As the saying goes, you can’t please all people all of the time.
Quite recently, I entered a contest, the winner of which was guaranteed a fairly lucrative writing deal. I failed. I checked the winner’s entry, and found that he or she had written 250 words. The brief said “short.” How short is “short?” Now, I know.
But it doesn’t really hurt. I had fun writing the piece, and since nobody paid for it, it’s my intellectual property. I usually sell all rights with payment.
Today, I had the bright idea of featuring the article in this blog. Why not? It’s MINE!!! So hold on tight! Hope you enjoy it:
A Brief History of Shoes
Nobody really knows when people first began to wear shoes, but cave paintings dating back 15,000 years depict people wearing foot coverings made from animal hides.
Before the invention of the shoe, everyone must have had really sore feet. They might have had slightly less sore feet after they discovered that they could wrap their feet up in skins or woven grass, but it’s likely that the first blisters from uncomfortable footwear followed hard on the discovery of the shoe.
The rest, as they say, is history, and wherever humankind has gone, shoes have gone along with them. From ancient Hebrews migrating across deserts and the “Ice Man” with his 5,000-year-old, straw-stuffed moccasins to Roman soldiers trudging to the far corners of the empire, shoes have covered a lot of ground.
Heels and Toes: It’s all About Style
Fast-track to the 1600s. City sanitation wasn’t great, so fussy Venetian ladies emulated the Turks, and wore backless shoes with a central pedestal over their cloth slippers, allowing them to rise above the muck on the streets.
Meanwhile, the Japanese had a similar idea, and the platform shoe is still with us today even though the streets are considerably cleaner. The central pedestal migrated back to the heel, and voila! We have the high-heeled shoe. Some 16th-century examples wouldn’t be out of place in a modern shoe shop, although men were more inclined to wear high heels than they are today.
Fashions changed and competed with another: square toes, round toes, impossibly long toes that made it hard to walk properly, even forked toes and spreading toes that look like a bear’s foot, all got their share of trendy supporters.
Platforms gave way to heels, and at last, somewhere around 1850, shoemakers began to make shoes to fit left and right feet. Did this invention change the world? Perhaps not, but it certainly made footwear a whole lot more comfortable!
Shoes on the Wrong Side of the Law
If you thought you’d come across strict dress codes before, spare a thought for those who found themselves on the wrong side of the law if they wore the wrong sort of shoes or even wore shoes at all. In ancient times, shoe laws in places like Egypt helped to preserve the class system and a lot of shoe-related laws elsewhere in the world followed suit.
In medieval Europe, legislators made their share of footwear-related laws. Long-toed shoes were the first to get their attention. At first, it was just a matter of limiting the length of shoes made for the lower classes, but later, they were banned outright in several countries.
There are various theories as to why this happened, but a high-profile assassination in which the victim was unable to flee owing to his footwear may have been the trigger. An alternative, though less dramatic theory, is that the church frowned on fashionable excess.
From shoes becoming too long for practicality, they now proceeded to get too wide. Spreading toes just kept getting wider and were later limited by law. As for the Venetian platform shoes or Chopines, there were so many accidents as a result of women falling, that their height was officially limited to three inches.
Today, we can wear any shoes we like, and our choices are only limited by the rules of certain sports, and the constraints of practicality and safety. And even practicality isn’t always an issue when fashion calls the shots. Ten-inch heels, anyone? Something a little comfier? How about Balenciaga’s ten-inch platform crocs?