History of Shoes
Since the days of cavemen, both men and women undoubtedly ran around with some sort of foot protection. In some areas where the climate is mild, people did, and still do spend a good deal of time walking about barefoot.
But in less welcoming climates, and on really rough rocky terrain, even the toughest feet are a lot better off with some sort of protection. It’s possible the caveman didn’t have a nice name, such as “shoe” for whatever he tied onto his feet, but whatever it was—most likely some animal skin tied with strips of animal skin to keep the foot protection in place—it kept the caveman’s feet better protected and undoubtedly helped to keep them warm as well. We don’t imagine style entered into his wardrobe selection, but that would soon be coming.
We know that over fifteen thousand years ago people still wore animal skins wrapped around their feet. This is evident from drawings on some Spanish cave drawings. The famous “iceman” discovered in the Alps around five thousand years ago wore leather foot wrappings that were almost shoes. For a lining, he had stuffed them with straw for comfort and warmth.
Some sort of sandals probably came into general use because of the ease of manufacture. In fact, almost anyone could piece together a pair of sandals in the comfort of the fireside after a hard day hunting game.
In America, the Native Americans had perfected the moccasin which today is reproduced, albeit in a more sophisticated model, as the loafer.
Many of us are fascinated by shoes in general and with some, certain styles are simply “must have”.
But shoes weren’t always so attractive and didn’t come in nearly so many lengths or widths and the shoemakers apparently had never heard the word style. Many years ago, most shoes were constructed in a very simple fashion. They were strictly straight foot protection. There was no effort expended to make a left shoe and a right shoe. They were essentially all the same and the consumer, if he didn’t make his own shoes, had to do with something that came close to being wearable. But somewhere in the 1850’s, some enterprising shoemakers began to improve not only appearance but comfort by making shoes designed specifically for the left foot and for the right foot.
In more temperate climates like ancient Rome and Greece, most shoes were basically a footpad with ties of leather or other material tied up around the calf to keep the soles in place.
This presented a major change and step forward for mankind.
Slowly but surely, shoemakers began experimenting with new shapes and new styles and women in particular. became enamored with some fancier shoes that often became ridiculous in design and high heels and soles as well, embellished as well on top by three-dimensional decorations. While these styles came and went, they continue to catch the public’s fancy from time to time even today.
Still, with the evolution of shoes over the years, shoemakers have learned a few things. They found that most people, men and women alike, tend to wear certain sizes. They even know which sizes are most bought and worn and of course, this helps them focus their efforts on promoting and improving the more popular sizes and styles. This is in one way, unfortunate in that most shoes, for example, are available in one of two more popular widths, medium and wide. Even extra wide is not uncommon. The unfortunate individual with narrow feet is often forgotten in today’s shoe market.
At the other end of the scale, a few upper-end boot and shoemakers do offer all or nearly all their styles in extremely narrow to extra wide. Some, bootmakers traditionally dedicating their talents and trade to British lords and ladies, make, and keep forever, wooden models of the patron’s foot and therefore, one can order a new pair of shoes without even having to step foot into the studio.
All through history, shoe styles have constantly changed. Different styles and materials have risen and fallen in popularity and will rise and fall again. For shoe lovers, and they are legion, each new find is like a chocolate lover discovering a new flavor, and after all, shoes take up very little space in a closet. There is always room for another pair.