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foot talk: Zeitgeist and a potted history of shoes

Time:2017-08-09 23:39Shoes websites Click:

shoes History Talk Foot Zeitgeist

foot talk: Zeitgeist and a potted history of shoes



Zeitgeist means a sign of the times and shoe fashions are not determined by chance alone, but by the times and technology we live in. That is as true today, as it ever was. No one can be 100% sure when our ancestors started wearing shoes but we remain the only species to have prolonged bipedal gait and, to date, no other mammal has yet evolved, to make shoes.

foot talk: Zeitgeist and a potted history of shoes



Discovery of awls and needles made from bone or flint, marked the first milestone in the development of bespoke footwear. Estimated to be around 60k years ago, our ancestors started making rough shoes to acclimatise themselves to their changing environment. During the Upper Palaeolithic era (40k- 25k years ago), needles with eyes become precision tools used for sewing skins and furs. A long-held belief is the sandal was the first shoe, although that remains unverified, but there are evidence sandals were worn about 10,000 years ago which coincides with the Neolithic Age (or New Stone Age). Earlier footprints speculatively indicate the presence of shoes before this time, but because animal and vegetable materials rarely survived, archaeological evidence is scant.

foot talk: Zeitgeist and a potted history of shoes



Shoes dating to 7.5k year-ago, surprisingly demonstrate a range of styles that would not be out place in a modern shoe store. Some had pointed toes others rounded, and all appeared with decorative flourishes. Even then, shoes had taken on a social ritual, the knowledge of which indicated, breeding, status and personality. Preferred hides were prioritised according to the more revered elements of the animals such as swiftness and courage. To the true believers these held magical powers. Nothing seems to have changed if we can give credence to some of today’s marketing rhetoric. By 6.5k years ago, there was clear evidence sown animal hides were used in robust footwear as worn by Otzi the Iceman. Shoe finds come from a wide variety of geographical locations (including America, China, Egypt and Mesopotamia) supporting the theory shoe styles were spontaneous innovations made from available resources and consistent with the development of local crafts.

foot talk: Zeitgeist and a potted history of shoes



It took until the Romans before the next step in footwear evolution. During the Bronze Age, the Etruscans had discovered how to make small brass tacks which the Roman sandal makers cleverly incorporated into the soles of their military sandals. This secured not only a better bond between the upper and sole but also gave the sandal traction. A better shod army marched further across rougher terrain, and the Empire expanded beyond any other. When the supply chain from Roman became impractical local shoemakers were introduced to Roman shoemaking and vegetable tanning. Parochial artisans soon incorporated their local shoe making skills to further embellish and extend the range of shoes available. Often triumphant Roman soldiers celebrated their return to Rome by substituting bronze tacks with gold and silver in their highly decorated shoes. After the Fall of the Empire, these local shoemakers carried on the Roman traditions keeping the trades alive. Other examples in history, of how one culture superimposed itself upon another include: the Moorish influence on Cordoba (Spain) and the introduction of quality leathers; and the Mongol invasions with archer horseman wearing heels. Henceforth, the privileged classes of Europe indulged their superiority by wearing sumptuous clothing and heeled shoes. Many regents became tanners by trade including William the Conqueror. Shoes became symbols, serving to indicate standards of conduct as well as emotional states.

foot talk: Zeitgeist and a potted history of shoes



The three important functions of shoes were: decoration, modesty and protection. Long been debated, as to what came first, with the common consensus it was protection, yet the evidence to support this hypothesis is scant. Modesty as a concept, is also comparatively new in the history of the west, and has no more linage than a couple of millennium. This leaves the primary function of footwear as decoration. Decoration as we know beautifies bodily appearance, attracting admiring glances and fortifies self-esteem. Simply put shoes, outwardly represented a very important non-verbal sign of gender, presence, and personality. This truly made the role of shoemakers and shoe designers, very important.

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