When roaming Paris, it is hard to resist a bit of window-shopping to check out the new fashion trends. As I explored designer boutiques, I came across many stunning shoes and was inspired to dedicate this blog to the brief history of the shoe, including the one made specifically for the bride.
"Humble, often torn by spikes, soiled by mud ... the shoe is capable of bringing our thoughts right to the history of mankind and civilizations." In this one sentence, the author of the book “La Chaussure” historian Jean-Paul Roux, describes the social significance of the shoe.
The earliest known shoes are sandals, dating from approximately 7000 or 8000 BC, and were discovered in Oregon US, in 1938. The world's oldest leather shoe was found in Armenia and is believed to date back to 3500 BC.
It is thought that shoes may have been used long before this, but because the materials used were highly perishable, it is difficult to find evidence of the earliest footwear.
As civilizations began to develop, thong sandals were worn more and more. This trend dates back to paintings depicting them on ancient Egyptian murals from 4000 BC. Flip-flops with a very modern look have even been found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
While thong sandals were commonly worn, many people in ancient times (Egyptians, Hindus, Greeks) saw little need for footwear, and mostly preferred going around barefoot.
This preference started changing in Ancient Rome where peoples' attire became a way to demonstrate one’s status and rank.
In the City of Rome, only Roman citizens were allowed to wear shoes, which were sandals with leather straps. Slaves, even freed, had to remain barefoot.
Little by little, shoes grew in popularity and became a part of the standard wardrobe during the Middle Ages. Shoemaking became a profession and shoemaking guilds were formed across Europe.
By the 15th Century, pattens (the predecessors of today’s high-heeled shoes) became popular among both men and women in Europe. During this time, the poor and lower classes in Europe and the slaves in the New World remained barefoot.
In the 16th century, royals started wearing high-heeled shoes to make them look taller and larger than life. Evident examples of this are Catherine de Medici and Mary I of England. By 1580, even men wore heels, and anyone with authority or wealth was often referred to as "well-heeled".
Before structured shoes became prevalent in the 16th century, people walked with a different gait, pushing onto the balls of our feet instead of rocking forward on our heels, which is considered to be healthier by some of the body mechanics specialists.