Shoes in the 18th century

One of my hobbies is living history. I think I have been interested in history and especially French History since I, 1. found out I was of French decent, and I 2. was old enough understand what history was when I travelled with my parents. When I became old enough to do so I joined a group which portrayed a Confederate reenactment unit. Then I discovered the 18th century.

With my usual thirst for knowlege I have embarked on a journey of discovery about all facets of the period. Fortunately, we live on the border of North Carolina and Virginia. History central.

Over the years I have collected thousands of dollars worth of authentic clothes for the mid 19th century, including arms, equiptment, and actual artifacts. Almost no part of which is suitable for both the 18th and 19th century.

Being authentic is the thing. To do other wise would be to change living history to an act.

I have been researching different articles form the 18th century, for my wifes and my impressions. This has fortunately required me to go to Colonial Williamsburg the nexus of research. Now it does sometime seem that CW is somewhat anachronistic, if one looks and talks to the interpretive staff you can learn some great things. This is what brings history alive, right out of the pages of a book and into your mind.
...And since the books are becoming more and more dumbed down, this is the best way to find out what life really was like.

Colonial Williamsburg does not spare any part of history, good and bad. Point...
The African-American studies is celebrating it's 30th year. There is another side to history...

So we need some shoes...I started at Williamsburg.

Here is what we learned.

Shoes of this period were made on two types of forms called "lasts", one was a straight last and one was a right and left last. In other words, one type was designed to fit both feet, and the other was designed for the right foot and left foot. These forms were expensive to make and further had to be replaced from time to time due to their being worn out from the tacks used to keep the shoe together in the construction process. Right and left lasts were expensive to make and replace, therefore the shoes became more expensive. Most people in the 18th century could not afford them.

Shoes of the period had soft toes, in other words they did not have a toe cap. The toe cap is the strenghtened portion of the shoe over the toe. Shoes of the mid-1700's were no longer made with square toes that having gone out of style about 1730.

Women sometimes wore shoes which wore smaller versions of mens shoes, roughside was worn outside, the smooth side of the leather was worn on the inside and acted as a lining. These shoes while not overly attractive served the purpose of protecting the feet.

Both men and woman wore shoes which could have been laced, or more likely to have buckles, some of which could be quite ornate or simple depending on the class and taste of the person.

In living history one attempts to portray the rule rather than the exception.

Dieu le Roy!

1 comment:

Father G said...

Bon Jour Monsieur de Brantigny,

Comment allez-vous?
Très intéressant, votre petit histoire des souliers de 18eme siècle. J'aime beaucoup l'histoire aussi,mais surtout de 19eme siècle.

I haven't stopped by for a while...mea culpa!
Glad to see you're still blogging...keep it up!

Father G