Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Brief history of miniature shoes

Miniature terracotta shoes were used as funerary vases in Persia 2000 BC and from Greek times jars or aryballos made in the shape of shoes or boots were used to store oils, ointments or perfumes.

The prehistoric northern tribes which inhabited the Italian peninsula and eventually became the Romans kept jars and amulets in the form of shoes. The Romans considered models of the foot good luck charms which would ward off evil spirits as well as encourage fertility. Oil lamps in the shape of feet wearing sandals were used as night ;ights by the Romans

Between the 8-12th century, the Incas used vases in the shape of model feet and were called the third foot. These might store powers of chica and cola which were used as burial offerings.

In 15th century Europe, long toed boot shaped drinking cups became popular. Many believe these vessels were first used as ceremonial goblets used to welcome new members or bestow special cheer to mastership of the Cordwainer's Guild. Loving cups from the same time were more often modeled on women's shoes, some with inscriptions like, "I wish for no other."

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries the workshops of Faenza and Florence made delightful majolica versions of delicate shoe styles of the time. These were tin-glazed earthenware richly coloured and decorated. Men used these artifacts as hand warmers or containers for spirits. Many were made with a neck for straws and these were thought to be popular wedding presents so the couple could enjoy a honeymoon toast.

During the 18th century it became very popular for adults to exchange gifts of porcelain shoes. Known as 'fancies in faience' these were miniature shoes filled with sugar almonds or jewelery like rings, brooches and even shoe buckles. The term faience was derived from Faenza in Italy. The shoes were meant for luck and their contents underpinned friendship. The fashion for faience grew throughout the 18th century and porcelain makers like Delftware catered accordingly. Delft was based in the Netherlands and produced distinctive style of glazed earthenware (usually blue and white). The company produced wonderful miniatures much admired because of their painted designs, often including people in everyday events.

The Rococo slipper imortalised by the fairy tale Cinderella (written by Charles Perrault -1697) and was copied endlessly. Miniature shoes took on an erotic nature and polite gifts of shoes were often exchanged between lovers in the hope and expectation the ultimate prize would soon be within grasp.

Traditionally French and Spanish children left their clogs filled with carrots and hay for the reindeer and Santa reciprocated by filling their shoes full of confectionery. This is known as Sabots de Noel. If you are ever in France during the festive season you may be surprised to find children lay out their shoes and not their stockings for Père Noël (Father Christmas}.

The origins of Sabots de Noel, are according to tradition on Christmas Eve, a little French girl put her sabots in front of the fire, hoping Père Noël would leave her something. When she woke up on Christmas morning she could not find her wooden clogs but instead, where the clogs were, she found a pair of clay fired, shoes, filled with confectionery. Her grandmother explained the strange transformation. when Père Noël was chilled to the marrow he was forced to light a fire to keep himself warm. When he ran out of firewood he used the little girl's clogs to feed the fire. By means of thanks and so as not disappoint the child, Père Noël ventured outside into the cold to find some clay. With incredible skill he forged a pair of porcelain shoes and left them, filled with nuts, apples and spiced buns.


It was only in the English version of Saint Nicholas did he throw golden coins down the chimney which were caught in the children’s' stockings, hanging up to dry by the fire.

Weber P 1982 Shoes : a pictorial commentary on the history of the shoe Switzerland: The Bally Shoe Museum

Monday, November 27, 2017

Something for this year's Christmas Stocking: Shoes: The Meaning of Style by Elizabeth Semmelhack

Shoes: The Meaning of Style by Elizabeth Semmelhack. The author explores the history of shoes and how different types of footwear have come to say varying things about the people who wear them. Beautifully illustrated throughout.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Monday, October 16, 2017

A brief history of blue chip sneakers

Once Saturday was established as a work free day, working class families were keen to enjoy the new train systems and took every opportunity to leave the city and visit the seaside, particularly in the summertime. Working boots were discarded as day trippers wanted shoes for walking through sand and paddling in the sea. At first, cheap cotton canvas topped shoes had a sole made from leather, jute or rope but these were flimsy and wore out quickly, usually within a day. After the discovery of rubber vulcanisation (the addition of sulphur and heat makes a more durable and non-sticky rubber compound), which was attributed to Howard and Goodyear in the mid-19th century, but had similarly been discovered in the UK by Thomas Handcock. A major court case ensued and Goodyear was granted the patent in the US; and Hancock became the patent holder in the UK. Henceforth there was fierce rivalry between the two countries to produce rubber based products.

The New Liverpool Rubber Company (UK) developed a lightweight shoe which combined a cotton canvas top with a rubber sole. These were still insubstantial and better off people wore white croquet shoes made from kangaroo skin, and too expensive for the working class. By 1876, seaside promenaders sported the latest canvas topped rubber soled shoes called plimsolls (1876). A rubber band was wrapped around the seam joining the upper to the sole making the new shoes more robust. The similarity to the new load lines painted on boats meant the shoes were called plimsolls. White plimsolls wore well, kept the feet cool in the summer and dried quickly after a paddle in the sea. The canvas could be painted with chalk white which give the outward impression from a distance these were expensive white croquet shoes and really gained popularity during the Gilded Age. Examples can be found in many museums across the world but rarely do these attract the interest private collectors and therefore difficult to value.

The simple plimsoll was quickly adapted to popular sports another working class pastime encouraged by the ruling class at this time. Keeping workers and their families amused in their leisure time was important especially at a politically volatile time in history. In the UK, Lawn Tennis players (circa 1860) wore low cut plimsolls with patented sole patterns to improve grip and prevent destroying the lawns. In the US, sneakers or high-top canvas plimsolls (used to protect the ankles), were introduced to the new team games of baseball (1846) and basketball (1891). When it was realised ‘tennis shoes’ shoes softened the landing of a long jumper they became ingratiated into athletics, and when it was discovered the treads prevented slipping on wet surfaces they were modified for yachting. As each recreational sport adopted the plimsoll (now generally regarded as the tennis shoe) it was adapted to the specific needs of the game. The addition of a simple rubber strip at the end of the shoe stopped the big toe nail appearing through the canvas. Gradually the anatomy of the modern sport shoe (or trainer) began to emerge. Even the British Army, issued plimsolls to their serving men and a pair of gym shoes were found in the kit of Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic Expedition of 1911.

The rubber industry boomed and was very competitive. The popularity of cycling meant many companies started producing bicycle tyres and by the time it waned, development of the car industry brought with it a need for car tyres made from rubber. The United States Rubber Company bought out their smaller rivals, many of which were already exporting sport shoes globally. By the beginning of the 1890s there were two types of canvas topped rubber soled sport shoes, those which sat below the ankle were called ‘tennis shoes’; and hi-top sneakers, designed for basketball were called sneakers. Irving Watkinson is credited with designing the first pair basketball sneakers for Dr. James Naismith who invented the game. An iconic feature of the first hi top sneakers was the addition of a rubber ball logo at the lateral ankle of the shoe and the Colchester Company were so proud of them they had them on display at the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair. In the same year, the company was bought over by the United States Rubber Co., and it took almost 20 years before Spalding introduced their basketball shoes in 1907, others followed. However, it was the Converse Rubber Corporation’s version called The All-Star shoe (1917) which would become the evergreen iconic basketball shoe, we all recognise today. In reality these were a reinvention of the original Colchester sneaker which you can still buy replicas for $85 (US). A pair of the originals would be of course, be worth considerably more to a collector. In 1916 the United States Rubber Co., introduced their own tennis shoes called Keds.

After the Great War, the market for sneakers grew exponentially it was realised the fitness levels of the working class was low. Sports and athletics increasingly became a way to demonstrate Christian Muscularity or moral fibre and patriotism in the new movement of Physical Culture which swept the West. Athletic shoes increasingly were used for leisure and outdoor activities and when physical education lessons were made compulsory in schools, children had to wear plimsolls. I well remember at school the class was divided between those families who could afford tennis shoes from those with gym shoes (sand shoes). Going barefoot was not an option.

Between the wars, the new Olympic Competition was a fashion catwalk, and covered relentlessly in the media as a focal point for international trade. Shoe manufactures quickly modified their footwear to the specific needs of popular sports. After his return from World War I, Adolf "Adi" Dassler started making sports shoes in his mother’s kitchen, he and his brother then went on to establish Adidas. In America, the market for sneakers grew steadily as young boys lined up to buy white hi top sneakers endorsed by sporting heroes like Chuck Taylor for $1.00 (or $20 today). The famous basketball player wore Converse All-Stars and they became so popular they were called, Chuck Taylor All-Stars, or ‘Chucks.’ Chuck Taylor's name was added to the signature circle patch and ventilation eyelets were added in 1932. The classic black All-Star retailed until the 40s. By WWII, Chuck Taylor sneakers were the "official" sneaker of the U.S. armed forces.

International tennis and badminton had become major draw cards and customised tennis shoes began to appear circa 1936. A French brand, Spring Court, marketed the first canvas tennis shoe featuring signature eight ventilation channels on a vulcanised natural rubber sole. Jack Purcell (Canadian badminton champion) adapted tennis shoes to his sport which was played on hard wooden floors. At the same time, Australia starts to have a major influence when one of its famous son’s and international double tennis champion, Adrian Quist, convinced Dunlop Australia in 1939 to make a plain white tennis shoe with patterned herringbone sole. The added grip on the lawn surface made the Volley OC (Orthopaedically Correct) an instant success. Production continued until the 1970s with almost no change except the addition of the iconic green and gold stripe to the heel in the 1970s. Dunlop Volleys were standard issue by the Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force. Through the ensuing years other brands of tennis shoes appeared, but the essential design remained unchanged until the late 1960s, when a huge variety of tennis shoe designs emerged. To that effect, Adrian Quist is the godfather of the modern low-cut trainer and I have always advocated we should celebrate this with a Dunlop Volley Day (DVD).

Like the T shirt, service issue plimsolls (often in various colours) became popular souvenirs after the War and were highly prized by the youth of the time. Tennis shoes were ideal for the dance floor and dancing to quick tempo Swing and Jive. The appeal of American sneakers was confirmed when James Dean was photographed wearing Jack Purcell’s and Elvis Presley appeared in low cut tennis shoes. Chucks and Keds became a by-word for teenage rebellion. Fashion crossover (i.e. moving from sport to recreational wear) not only ensured lasting popularity but also the value-added benefit now of retro fashion, because they have never gone out of fashion in almost a century. People still buy them to wear and the originals in their boxes, to collect.

By the 50s man-made fibres became incorporated and sneakers merged into trainers. Now more durable, flexible and hard wearing, cellular foams were added to increased fit and comfort. When designers began incorporating a two-colour finish (colourways), signature sole patterns and brand decals and dashes a completely new fashion was created. These were first seen at the Melbourne Olympics worn by the athletes from behind the Iron Curtain. Competitors were often filmed ambling about minutes before competition wearing their trainers then later as if by magic, won medals in their heats. Contrasting colours were used to highlight reinforced areas on the shoe which gave them distinctive characteristic and coincidentally head turning appeal. Trainers were now fashionable shoes in their own right, with Ath-Leisure footwear equally at home on the track as they were trucking asphalt. Film and television coverage of sporting events was a marketing bonanza for sport shoe manufacturers, who recognised the need to have their product instantly recognised. Adidas three stripes trademark back in 1949 set the bar for branding thereafter. Collectors pay big bucks for these original pathfinders.

Two other things ensured the allure of sport shoes would last for ever. The first was celebrity endorsements and sneakers sponsorships into college and professional sports; the other came as an aftermath of the Space Race. In the beginning those sneaker designs affiliated to particular sporting celebrities ended with their retiral from sport. The same model was then passed onto a new endorser rather than be discontinued, or a new one created. This created collector interests. Once we had walked on the moon and with a surplus of new synthetic polymers, what better use to make of them than to incorporate the out of this world material into sport shoes. It was during this time in the early 80s, sport shoes become blue chip investments with a constant barrage of designer styles and signature shoes. While previous generations of males might collect cars from their youth, Generation X preferred shoes. This is not entirely male centric and females too, collect sneakers. The ultimate in secular consumerism maybe driven in part by the overall desire to acquire modern objet d’art at affordable prices. Collectors appreciate one-off's, limited editions and exclusives.

The shelf life of a trendy trainer is short (3 months) and companies like Nike and adidas are forever introducing new lines. To add incentive, companies offer "quick hit" or hype shoes which is a clever marketing ploy involving the sale of a small number of limited edition shoes as a special offer in selected outlets for a limited period of time only. With minimum advertising these events are hurriedly communicated through networks, websites and SMSs. Sneakerheads range from casual fans of sneaker fashion to those who buy and sell shoes like blue chip investments. Fanatics endure the elements and camp overnight for their next purchase of limited edition. The shoes can cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars depending on their cachet. Some wear them, and have multiple pairs (in case one gets scuffed); whereas others keep them ‘fresh’ in their boxes, or ‘deadstock’ them in a bank vault, or on display and always unworn. Shoe collectors often determine what will sell and companies are obliged to follow. Collectors have enormous closets full of trainers designed by sneakerhead artists who, themselves become celebrities. Experts believe the drive for the sneaker phenomena relates to a mix of popular culture, nostalgia, technology and investment. Sneaker Freakers have many dedicated web sites, movies, books, songs and even radio shows dedicated to sneaker culture. Experts believe the drive for the sneaker phenomena relates to a mix of popular culture, nostalgia, technology and investment.

Currently the American market for deadstock sneakers is estimated at $1 billion, with the thriving resell community net millions of dollars a year by selling rare kicks for profit. By far Michael Jordan shoes (Js) are considered to be the most expensive at auction. Recently a pair of his shoes was sold for $190,373. The previous record for a pair of game-used sneakers was again, Jordan’s worn during the "Flu Game," and sold for $104,765 in 2013.

Recently, in Perth WA, The Art Gallery of Western Australia hosted a most successful Sneaker Exhibition entitled The Rise of Sneaker Culture. This is a traveling exhibition organised by the American Federation of Arts and the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. Feature was local collector, Dr Lee Ingram, a lecturer from Curtin University who has collected 830 pairs of sneakers.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The history of sneakers

Shoe Historian Cameron Kippen joins Harvey Deegan on Remember When for this fascinating chat about the history of Sneakers.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes exhibition. Prague

The exhibition dedicated to the famous shoe designer Manolo Blahnik is now on display at Prague’s Kampa Museum.

The travelling The Art of Shoes exhibition, currently in Prague, explores the career of the visionary Czechoslovakian designer. The exhibits including shoes and drawings, are divided into six thematic sections, examining the recurring topics of the designer’s inspiration, such architecture, art, botany, or geography. Visitors can also learn how the shoes are created from films that show the designer working in his studio. On display are Blahnik’s iconic shoes some from Sex and the City and Marie Antoinette, The Prague exhibition s open until November 12, then it will move on to Madrid, before terminating at the Bata Museum in Toronto.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

These Shoes Are Killing Me!

These Shoes Are Killing Me!
Source: Freakonomics Radio

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Zeitgeist and a potted history of shoes

Zeitgeist means a sign of the times and shoe fashions are not determined by chance alone, but by the times and technology we live in. That is as true today, as it ever was. No one can be 100% sure when our ancestors started wearing shoes but we remain the only species to have prolonged bipedal gait and, to date, no other mammal has yet evolved, to make shoes.

Discovery of awls and needles made from bone or flint, marked the first milestone in the development of bespoke footwear. Estimated to be around 60k years ago, our ancestors started making rough shoes to acclimatise themselves to their changing environment. During the Upper Palaeolithic era (40k- 25k years ago), needles with eyes become precision tools used for sewing skins and furs. A long-held belief is the sandal was the first shoe, although that remains unverified, but there are evidence sandals were worn about 10,000 years ago which coincides with the Neolithic Age (or New Stone Age). Earlier footprints speculatively indicate the presence of shoes before this time, but because animal and vegetable materials rarely survived, archaeological evidence is scant.

Shoes dating to 7.5k year-ago, surprisingly demonstrate a range of styles that would not be out place in a modern shoe store. Some had pointed toes others rounded, and all appeared with decorative flourishes. Even then, shoes had taken on a social ritual, the knowledge of which indicated, breeding, status and personality. Preferred hides were prioritised according to the more revered elements of the animals such as swiftness and courage. To the true believers these held magical powers. Nothing seems to have changed if we can give credence to some of today’s marketing rhetoric. By 6.5k years ago, there was clear evidence sown animal hides were used in robust footwear as worn by Otzi the Iceman. Shoe finds come from a wide variety of geographical locations (including America, China, Egypt and Mesopotamia) supporting the theory shoe styles were spontaneous innovations made from available resources and consistent with the development of local crafts.

It took until the Romans before the next step in footwear evolution. During the Bronze Age, the Etruscans had discovered how to make small brass tacks which the Roman sandal makers cleverly incorporated into the soles of their military sandals. This secured not only a better bond between the upper and sole but also gave the sandal traction. A better shod army marched further across rougher terrain, and the Empire expanded beyond any other. When the supply chain from Roman became impractical local shoemakers were introduced to Roman shoemaking and vegetable tanning. Parochial artisans soon incorporated their local shoe making skills to further embellish and extend the range of shoes available. Often triumphant Roman soldiers celebrated their return to Rome by substituting bronze tacks with gold and silver in their highly decorated shoes. After the Fall of the Empire, these local shoemakers carried on the Roman traditions keeping the trades alive. Other examples in history, of how one culture superimposed itself upon another include: the Moorish influence on Cordoba (Spain) and the introduction of quality leathers; and the Mongol invasions with archer horseman wearing heels. Henceforth, the privileged classes of Europe indulged their superiority by wearing sumptuous clothing and heeled shoes. Many regents became tanners by trade including William the Conqueror. Shoes became symbols, serving to indicate standards of conduct as well as emotional states.

The three important functions of shoes were: decoration, modesty and protection. Long been debated, as to what came first, with the common consensus it was protection, yet the evidence to support this hypothesis is scant. Modesty as a concept, is also comparatively new in the history of the west, and has no more linage than a couple of millennium. This leaves the primary function of footwear as decoration. Decoration as we know beautifies bodily appearance, attracting admiring glances and fortifies self-esteem. Simply put shoes, outwardly represented a very important non-verbal sign of gender, presence, and personality. This truly made the role of shoemakers and shoe designers, very important.

According to Freud we became seeing beings and clothing provided the safest distance to assess a stranger. Many of the early Christian converts in Roman Times were sandal makers. Frequently disinherited by their families they worked by night to make and sell sumptuous sandals. This conveniently left them daylight hours to spread the gospel.

In the 11th century, Fulk le Réchin, (you have to watch how you say that especially with cheap dental adhesive) was a courtier in Anjou, France. By all accounts, he was a bad tempered, quarrelsome fellow and according to Rossi, suffered painful bunions and ingrown toenails. He commissioned his cordwainer to craft him a designer pair of shoes to accommodate these deformities. The clever shoemaker came up with poulaines – triangular shoes with long extension beyond the toes. The belle figure was nicknamed ‘Cornadus’ or horned one, as he strutted about the court. Now whether this is fact or fiction, no one knows but something very strange did happened in the 11th century. Across Europe, the length of men’s shoes got longer and longer until they were 24 inches longer than the foot. Despite papal laws to prevent lower classes from wearing poulaines, the fashion continued unabated for another four hundred years. No clear explanation has ever been proffered to explain this strange phenomenon.

Modern scholars acknowledge, the Influence of Islam on European culture at this time, and believe it formed the basis for European Chivalry and Courtly Love. These conventions taught young men to sublimate their desires and channel their energies into socially useful behaviour. To do otherwise, might threatened social stability especially at a time when the feudal lords and knights were engaged in the Crusades.

European courtly love flourished in the early 12th century and high-minded ideals of true romance were spread throughout when troubadours sang openly of love’s joys and heartbreaks in daringly personalised terms, extolling the ennobling effects of the lover’s’ selfless devotion. Troubadour’s songs promoted a love yearned for, and at times rewarded by, the solace of every delight of the beloved except physical possession by sexual union. The relationship was always illicit i.e. the woman was usually older, the spouse of another, often a lord or patron, and consummation was not possible. Could it possibly be there was a connection to long toed shoes?

Young men stuffed their long-toed shoes with moss and grass and under the circumstances, with no stretch of the imagination, a 24" long extension on the end of each foot, could be put to very practical use. Small hawk bells were sewn on the end of the shoe to audibly indicate, the wearer was interested in sexual frolic. Two "intimate ceremonies" of courtship were commonly practised. Woman worship (or domnei) was where the would-be suitor gazed on the partly or fully undressed lady; and naked courting couples were allowed to lie side by side sometimes separated by only a pillow. Kissing and embracing were encouraged but the lovers proved their depth of love by avoiding sexual intercourse. These behaviours were highly sensual and carnal and at a time in history when married couples were parted or marriage was delayed, masturbation provided the perfect solution. By the same token, heavy petting provided a practical form of birth control especially when neither religious nor civil authorities rarely interfered with women’s business. Breaking these taboos reinforced the strength and drive for sexual pleasure which as we know, transcends any moral precept hence promiscuous sex among the privileged classes in Europe became prevalent. In Occidental Society, long toed shoes may have provided the ideal means of birth control and later provide protection from sexually transmitted disease. A historical corollary, if required, was foot binding in Oriental Society, and at precisely the same time, the bound (Lotus) foot became incorporated into sexual practice.

Crown heads were the fashion doyens of the time and inter marriage between countries (or courts) the main reason for change of costume. One fashion was superimposed upon another with a trickle down to ensure courtiers and courtesans were kept à la mode. This languid fashion exchange meant costume took many years to change. Syphilis has long been thought to be a disease introduced to Europe in the 15th century (carried back by Christopher Columbus’s crew). However, most authorities now accept treponmeal disease existed in Europe prior to this time and was spread by sexual contact. The presence of the pox and the knowledge of its transmission gave reason to influence sexual practises.

The outcome of untreated neurosyphilis is tabes dorsalis, characterised by a progressive locomotor ataxia (due to loss of proprioception); a sensory ataxia causes a wide based, "high-stepping" gait. A further complication of neurosyphilis is general paresis caused by brain damage which presents as impaired mental function with personality disorders including grandiose delusions. Was it a coincidence poulaines caused fashionable courtiers to adopt a wide based, high stepping gait (similar to advanced tabes dorsalis)?.

About this time too, European courts were introduced to the Court Jester (or professional fool). Leaving Willeford to let us to ponder: "When the king was a syphilitic semi-imbecile, a jester even more grotesque may have served as a useful stage prop, disarming criticism by making the king look more nearly normal by comparison and thus making the make-believe of kingship possible." In any event shoe makers continued to craft long toed shoes.

Towards the end of the 15th century, the fashion for long toed shoes became passé, almost overnight. An absence of written documentation means the reasons remain unclear, but from contemporary paintings, the only evidence available, the style was quickly replaced by shoes which were so broad across the ball of the foot as to boast of individual compartments for each toe. The podiatrist’s delight was called the Duck Bill or Bears Paws.

By this time, a more virulent form of syphilis was in pandemic across Europe, Russia, China, India and Africa. Initially physicians were helpless and refused to treat the suffering leaving them to barbers, bath attendants and quacks (many of which were corn cutters). As we know, another complication of neurosyphilis is Charcot foot where trophic ulceration decimates the sole of the foot. Decreased sensation and loss of ability to feel temperature, pain or trauma, follows, leaving the feet insensate and unprotected. What better way to protect them than encasing them within the Bears Paw. The fashion prevailed for another two hundred years which coincidently happen to mirror the worst of the syphilis epidemics. Could it possibly be these Tudor Moon Boots, were the first orthopaedic shoes?

By the end of the 15th century, the Italian city states like Florence had become the centre of world trade. Fine goods were in abundance and local craftsmen made merry. To show off the wealth of their rich husbands, successful merchant’s wives wore platform shoes (chopines), lifting them off the ground, to highlight their rich sumptuous costume. Quickly the fashion for taller platforms became vogue until they were 24 inches high. Walking required two servants for support, (or at least a silver top walking stick), and rarely did the lady ever travel outside without a sedan chair. The fashion came to an abrupt end in 1519 after it was discovered more and more injuries were reported particularly among pregnant fashionista. The term miscarriage originally is thought to relate to falling over platform shoes. Cobblers soon discovered the shoe became more stable and easier to walk by carving out the forefoot section of the platform leaving the heel elevated.

The Medici’s were a particularly powerful family throughout the Renaissance, and had made their fortune through banking and commerce. Catherine di Medici was born in the same year sumptuary laws prevented chopines from being worn. As an adult, she was petite but despite her small stature became a giant in European history. The young teenage Catherine married the future king of France but was widowed early. For the duration of her lifetime, she had a tremendous influence of the French way of life. Not all good, but she did arrive in Paris wearing high heeled mules which instantly took the attention of the fashion conscious and became vogue for both women and men. The fashion remained popular for about fifty years before it was considered déclassé. This is the first time a particular piece of costume had been associated with a living person and many believe this marks the beginning of women’s fashion. Some women still wore them but by this time the style was more associated with “depraved and dissolute women”. Misogynistic medicos have never been able to forgive them.

Throughout the Middle Ages shoe makers were industrious trades people keen to follow the fads of their patrons and quick to form unions gaining themselves reputations for being socially rebellious. During the 17th century shoe makers were often depicted satirically in fairy tales as goblin like change agents sometimes with naughty, or ulterior motives.

By the 17th century boots were once again part of military attire and soon became fashionable across Europe. Boots were distinctively men's fashion and worn outside the trousers in salons as well as on the dance floor. High boots were first soaked in water then allowed to dry on the leg. The flexion of the knee made them ideal for horse riding but once dismounted the horsemen walked with stiffened legs and a distinctive swaggering gait. This was considered very macho at the time. Charles, I, suffered osteomalacia (rickets) as a child and learned to walk with the aid of callipers cleverly concealed into his boots made by the Royal shoemaker. Gentlemen wore light coloured boots with red heels and the edges of the soles stained red. The Cavalier boot had a very wide top which could be turned down for town wear, showing silk or coloured leather lining. The width of the leg had increased and the boots were worn wide across the toes. Toes became square and this fashion remained popular till the end of the century.

During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries boots surpassed shoes as the fashionable footwear for men. Now more refined, styles were trimmer and worn with turned down tops. The two-tone boots were lined in brown which contrasted with the outer black leather of the rest of the boot. Two-tone top boots were worn below the knee for outdoors with tans and pale shades popular with the gentry. In the Regency Period, Dandies like, George Beau Brummell had his patent leather boots polished with champagne. The Duke of Wellington instructed his shoemaker, Hoby of St. James's Street, London, to modify his Hessian boots and make them suitably hard-wearing for riding, yet smart enough for informal evening wear. The master bootmakers created the Wellington. After he defeated Napoleon in 1815, he became a national hero and the wellington boot proved so popular they were worn by patriotic civilians eager to emulate their war hero. Talk about celebrity endorsement.

The Wellington also became standard cavalry issue to Union troops, during the American Civil War. However, unscrupulous contractors supplied below par footwear made of reinforced carboard and many horse soldiers suffered deep cuts to their feet. A Chiropodist General to the US cavalry was appointed at this time. After hostilities, troops were sent to the Western frontier to fight in the Indian Wars. Unfortunately, due to the surplus of shoddy boots, they were issued with inferior footwear and as a result priority was given to skilled leather workers from Germany and other European Countries to craft "kips", which were more hard-wearing boots. By the end of the 19th century a more practical cowboy boot was beginning to emerge as a distinctive style. Life has its ironies, by the time of the Hollywood cowboy featured, the preferred boot style was not a wellington but a Tejas. The significance, being as The Duke of Wellington championed his boot, his nemesis Emperor Napoleon wore Tejas.

In recent modern history, the three most important influences on footwear have been: Hollywood and the mass media; World Wars; and The Space Race. In the 20th century, resurgence of nostalgia came first with the Hollywood epics ensuring millions of the world’s populations could not just see but also wear the fashions of their icons. This was the beginning of today’s fashion industry. Changing Theatres of War enforced new developments in footwear, first with mass production, then right and left fittings, with further innovations to allow foot comfort in changing global settings. Finally, and arguably the greatest singular influence on today’s footwear industry is, the aftermath of the Space Race and the Age of the new polymer. Human beings had to put someone on the moon before they could have ever make the shoes that may just one day, allow us all to run a marathon in under two hours.