Lacing Up The Facts: A History of Shoes

Many of the things people use every day and take for granted have unique histories, and the history of shoes is no exception. Shoes date back to nearly 1600 B.C., when people would use simple leather wrappings around their feet in order to protect them. High heel shoes were first worn by the ancient Egyptians, but not for fashion! Butchers in ancient Egypt used to wear these to help them walk above the blood of dead beasts.

After these wrappings, sandals were invented, which were popular in Egyptian, Roman, and Greek cultures. These types of foot coverings were the forerunners of the Native American moccasin, which were also made of tanned leather and were sometimes brightly decorated with dyed porcupine quills and beads.

The history of modern shoes as they are known today began in the mid nineteenth century, when machines were invented not only to sew soles to the bottoms of the upper part of the shoe, but also when shoes began to be mass produced for everyday wear and the idea of contouring them to better fit the left and the right foot came about. Before the late 1800’s, each shoe that came in a pair would fit on either foot.

Modern athletic shoes can thank Britain for their success because when it comes to the history of shoes, they may not exist today if not for the invention of the shoelace. Before the shoelace and the eyelets that are now set into shoes that allow people to lace them up, large and sometimes clumsy buckles were used on most shoes and boots. It’s hard to imagine modern sneakers to look as flashy as some do today with big square buckles on them.

When shoelaces were first invented in Britain in the late eighteenth century, they were commonly called “shoestrings,” and the stiff wrapping around the ends of the laces were placed there to keep the string from becoming frayed. These are called aglets, and they are still used today on every pair of shoes that lace up.

The history of shoes would not be complete without discussing the invention of rubber soles, which made shoes not only comfortable but more durable as well. Rubber soles were patented in 1899, which paved the way for the rise of the modern shoe and especially the sneaker. By the first quarter of the nineteenth century, canvas shoes with rubber soles were being sold to the masses. As history progressed, so did the production of many different kinds of shoes for men, women, and children. The shoe fashion had been constantly changing as time went by. The history of shoes is still being made today as new and better brands of shoes hit the market every day.