You see them everywhere – in the aisle of all exquisite fashion runways, in the streets and even in the preparatory schools. Shoes, shoes, and more shoes everywhere. Shoes are not merely a fashion statement but a function and integral part of your everyday attire. Hence you take it for granted.
This is why you would wonder and check twice when you notice someone walking barefoot. Your first impression would be that this person is abnormal. But you wouldn’t believe that footwear was non-existent until the later years of the 1800s – and it was perfectly normal.
It’s only at the end of 1800 that people don shoes. But many changes have taken place since then. Now, whenever you are out and about, your feet are always cushioned comfortably in your fashionable shoes. You even have a wide range to suit every event and occasion.
Let’s look at fascinating and amazing facts about shoes that would amuse you.
Discovered and popularized in America
The first shoe designed was by an American named Elijah McCoy. This pair of feet wrap wasn’t the typical footwear you know. Rather, it was a padded soft rubber sole cover. These padded sacks were clamped by strings to cloth the feet. It wasn’t even called shoes, it was known as plimsolls.
The plimsolls were more like slip-on strapped on either foot. They resembled gloves on one’s feet. But they offered the protection needed.
Still, they were slow to manufacture and hence not so common. It’s only after the Second World War that shoes become mass produced. Afterward, footwear became a basic necessity.
Early shoes were one-sided
These first shoes were more to cover one’s feet than to impress. Although making them become easier and mechanized after 1917, they still were one-sided. Majority of the shoes them were left-footed – meaning that they mimicked the shape of the left foot.
Therefore, you couldn’t distinguish which one of the pair fitted the right one or the left foot. People routinely wore these pairs interchangeably. And nobody raised any concern about this oddity. The shoes were both left-sided until the 1850s.
Another factor you didn’t know about shoes was that it made people crazy about their heights. Many women’s shoes were designed high. The most prominent was the chopine variant – made from coke – which had platforms reaching the height of 70 centimeters.
These heels were so high that the wearer needed support from two women to help them walk around.
In case of a mishap, however, women could fall to their untimely death. The lucky ones suffered multiple fractures and other serious physical injuries.
Due to these shoe-inflicted deaths, several regions passed laws limiting the maximum height of the platforms. Shoes will great heights were outlawed.
High heels were manly
High heels are synonymous with women, right? Correct, but not previously. Did you know that men were the first to wear platforms and began the high heels craze? Well, knight and counts wore them to secure their saddles during horse riding. As such, high-heel shoes become associated with aristocracy and nobility.
But no other man promoted this style more than King Louis XIV. Since he was short – barely 5 inches 5 feet tall, he wore them to gain artificial height. But he was so conscious about the style that he forced his fellow nobility to wear high shoes.
Soon, however, everyone else found the high heal appealing. All gender and social class – from women to ordinary men – discovered that high heels were the in thing. But their shoes were differentiated by color and design.
Feminine shoes began taking a small size to fit their petite feet. Further, these shoes featured wide top cut expose the top of their feet. For normal men, black leather materials were the preferred texture, while the aristocrats maintained their wooden grain soles.
Women become obsessed with shoes. Queen Mary Antoinette had over 500 different pairs of shoes. Even more recently, the late former President Corazon Aquino was disposed of due to her extravagant ways that revealed she amassed more shoes than the French Queen.
But this craze is not ending any time soon. Many celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, still stock huge numbers of footwear.
Shoes got sneaky
Most soles are noisy. The loud footstep was undesirable in certain situations. This inconvenience prompted a pioneer shoe company to specialize in rubber soled shoes. However, it was Henry Nelson McKinney who coined these quiet soles as sneakers in 1917.
He extolled the benefits of walking stealthily and quickly popularized sneakers. Mass production techniques and rubber-soled shoes offered comfort and flexibility.
For many people, continuously lacing and buttoning of shoes is cumbersome. And one such person who didn’t like this activity is the ever busy and stylish Queen Victoria. So, she commissioned a shoemaker to design cotton ankle boots with elastic banding.
The boot presented to the queen proved comfortable and easy to wear. They had not heels, which eased pressure on the spine. As a result, health-conscious women soon followed suit, and so the boots grew popular amongst women.
Before mechanization, shoe production was slow. Each pair had to be handcrafted and made uniquely. This process meant that shoes were expenses.
However, shoe technology was advancing at a fleeting speed. The technique allowed for quicker and cheaper production. This process also led to increased shoe varieties – in styles and models.
Mass production began with one American – Jan Ernst, who invented the shoe-making machine and began the mass assembly system in footwear. Another American, Lyman Reed Blake, invented the sewing machine that stitched the soles to the upper, fully automating the footwear industry.
But the real production revolution came as a courtesy of Mr. Goodyear. He used the process called vulcanization to quickly stitch sneakers. This technique used heat sealing to sewn together with the two footwear parts. He got a patent machine for sewing boots and shoes.
You are certainly aware that Apollo 11 landed on the moon. But did you know that the CIA forced Neil Armstrong to discard his boots in space for fear that he could inadvertently carry aliens? The astronaut correctly summed up his lunar voyage as one small step for a man that has translated to a giant leap forward for humanity.
Odd enough his boots may be the first space junk after all. So long for an extraterrestrial leap for an innocent pair of shoes still making the long strides in space.
You don’t know for sure where the next shoe design is going next? But one this is certain, your shoes have had many episodes and made several people billionaires. A pair of shoes is vital to your life just like the air you breathe. No wonder there are brands called Air.