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HISTORY OF SHOES (Part 1)

 

We know it’s crazy to imagine a time when shoes didn’t exist. It started out as a simple need to protect our feet from things like stones, thorns, cold, hot, etc. Who would have thought that it would become a billion-dollar industry one day? Today, shoes themselves are a huge industry and a part of the fashion trends which without them would be pretty incomplete and unfinished. It started as a craft and today there are machines and factories to produce them at mass. I guess we can blame the population boom, humans can't sew for billions, can they now?

As the timeline for history changed, the timeline for the history of shoes changed even more frequently. From the materials used to the styles, everything changed within a blink of an eye. The different periods of history brought a different perspective of the world, the people, art, colour, cultures etc. The growing knowledge, new cultural developments, meeting people when everyone believed the earth was flat, all lead to new discoveries and continuous changes in footwear came along the way. Even different traditions gave birth to different types of footwear. 


The primitive footwear from our early ancestors mostly during the prehistoric era was replaced by sandals which were made of different material for different social classes that emerged during antiquity. In 1991, archaeologists found a completely preserved naturally mummified body of a human who apparently died about 3300 years before our era even began.

He was found wearing a pair of shoes which were made of deerskin, bearskin and was stuffed with hay. The stone-age human ancestor was named Oetzi. 

 

 

1250 BC - 476 BC


The start of the footwear is first known from Egypt. The first pair of sandals found were made from palm leaves, papyrus fibre and some reed. Early on only the pharaohs and the clerks used to wear the sandals but soon all Egyptians started wearing the sandals but the colour of their footwear reflected their social status. 


China is the one nation worth mentioning here. They had some traditions that were not accepted across the globe. In the eastern world, smaller feet were considered a thing of beauty and the process to make that happen was known as Golden lotus feet. It became very famous during the 11th and 12th centuries. They had special shoes to stop the growth of the feet. 


The most famous sandals came from Greece and Rome in ancient times. The sandals had laces and went halfway up to the knee. The more laces the sandal had, the higher was the rank of the soldier. In Greece, only the people who were free were allowed footwear. 

 

 

The Middle Ages (476-1453)


Even though the overall scorecard of the middle ages is dark. No pun intended. This was still the period where a lot of new footwear trends came into existence. During these times espadrilles came to Europe. These were shoes made from jute canvas. They were made for warmer climates hence were light and were worn only across Southern Europe. They sometimes were worn with hay or fur in regions with occasional cold climates. 


During this time the goths thrived and hence, special footwear with pointed ends became famous. It was called poulaines. The length of the trip went more than half a meter at times and was symbolic of social status.  They were made of materials like velvet and at times had accessories attached. 



So, I hope you enjoyed a little dive into the history of shoes. I promise there is a lot more to come. It is important to understand at times how things came into existence to understand them better. So, I will come back with the second part which will focus on the creation of modern footwear. 

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