shoes i.e. neither sex-attractive nor sex-distractive. Neuter shoes reflect a quiescent or semi-active libido preferred by middle aged married women and sometimes referred to as ‘comfortable shoes.’

Similar to Derby Shoes but instead of laces there is a cross over section to fasten the quarters together and held with a side buckle. The monk refers the style of shoe once worn by Alpine monks in the 15th century. When the fashion for Monks caught on buckles became most ornate. Sporting buckles of silver and gold was a true mark of social status and prosperity and definitely the prerogative of men. After the French Revolution, buckles soon became passé as boots took over. Buckles meantime became popular with women's shoes. They survive today in the more mundane form as fastenings for sandals and casual shoes worn by men and children. The monk style of shoe remains a male preserve and is worn by non conventional types assured in their mind their alternative retaining medium is an able match to the more predicable lacing persona. Men who wear peacock buckles are less sexually aggressive, more flamboyant, brazen, and ostentatious. Insecure types with a driving need for personality identity. However you should not be fooled by the flash exterior is superficial and under the surface is a soft caring side to their nature, according to Eisman (2002).

Mules or slip shoes started as heel less, quarterless slippers worn in Elizabethan times. Later they became associated with the boudoir and are the ancestors of bedroom slippers, and worn by women of distinction. Richly endowed with silk and velvet these were often heavily bejewelled or highly decorated. During the nineteenth century when Manet's painting of Olympia was revealed to the public it caused a riot. The reclining courtesan was seen playfully holding her foot half in and out of her mules. The implications were obvious to all. The shoe has enjoyed a short renaissance with Ath Leisure and became more popular in the US, post '9/11'. Realisation the shoe could be a weapon, combined with widely broadcast images of discarded shoes left behind as people tried to escape falling masonry had a major impact. Increased security associated with travel, especially by air, has given the mule a new lease of life. Mules are worn by pragmatists, people who enjoy comfort as well as fashion.

Heeled shoes with low cut fronts and usually no fastening. The plain
seamless pump started life as a heel-less shoe worn indoors. It was a slip on which did not extend beyond or above the vamp and quarter top lines, held onto the foot without a fastening, although later a wrap around strap like a ballet slipper was used. In the UK the pump was known as a court shoe. By the nineteenth century the slip on pump had become sophisticated worn by both men and women. A low front pump deliberately tantalised by exposing suggestive toe cleavage. When dandy Count D'Orsay introduced a pump style which was low cut on the sides to expose the curve of the long arch and the sinuous movements of the foot the shoe took on extra sensual components. The sensual trifecta was completed with the addition of higher heels. By the 1930s daytime shoes were neat and feminine-looking with oval toes and straight, high heels. The classic court shoe was an everyday basic but the new look slender heeled sandals with ankle and T straps in reptile skins, soft kid, and suede and satin were very much the desire of most. Shoes were immaculately presented matt fabrics were always well brushed and leather buffed to a high gloss. Strappy designs were more evident in the more elegant evening shoes. The straps were sometimes plaited or made of satin ribbon and crossed over like ballet pumps. Other styles were dotted with glitter and fastened with fancy gold, silver or diamante buckles. The sides and heels of the shoes were sometimes decorated with tiny gold flecks or diamante tips. Gold and silver 'Charleston' sandals were very popular and a ready accessory for eveningwear. Other shoes were covered with fabric to match a particular dress; alternatively dresses in plain velvet satin or chiffon were worn with patterned shoes, making pretty high-heeled sandals covered in eye-catching, glittering brocade. Hollywood loved two types of women's shoes i.e. the high heeled pump which always looked glamorous despite its inappropriateness to the many action scenes the heroines were depicted wearing them; and the thin strappy sandal as worn by Hayworth, Garbo and Davis represented a willing partner to seduction. Screen beauties rarely forsook these stereotypical props and when they did it became a memorable event. Being filmed in anything else could only add further charm to their existing persona. The origins of heeled shoes probably came from shepherds tending their flocks on steep mountainous country in Pre Hellenic Times. As trade spread across the Mediterranean the elevated sandal became a fashion vogue for rich and powerful men. Later elevated shoes were worn by actors and streetwalkers. The fashion heel for women ironically came in the sixteenth century after a short fling with platform shoes. Chopines were worn by Venetian women of substance both to celebrate the leg as well as (and probably more importantly) to display the sumptuous clothing of the times. Reported falls (or miscarriage) in pregnant women meant the platform was banned but cleaver shoemakers cored out the section of the platform corresponding to the ball of the foot. Ironically by stabilising the foot they created the first orthopaedic footwear or high-heeled shoe. Despite this the heeled shoe we know today could not have been made in the past, prior to developed lasting techniques used for mass production at the turn of the 19th century. Once heeled shoes became passé for fashionable women the style was still enjoyed by female sex workers, even after the Revolution. So popular was the style for heels among sex workers the French girls that immigrated to the US continued to wear them much to the delight of full blooded all American Males. Soon after the first US heel factory was opened. With the introduction of Hollywood came the need to depict visually heroes and villains, clothing took on a special meaning especially with improved cinema photography and the full body shot. Clothing stereo types included shoes where the heeled sandal represents the modern-day, Jezebel. This image was forever frozen with the introduction of the stiletto in the early fifties, which happened to correspond for many with the beginnings of a post war permissive age. High heels are seen as a rite of passage from girl to women. Blisters and sprains worn with pride in a similar manner to nickel allergies.

Originally a slab of leather sole attached to the foot by thongs. Today any open shoe with an upper which consists of any decorative or functional arrangement of straps. Fashion sandals can be foot low to knee high, or with any heel height. Predominantly designed for simple utility or casual wear but have also become a fashion shoe. Sandals are likely to be one of the oldest and simplest forms of foot covering. Sandals date back many thousands of years. No one knows who discovered them and styles like the Stone Age sandal seemed to develop spontaneously in various locations. At first shoes were worn for ceremonial attire and decoration. Only much later was the shoe adapted for protection. As trade spread among Mediterranean countries sandals became associated with affluence but it took until the Romans before they became robust footwear, worn by the army. The trade of sandal making was almost lost after the Fall of the Roman Empire and only rediscovered in the early twentieth century when the heeled sandal was associated with Hollywood’s sirens. Now considered the sexiest shoe, the glamour sandal with its 'venez y voir' or come hither look is further enhanced by backless or slings back designs. The 'back interest', assures admiring glances from suitors whose eyes are transfixed on Nature’s beauty even after she has passed by. Sexy sandals are subtly erotic whereas bitchy sandals are flagrantly sexual. According to shoe watchers women wearing the former are trying to convey a message, which says they want to be noticed and admired as feminine and sensuous women. According to Eisman (2002), today's male thong wearers may appear crude but beneath this veneer lurks a gentle, wounded soul. Dreamers and hopeless romantics choose Jesus sandals to represent their soulful and gentle personalities. Rough and ready types wear sport sandals similar in the way suburban dwellers drive four wheel vehicles. New Age self assured types exude their inner comfort by choosing reflexology sandals.

Eismen K. 2002 How to tell a man by his shoes Pan Macmillan Australia.
Rossi WA 1993 The sex life of the foot and shoe Malabar: Kreiger Publishing Company.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Methods of Shoe Construction

There are many ways to attach the sole to the upper but only a few methods are used in mass production. Shoes were traditionally made by moulding leather to a wooden last. Modern technology has introduced new materials and mechanised much of the manufacture. Remarkable as it may seem the manufacture of shoes remains fairly labour intensive. No matter the type of construction the first stage in construction is to attach the insole to the under surface of the last. Two main operations follow: Lasting describes when the upper sections are shaped to the last and insole. Followed by Bottoming, where the sole is attached to the upper. The process of bottoming will determine price, quality and performance of the shoe.

Cement Construction (also known as 'Stuck on construction' in the UK; or the 'Compo Process’) is used for lightweight and flexible shoes and the outsole is stuck to the upper by adhesive. Bonwelt is another variation with its distinguishing feature being a strip of welting attached by stitching or cementing to the top edge of the insole. The shoe is then flat lasted. This is not a true welt construction wherein the welt is attached to the rib of the insole.

Goodyear Welt is used for high quality dress and town shoes, the top section (or welt) is chain stitched to the upper and insole rib at the point where it curves under the last. This is supplemented by a lockstitch out seam bonding the welt and outsole. The outsole is then sewn to the welt around the edge. Goodyear Welt creates heavier less flexible footwear and the process is regarded as the sturdiest of all shoe constructions.

Stitchdown (also known as Veldt or veldschoen) is a cheaper method used to produce lightweight flexible soles for children's shoes and some casual footwear. Here the upper turned out (flanged) at the edge of the last and stitched to the runner. In some countries it is known as 'veldt' and 'veldtschoen.' The technique is used for lower priced footwear.

Mocassin is considered to be the oldest shoe construction this consists of a single layer section, which forms the insole, vamp and quarters. The piece is moulded upwards from the under surface of the last. An apron is then stitched to the gathered edges of the vamp and the sole is stitched to the base of the shoe. This method is used for flexible fashion footwear. The imitation moccasin has a visual appearance of a moccasin but does not have the wrap around construction of the genuine moccasin.

Moulded Methods have the lasted upper placed in a mould and the sole formed around it by injecting liquid synthetic soling material (PVC, urethane). Alternatively, the sole may be vulcanised by converting uncured rubber into a stable compound by heat and pressure. When the materials in the moulds cool the sole-upper bonding is complete. These methods combine the upper permanently into the sole and such shoes cannot therefore be repaired easily. Moulded methods can be used to make most types of footwear.

Force Lasting (also known as Strobel-stitched method or sew in sock) has evolved from sport shoes but is increasingly used in other footwear. The Strobel-stitched method (or sew in sock) describes one of many force lasting techniques. The upper is sewn directly to a sock by means of an overlooking machine (Strobel stitcher). The upper is then pulled (force lasted) onto a last or moulding foot. Unit soles with raised walls or moulded soles are attached to completely cover the seam. This technique is sometimes known as the Californian process or slip lasting.