Thursday, December 23, 2010

Etruscan Sandals

The Etruscan civilization  (700 – 100 BCE) was constrained to the area corresponding roughly to modern Tuscany and flourished in three city confederacies. No one knows the origins of the Etruscans but it is widely believed they were indigenous plus an influx of people from Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). The Etruscans were influenced by Greek traders and the Greeks in Magna Graecia, the Hellenic civilization of southern Italy. There is considerable evidence early Rome was dominated by Etruscans and they were eventually assimilated by Rome around 500 BCE. The end of the Etruscan civilization came with the sacking of Veii in 396 BC, by the Romans. They were eventually brought under Roman rule in 250 B.C.E. By 80 B.C.E. their culture had been virtually destroyed. When iron became the preferred metal, iron mines and the routes to them determined power and in the western Mediterranean and the iron mines and routes to them were controlled by the Etruscans.  The civilization was based on both copper and iron and they became great artisans and developed a thriving culture distinctive from Greece.

The Etruscan people had well-developed costume traditions that combined the influences from Greece and Asia. Clothes of the wealthy were made of fine wool, cotton, and linen, and colour was a major feature. Etruscan women wore elaborately patterned garments and men wore a loin skirt to cover the genitals. Many adopted a Greek-style tunic.  By the middle of the sixth century B.C.E., the distinctive tebenna became the most common male garment. Similar to the Greek chlamys, the tebenna was a long cloak that was draped over the left shoulder and then wrapped around the torso under the right arm. It was often decorated with clavi, stripes of colour to indicate status or rank in society. Later the tebenna became the model for the Roman toga.

According to Turner Wilcox (2008), the Etruscans became adept shoe makers. The most common types of footwear were high sandals, mules, slippers, ankle boots and one characteristic type of shoe, with upward curving toes. The latter may have been a reference to the Phrygian (Turkish) origins of the Etruscans where turned up shoes were previously known. Fashionable women in the late 6th c BCE wore red shoes with turned up toes. Pointed toed shoes were replaced with sandlas by the 5th c BCE. Later shoes made by Etruscan craftsmen became highly sought after in ancient Rome and Greece. 

Boots with tight peaked toes

Sandals with hinged wooden soles reinforced with bronze were especially popular and commonly referred to as ‘Tyrrhenian sandals.” According to Rossi (2000) the hinged sandals helped natural foot flexion.  

Leather Sandals
Fine leather uppers of various colours were often embroidered, painted and sown with jewels. These were fastened with gilt or golden straps.    

Soft leather shoe sewn with jewels

Etruscan shoe makers developed a technique to attach the sole of the sandal to the upper with metal tacks. Prior to this, sandals were stitched and could with wear break easily. Tacks not only secured a better bond but also offered greater traction to grip the ground. This small but important innovation meant with more robust footwear the Roman Empire could expand.  The Greek endormis (fur lined boot), was also worn to protect the legs from the cold.  Etruscan soldiers fought bare footed but had metal or leather greaves to protect their shins. By the Second Century BCE slippers made from fine leather and dyed yellow  or cloth became fashionable.

Boucher F 1988 A history of costume in the West Thames and Hudson: London
Rossi W 2000 The complete footwear dictionary (2nd edition) Kreiger Publishing Co: Florida.Turner Wilcox R  2008 The mode in footwear Dover Punblications: NY.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Shoes of Ancient Greece: Sandals

According to Cosgrove (2000) the arrangement of the sandal straps, worn in Ancient Greece, varied but usually consisted of a broad band across the front of the foot, and a thong between the toes. The thong was sown to the sole about one to two inches from the end. This was pulled through between the first and second toes and sometimes between the second and third toes to meet with four other laces anchored to the sole. The complete intertwined system finished above the ankle. Sandals were worn by both sexes and fastened in varied ways. Straps were both light and elegant, leaving the foot almost bare. Some were purple with piped edges attached to clasps elongated by short cords of plaited leather. Others were simpler, with a fan like spread of straps passing through the toes. The colour of sandals varied and were either worn in the natural colour of leather or dyed red, white, vermillion, scarlet, saffron, green, or black (Yue and Yue, 1997). Female footwear was usually adorned with embroidery, gilt and pearls but commoners wore wooden sandals (Yue and Yue, 1997). Cheap sandals made of wood, felt or linen were worn by countrymen, priests and philosophers and these were called phaecasium.  Phaecasium style boots were usually worn during sacrificial ceremonies. These were neat fitting and made from white leather which laced part way down the front and often heavily embroidered.

 Priest also wore phaikas which was a sandal ornamented with animal figures.  

Slaves or maidens carried a  sandalthique for their wealthy mistress which was a carpetbag containing various pairs of sandals  (Rossi, 2000; and Yue and Yue 1997).  The Talaria was a mythical winged sandal worn by the Greek god Hermes (Mercury in Roman mythology).


Cosgrove B (2000)Costume & Fashion: A complete history Hamlyn: London.
Rossi W 2000 The complete footwear dictionary (2nd edition) Kreiger Publishing Co: Florida.

Yue C and Yue D 1997 Shoes:Their history in words and pictures Houghton Mifflin Co: Boston.

Shoe styles of Ancient Greece: Assorted

The Persian luxury basket weave slipper was popular among upper class Greek women and made from plaited straw.


Persian shoes made in delicate colours became popular with women around 6th BCE.


These were wedding shoes.

More of a slipper than a sandal the soft upper  was made of luxurious materials such as silk or other costly fabrics and embroidered with gold and pearls. Thought to have originated in Asian/Persian origin and became popular  mule style house slipper in Ancient Greece.  According to Yue and Yue (1997) luxurious slippers were worn in the home and sometimes sandals were used as protective overshoes or pattens to walk outside.


These shoes came originally from Sicyon and were made from light coloured leather with an open, sandalised design. These later became adopted by young Roman dandies (Rossi, 2000) which is consistant with Yue and Yue (1997) claim many Greek styles were subsumed into Roman costume.


A soft leather boot worn by comedy actors Similar to the later Roman soccus. The boot is thought to have originated in Persia.


Rossi W 2000 The complete footwear dictionary (2nd edition) Kreiger Publishing Co: Florida.
Yue and Yue 1997 Shoes: Their history in words and pictures Houghton Miffin: Boston.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Shoe Styles of Ancient Greece: Krepis (Crepida)

Lady's Fashionable Krepis
The Krepis evolved from the Pedila which originated in Persia (Yue and Yue, 1997). Greeks adopted the Pedila (Greek word for sole) during the Epic Age (c. 1000 -7000 BCE). Krepis were thick soled bootees with leather sides (vamps); the heel counter protected the foot and gave greater comfort. The toes were left uncovered. Other styles included half boots and sandals made with a thick cowhide leather sole (often raised in low platform style). The sole was pierced along the top with several holes through which a thong was passed through and tying it to the instep, (Rossi, 2000). The Krepis were developed for military use and the uppers were cut in a reticulated design (as in crossed striped). The tongue (lingual or ligula) over the mid step protected the top of the foot as well as an anchor for the thongs. Sometimes the leather tongue had a metal (silver, gold or ivory) plate (Yue and Yue, 1997). The later significance of the ligula was it indicated a citizen or freeman. Gods and heroes were often depicted wearing the Krepis but eventually the shoes were worn by both sexes.  

Soldier’s legs were protected by leather leggings called ‘cnemis’  (Yue and Yue, 1997). At times these were worn with a sandal called a ‘greave.’ It was not uncommon for Greek warriors to wear one sandal only in conflict (right foot). The left foot was protected by a combination of greave and cnemis.  The Romans called the Krepis, ‘Crepida’ and the Greeks were often referred to as “Crepidali.” The crepida was similar to the Roman carbatina (or karbatine).

Simple Pedila

Military Krepis

Yue C and Yue D 1997 Shoes: Their history in words and pictures Houghton Mifflin Co : Boston.

Shoe styles of Ancient Greece: Kothornos (Corthornus)

The was term derived from the Cretan dialect and Greek actors wore these as raised sandals made from leather soles with thick cork insertions. Both actor and role were distinguished by body height. The stage prop is thought to have been introduced by Aeschylus circa. 450 BCE. Platforms were often as high as 6 inches (15.24 centimetres) from the ground and the swaggering gait was understood to be so erotic it sent females into ecstasy. The Kothornos was thought unsightly and always hidden by long robes. The association with tragedies however was such the genre eventually became known ‘cothurna’. Greek comedians wore low soled boots.

Platform sandals became fashionable with Greek women and according to Turner- Wilcox (2008), the style was carried to such an extreme it aroused criticism. The Korthonos later evolved into the buskin or half boots worn by hunters (Rossi, 2000), and the platform style may have been the inspiration for the 15th century chorine. The19th century neo-classic sandals which were tied with laces and criss-crossed the leg bore the same name. According to Turner-Wilcox ( 2008) one variation of the kothornos from Lydia in Asia Minor had a peaked toe. This was called the Scythian boot and made of soft leather, cut to fit, either foot. Similar looking boots are still worn by the horsemen of the Steppes.

Covereed cothurnus

Cothornus Sandal

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Shoe Styles of Ancient Greece: Karbatine (carbatine, carbatina, or carbatinae)

According to Turner Wilcox (2008) a common shoe was the karbatine . Like a moccasin this was made from one piece of rawhide with holes punched along the edge. Lacing thongs were pulled through holes cut in the rawhide drawing the uppers together and tying around the ankle. Later these acquired a sole (Rossi, 2000) and some were hobnailed. Carbatines were peasant’s shoes often worn by shepherds. Similar footwear was worn by the Teutons and up until the 16th century German peasants also wore karabtines. This simple footwear can still be seen in the traditional footwear of Romanian and Slovak countries. In France the term carbatine refers to undressed hides.

Rossi W The complete footwear dictionary (2nd Ed) 2000 Kreiger Publishing Co: Florida.
Turner Wilcox R 2008 The mode in footwear Dover Publications Inc NY.

Shoe Styles of Ancient Greece: Boots (Buskins and Endromis)

The sandals, shoes and boots available to the Greeks can still be seen in the many monuments that remain. Shoes were the logical extension of sandals but the toes with the toes often left. Sometimes the footwear incorporated a small heel and hobnails were added for added life. At first women did not wear sandals but as both quality improved sandals were stylised for women. The following is a brief description of some footwear styles of Ancient Greece.

Boots (Buskins and Endromis)
Low buskin
Boots were known before 1000 BCE. and worn by the Greeks of the Aegean region (Ledger,1985). The boots were made of rawhide (i.e. dressed but untanned hide) and came in two varieties i.e. low and high boots. Buskins laced at the front from the top to the instep with laces (things) thread through small hooks. Wooden and leather soled boots fitted either foot and had a broad tongue. Soldier would ornament their boots with small animal’s muzzle or a pair of paws. Later the fashion became vogue to decorate buskins with lappets of leather or fur hanging from the tops (Ledger,1985). Low buskins were popular by the 5th century BCE and later hunters wore high boots (cothurnes) which covered the whole foot and leg up to the calf level. These laced at the front over a broad tongue. Greek Gods were often depicted wearing endromis or lined boots. Fur lined buskins were popular among athletes, hunters and travellers. These boots were adopted by the luxury loving Romans. Young Spartans were reported to wear red boots to hide the flowing blood from wounds.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Greek Sandals

According to Ledger (1985) Greek clothing consisted of simple lines and non complicated costume. The was extended to sandals which were from the Pre-Hellenic Period were finely worked and attached above the ankle with thick thongs. These were considered fashionable and sometimes decorated with beads. Frescos from this period show men wearing footwear whilst competing in games or attending ceremonies at the royal court. Mycenaean Greeks (c. 1600 BCE – c. 1100 BCE) corresponded to the Bronze Age and thrived on trade. The society was dominated by a warrior aristocracy and extended their control to Crete, the centre of the Minoan civilization, during 1400 BCE. Ancient Crete ( c. 3000-1100 B.CE) predates the Greeks and according to Turner Wilcox, (2008), the Cretan women went barefoot whilst their men folk wore high heeled leather boots made from light-coloured leather. The boots had thick soles (Lister (1987) and Cretan dress was influenced by Assyrian and Egyptian costume. Trade between Mediterranean civilisations is likely to account for the appearance of familiar footwear styles in areas where there would be no practical or logical reason for their existence (McDowell, 1989). Historians believe heeled shoes used by hillside shepherds may have appeared attractive to flat land dwellers who saw the opportunity to use them for reasons of stature. During the Late Helladic period (c 1550-1060 BCE), Mycenaean Greece flourished under new influences from Minoan Crete and the Cyclades. Around 1100 BC, the Mycenaean civilization collapsed and Greece fell into a Dark Age (c.1100-c.750 BCE).

The Orientalizing Period started during the late 8th century BCE, as the Assyrians were advancing along the Mediterranean coast. Phoenicians settled in Cyprus and in western regions of Greece, while Greeks established trading colonies at Al Mina, Syria, and in Ischia (Pithecusae) off the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy. These interchanges led to a period of intensive borrowing in which the Greeks adapted cultural features from the Semitic East. Huge economic development occurred with growth in commerce and manufacturing. As a result a large mercantile class grew and people began to dress sumptuously. Courtesan delighted in wearing sandals with red shoes (Ledger, 1985) and Greek lawgiver, Zaleucus (7th century BCE) decreed only courtesans be allowed to wear sandals decorated with gilt and jewelled buckles. The ancient games started in 776 BC., and competitors ran barefoot but as the Greek Empire extended more athletes from colder climates came to race wearing sandals. At first spectators and barefoot competitors treated these as a novelty and sign of parochialism. As soon as shod athletes became winners then public opinion changed and the wearing of sandals was viewed with great suspicion and associated with cheats. Eventually once it was recognised the sole of the sandal increased ground traction and propelled the leg forward with greater efficiency most athletes adopted the running sandal. The sole of the sandal needed to be securely attached to the foot and this necessitated leather thongs wrapped to the ankle and sometimes above. Not only did the thongs act as attachments they also gave added support to the foot and the straping became a sign of rank (McDowell, 1989).

Between 750-c.500 BCE (the Archaic period) the population expanded and many young Greeks left to set up colonies in Magn Graecia (Southern Italy and Sicily), Asia Minor and further afield. Greek colonization eventually reached as far northeast as present day Ukraine and Russia (Taganrog). To the west the coasts of Illyria, Sicily and Southern Italy were settled, followed by Southern France, Corsica, and even northeastern Spain. Greek colonies were also founded in Egypt and Libya. They took clothing familiar to them and subsumed local costume too. Ellegant feet was very much on the mind of Greek women and the poet Sappho (c. 630 and 612 - 570 BCE) yearned for her feet to be in braided shoes made in various colours wrought by Lydian art. She also sang of “sandals of gold” (Ledger, 1985). According to Lister (1987) foot soldiers went barefoot but wore leg guards or greaves made form embossed metal to protect their legs. Warry (1980) suggests attempts to protect the feet only hampered movement.

Like most Mediterranean Civilisations, Greeks went barefoot indoors up until 325 BCE (Ledger, 1985; and Lister 1987) and sandals worn only when walking outside (Turner Wilcox, 2008).  By the seventh century BCE sumptuary laws prevented women from wearing more than three garments at a time which may account for why many women went barefoot.

Pedila was the Greek name for the sole made of wood or thick leather which was tied onto the foot with thongs or ribbon laces (Rossi 2000,and Yue and Yue, 1997). These were made to one shape and fitted both feet. The pedila is thought to have been a variation on the Persian sandalon or sandalion in Greek. Better quality pedilas evetually made from leather or felt were cut to fit each foot. These became fashionable among the wealthy and later cork was used as a midsole to give added height. A modified pedila was an open fronted boot which was tied together with laces. Boots were generally reserved for athletes, hunters and travellers. The pedila eventually became the Krepis (circa 4 BCE).

During the 5th and 4th centuries BCE, ancient Greece was the most advanced economy in the world. Style became major feature of the period and shoe and sandal making had attained a high degree of sophistication with many types of sandals, each designed or designated for different functions (Sparkes Hall, 1847; Girotti, 1986). According to Boucher (1988) by the end of the 5th century BCE,  the Greeks had transposed into costume the more dominent ideas of their architecture which meant they were more ornate and sophisticated.. Sicyonia was the main city for shoe making in Greece and according to Yue and Yue (1997) shoe making consisted of a division of labour with some workers cutting out leather and others attaching soles. Most sandals were custom made but ready to wear sandals were also sold. Male and female sandals were sold in separate shops.

Sandals were made in both animal and vegetable materials. According to Sparkes Hall (1847) vegetable sandals were called baxa or baxea and were the preferred footwear of philosophers and priests. Mathematician and philosopher Pythagorus (c. 570-c. 495 BCE) was a vegan and believed in reincarnation as animals (Ledger, 1985). He wore sandals made from plaited papyrus and required his disciples to wear sandals made from tree bark. The poet, Aeschylus (525-456 BCE.) developed high wedged soles to give added majesty to the actors playing gods and heroes in his plays. The added height and modified gate gave distinctive character to leading thespians. Classical Greek culture held powerful influence on the Roman Empire, which in turn carried it to many parts of the Mediterranean region and Europe.

While sandals prevailed among the free citizens, going barefoot outdoors was considered more the mark of a slave (Ledger, 1985). Exceptions were Philosopher like Socrates (469 BC–399 BCE) and Plato (c 428 – 347 BCE) who preferred to walk barefoot. The former also campaigned to encourage people to walk barefoot but this only met with dumb silence (Turner Wilcox, 2008). By all accounts the Greeks took good care of their feet and adapted footwear for every type of activity. Empedocles (490–430 BCE)was a philosopher and physician preferred to wear sandals richly wrought in brass (Ledger, 1985)

Eventually when soldiers did wear sandals they were responsible for buying them. Athenian general and statesman Alcibiades (450-404 BCE) wore snugly fitting peaked toed shoes made from pliable yellow leather. These were intricately laced around the whole foot. He preferred these to the ordinary sandals which he considered gave little protection to the soldier (Ledger,1985). He developed the ‘alcibade’ which was a low military boot (similar to a modern high top sneaker) made from heavy leather. This laced to the front and covered the foot. This was later turned into a luxury footwear worn by civilians. Other generals too turned their creative minds to designing military footwear (Turner Wilcox 2008). According to Ledger (1985), Xenophor (438-354 BCE) discovered after he marched his army to Euxine (Black Sea) his soldier's shoes were inadequate for the weather conditions. Most soldiers wore the Krepis made from heavy leather with an ankle strapping (Yue and Yue, 1997). The robust toe less shoes laced or strapped to the front. A common cliche was shoes were removed after withdrawing from combat. In the temple of Nike Apteros in Athens (constructed around 420 BCE) there is a carving of Victory untying her sandals. During the Corinthian Wars Iphcrates (420 -348 BCE) made his own kothorni. The general who beat the Spartans (392 BCE) was a former shoemaker.

A lighter version of the Krepis was made in brightly coloured leather and worn by fashionable Greek women and effeminate men. There were at least 22 different styles for women alone and a precise shoe etiquette developed which included keeping all ties worn neat to the feet. There were many ways to fasten sandals and often ladies sandals were highly decorated on the soles (Girotti, 1986). As shown by the Tangara statuettes, dating from the 4th century BCE, more elegant shoes were worn by women, e.g. red ones with yellow edged soles. Shoes were used to identify station with the height of the sole and the colour orientation indicating the social class of the wearer (Yue and Yue, 1997). Courtesans wore footwear made from soft leather dyed white, green, lemon or yellow. Betrothed girls and young brides wore sandals made from leather dyed white. The lightening process of leather was slow and costly but according to McDowell (1989) pale coloured sandals became a mark of position and wealth.

Women of ill repute (or salmakides) wore platform krepis which gave them a distinctive walk and created an audible "clack" when their sandals hit against the ground (Caovilla, 1998) . Others had “follow me” carved on the sole which left a tell tale direction to customers (Yue and Yue, 1997). A variation was when lovers carved the name of their loved one on their soles and with every step left an imprint in the sand to witness his total devotion (Lister , 1987).

By now extravagant footwear was common and Lycurgus (c386 - 323 BCE) an Attic lawgiver and reformer ordered the populace to go barefoot in an attempt to curb these excesses (Ledger, 1985). The edict again failed principally because what differentiated slaves from free men was what they had on their feet. Young engaged women wore white leather sandals with a band across the foot at the base of the toes (Ledger, 1985). Ankle and heel straps joined a narrow thong attachment to the sole at the arch of the foot. An ornamental leather heart often covered the insteps (Lister, 1987). The historian Dicaearchus described the women of Thebes wearing simple low shoes of fine yellow leather cut so beautifully they appeared to go barefoot (Ledger, 1985).

By the time of the death of Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BCE) the Greek Empire had reached its zenith and was spread as far as modern Afghanistan and Pakistan, and where the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and the Indo-Greek Kingdom survived until the end of the 1st century BCE. Alexander brought Greek custom to the lands he conquered. The Hellenistic period (323-146 BC) followed his death but Greek culture continued to expand into the near and middle east.

The general Philopoemen (253 - 183 BCE)bebuked his soldiers for wearing unsuitable shoes and ordered them to have the best footwear to fight the Spartans (Ledger, 1985). The Greek historian Polybius (ca. 200–118 BCE )also cautioned soldiers against devoting too much thought to their sandals at the expense of the rest of their equipment (McDowell, 1989).

Sandal designs beame more sophisticated with several unique applications, for instance the fourth century BCE, Greek poet, Philetas of Cos (340 - 285 BCE)was considered so thin he wore heavy soled sandals made from led to keep him from blowing over(McDowell, 1989). According to Ledger (1985) a flute player had special musical sandals made. The craftsman concealed a metal device that emitted sounds under the pressure of his feet as he walked.

Musical Sandal

Greek shoes were now highly desirable to wealthy Romans because of their elegant craftsmanship and unsurpassed luxury. The Greeks emphasised design and beauty with elegance, refinement, extravagance and rich ornamentation, especially for women. Among the ancient Greeks, shoemakers began to acquire the reputation for character which they have held ever since.

Apollo the God of the physicians, was also the God of shoemakers, and it was customary for every shoemaker to keep a tame crow outside their place of business (Ledger, 1985). Shoemakers (or Credo) became esteemed citizens in ancient Greece and was considered a separate craft to lowly cobbling. Footwear became so well established that many shoe makers eventually specialised in various tasks and products. Some cut hides, others assembled the various parts and there were even men and women's shoemakers. Shoes were made from many unconventional materials and for specific requirements. Sandals, shoes and boots were made with the soles of leather, matting or felt, cut to the shape of the foot and varying in thickness; if the wearer wished to add to his height he wore a thicker sole. According to Turner Wilcox, (2008) slaves were banned from wearing footwear in cities although outside the town they could wear rough clog- like sandals with a called a ‘sculponae,’ which was first seen in Egypt. By the first century AD, Plutarch (c. 46 – 120 CE, ) noted going barefoot was a the sign of a slave.

An old Greek legend tells of an old man's advice to husbands to keep their women at home by giving their wives heavy shoes to wear. The clever women foiled their husbands by putting pieces of tree bark under the soles. The importance of the sandal in mythology is seen in the story of Persephone the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Referred to as "she of the beautiful ankles" she was abducted to the underworld by Pluto and required to remain there for the duration of the winter months before re-emerging in the Spring. Symbolically this represented the start of vegetative growth. Moments before her abduction, Persephone walked through the quiet meadow wearing sandals. The sandal came to represent to the Greeks and Romans the boundary between death and rebirth, light and darkness, heaven and hell. It was commonly thought the body absorbed vital energies of the boundary where human and divine coexist through the sandal.  Aphrodite, the Goddess of love, was often depicted naked except for a pair of sandals. Participation in sport was barefoot and when athletic sandals were introduced ordinary Greek citizens thought them decadent, anaesthetic and somehow a violation of the Olympic ideal (Franzine, 1985).

According to Sparkes Hall (1847) Greek women were also known to wear shoes and half boots lined with cat fur. Further the muzzles and claws were left hanging down the front of the boot for decoration.

Boucher F 1988 A history of costume in the West Thames and Hudson: New York.
Caovilla PB 1998 Shoes:Objects of art and seduction Thames and Hudson: London.
Franzine R 1993 The barefoot hiker Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
Girotti E 1986 Footwear: La Calzaturoi Chronicle Books: San Francisco.
Ledger FE 1985 Put your foot down: a treatise on the history of shoes Melksham: Uffington Press.
Lister M 1987 Costume:An illustrated survey from ancient times to the 20th century Prays Inc: Boston.
McDowell C 1989 Shoes: Fashionand fantasy Thames and Hudson: London.
Rossi W 2000 The complete footwear dictionary (2nd ed) Kreiger Publishing Co Florida.
Rossi W 1993 The sexlife of the foot and shoe Kreiger Press: Florida.
Sparkes Hall J 1847 The book of the feet: A history of boots and shoes (2nd Edition) Bibliolife: New York.
Turner Wilcox R 2008 The Mode in footwear Dover Pictorial Archive Seres: NY.
Yue C and Yue D 1997 Shoes: Their history in words and pictures Houghton Miffin Company: Boston.
Warry J. 1980 Warfare in the classical world Salamander Books Ltd: London.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Biblical Sandals

There is no surviving artefacts or descriptions of Jewish shoes from the period of the early Bible (Nahshon 2008 p2). However footwear does hold an important significance to early Israelites. According to the Scriptures, God gave man a ‘coat of skins’ to wear.

"...Unto Adam and also unto his wife did the Lord God make clothes of skin and clothe them..." (Genesis 21:3). Once the Hebrews acquired the art of tanning they used thick hide for sandals. The Biblical sandal was either leather or wooden footboards held to the foot with finer leather thongs Nahshon (2008).

The lyric in the Song of Songs (circa 900 BCE ) confirms sandals were worn by the high born.

"How beautiful your sandaled feet, O prince's daughter! Your graceful legs are like jewels, the work of a craftsman's hands.” (Song of Songs 7:1).

One of the earliest known depictions appears on the Assyrian Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (circa 841 BCE) and depicts Jehu (son of Omri) bringing a tribute the Assyrian king. Jehu is prostrating himself in homage and is depicted wearing up-turned pointed shoes. These were fashionable with Assyrian royal families and may not be representative of ordinary shoes worn by Jews.

By the 8th century BCE concerns were expressed by elders as to the irreverence of decorated elevated sandals worn by young women. (Isaiah 3 16-20).

Later during the period of captivation in Egypt, Jewish slaves were taught the craft of Egyptian sandal making and took the trade with them. The fleeing slaves were wore sandals (Ex 12:11).

"This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the LORD.”

According to the Holy Scriptures Moses wore shoes when he approached the Burning Bush (Exodus 3:5).

"Remove your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground."

This was repeated again, at the confirmation of Joshua as the new Moses.

'And the captain of the LORD's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot: for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.'
Josh 5:15
Possibly the first shoe miracle to be described was n Deuteronomy 29:15

“During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.”
Hence forth footwear and bare feet took on major symbolic significance in the Jewish religion. These are seen in the Torah , (Laws of Moses) and the Shulchan Aruch, (Code of Jewish law) which was written in the 16th century. Every day event were to be seen as something to worship the glory of God including putting on sandals. The Jewish laws prescribed the order in which you put them on. The right went on first followed by the left. (Shulchan Aruch/Orach Chaim 2:4). The left shoe was to be tied firs and the whole process reversed when taking the shoes off (Shulchan Aruch/Orach Chaim 2:5). It is thought this custom was based on the belief the right side was more important than the left and subsequently the right foot should not remain uncovered while the left was covered. Shoes were tied from the left because knotted teffilin was worn on the left arm. This refers to the children of Israel being out of Egypt as an act of God. When walking outdoors, Jews were required to cover the entire body including their feet (Shulchan Aruch/Orach Chaim 2:6). By the end of the first century CE shoes were considered an item of sensuousness, comfort, luxury and pleasure. Rabbi Akiva (ca.50–ca.135 CE) instructed his son Joshua not to go barefoot.

In the Talmud (200CE – 500 CE) (Shabbat 129a) it declared "A person should sell the roof beams of his house to buy shoes for his feet, " which if taken literally would again underline the importance of footwear in the Holy Land. Scholars and thise well versed in Jewish Law (Talmid Chacham) were never to go out wearing shabby or worn out shoes. Much later the Kabbalists considered the body as "the shoe of the soul," to protect it during its journey in the physical world.

According to Nahshon (2008) the primodial connection of the naked or semi naked foot to the land became an important element of Israel’s Zionist pioneer culture. Walking barefoot symbolically intimated one of three states: the lack of social status, an act of humility, or reference to the Divine. A common punishment or judgment was being forced to go without shoes.

'At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.'
Is 20:2

Captives went barefoot and their footwear was often taken as a trophy.
'And the men which were expressed by name rose up, and took the captives, and with the spoil clothed all that were naked among them, and arrayed them, and shod them.'
2 Chron 28:15

The Jewish custom of not wearing shoes was also taken as a show of remorse, penance or mourning (Book of Isaiah 20:2). In Talmudic times both the pall bearers and the mourners went barefoot. When David was in mourning he went barefooted.

'And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and went as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot'
2 Sam 15:30

Jewish Law determined wearing leather shoes was not permitted during the period of the seven days of mourning (shiva,). For practical reason when shoes were allowed the custom was to place a little earth or pebble in the shoes to remind the wearer that they are in mourning. Jews are buried in a shroud covering the feet and the corpse id never dressed in leather shoes.
In the laws of halitzah when a married man died childless and leaving an unmarried brother, the brother was obligated to marry his widowed sister-in-law. This was called a levirate marriage and was primarily to continue the family linage.Deuteronomy (25:5-9); and Book of Ruth 3:4. If the brother in law refuses to marry the widow a ceremony involving the halitzah shoe was undertaken. The shoe worn on the right foot of the male was made from the skin of a kosher animal. It was like a moccasin made of two pieces and sown together with leather threads with long ties. The widow places her left hand on the brother in laws calf, then undoes the laces with her right hand before removing the shoe from his foot. She then throws it to the ground, and spits on the ground in front of him. The beth din then recites the formula releasing all obligations. Here the shoe is a symbol of transaction and reference is made in Biblical times to shoes and sandals being used to seal bargains.

Human beings intrinsically used their bodies (or parts there of) as physical measurement of the known universe and so it would see perfectly logical to extend this to describe all human endeavours. The idea our ancestors described the universe with reference to the human body would give credence to the argument when describing faith there would be a head of a religious order; and feet, or the foundation of followers. This would translate into concrete iconoclasts as found in talisman of faith e.g. Statue of Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro. The absence of sophisticated transport in Biblical Times required walking as the primary means to spread the Gospel. By implication this would necessitate healthy feet and encourage protection of them. No surprise, perhaps to find reference to feet and sandals became closely associated with evangelism within in the New Testament.

Nahshon E 2008 Jews and shoes Berg Oxford.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Egyptian Sandals

The first evidence of people settling along the Nile Delta dates to 5000 BCE and societies like the Amratian Society of the Upper Egypt forming in 4000 BCE. It was the Menes who eventually joined Upper and Lower Egypt into one kingdom in 3110 BCE. As reported in Ledger (1985) shoes made from fine leather were worn by the high born in 4000 BCE. History of ancient Egypt is broken into three Kingdoms i.e. The Old, The Middle, and the New Kingdom. The time period covers 3 millennium (2920 - 30 BCE) and during this time there were 30 Dynasties. The fortunes of Egypt rose and fell but as trade routes increased more influence from other civilisations became apparent in both costume and custom.

The Old Kingdom
In the Old Kingdom (2686 BCE – 2181 BCE)., kings of Egypt (not called Pharaohs until the New Kingdom) became living gods and ruled absolutely. The first King of Egypt was King Narmer who was depicted walking barefoot with his slave bearing sandals behind him (Turner Wilcox 1948, p2). This would suggest footwear was kept for special occasions and the custom was to have sandals carried to the point of destination, before being worn for the occasion. Bearers of sandals often received promotion as recorded by Weni the Elder in the 6th century (2323 -2152 BCE). By now Egypt was a major trading nation and enjoyed fabulous wealth. During the 7th and 8th Dynasty (2150 – 2135 BCE) famine prevailed with, civil disorder, and a high death rates until the political structure of the Old Kingdom finally collapsed. The 9th and 10th Dynasty (2135 -1986 BCE) saw Egypt split into the north, ruled from Herakleopolis, and the south, ruled from Thebes. During this time foreign trade again brought great riches with the building of many magnificent buildings and crafts like jewelry, prospered. Sandals dating to 2000BCE were held next to the foot by plaited or woven thongs between the great and second toes, then wrapped around the ankles (Turner Wilcox 1948 p2.)The oldest images of shoemakers were found in frescoes in Thebes and were dated to 19th century BCE (Turner Wilcox 1948 p3). Shoemakers are depicted using implements similar to modern shoemaking tools.

Originally sandals were made from a footprint in wet sand. Braided papyrus was then moulded into soles and the sandals were attached by palm fibre thongs to keep them on the foot. The Egyptian sandal was held next to the foot by three ties or thongs. The main thong passed between the big and second toe and joined the other straps on the instep to form a stirrup and tied behind the heel. Alternatively, a thong between toe two and three with the others on the medial and lateral aspect of the midfoot was used. The sole was typically flat.

Once the Egyptians learned to tan hide, sandals were made with a leather sole (Girotti, 1986). Kings and their immediate families were the only Egyptians allowed to wear them (Turner Wilcox 1948 p2.). Allowances were made for high dignitaries and priests with the latter designated to wear footcovers made of bandlers of white papyrus (Turner Wilcox 1948). One reason why priests did not wear leather sandals may have been to prevent them from contacting the hide of a dead animal (Turner Wilcox 1948 p2). Sandals were not worn in temples and other Holy Places (Turner Wilcox 1948
p 3).

Footwear did not differ according to sex. Soles were dyed and the sandals were made to accommodate right and left fittings (Turner Wilcox 1948 p2). High born Egyptian women often adorned their sandals with jewels and precious metal (Turner Wilcox 1948 p 3). Later sandals were also made from gazelle skin and became associated with active pursuits such as hunting.

The Middle Kingdom (2055 BCE – 1650 BCE)

Early Middle Kingdom shoes were little more than sandals with straps between the toes and joined to the sides at the heel with the upper leather just covering the foot without being fastened to the foot itself. The soles were plaided using strips of wood, rush , or flax. Alternatively they were made from untanned hide. An Asian influence become more apparent when King Amenemhet I (1991–1962 BC) started trade routes. The introduction of uppers would appear to add to the aesthetic of shoes and seem to be worn tight if illustrations dating between 200 BCE and 200AD depict corn cutters operating on feet incapacitated by tight uppers. Rush sandals were soled with leather. During the Middle Kingdom more robust footwear saw increasing use of sandals by soldiers and travellers (Lichtheim Vol II 1975). Sandals were adapted to work situations and butchers wore sandals made with a slice of cork sandwiched between two layers of leather on the sole and held together with small wooden pegs. The added height, sometimes 12 “ from the floor allowed butcher to cope with slaughtering animals. Sex workers from the Lower Egypt had a ‘follow me’ message on the sole of their sandals which left a tell all imprint in the sand. Cheaper sandals meant all but the very poor wore them.

King Thutmose I and his Queen Hat-Shep-Sut turned Egypt into a super power. The much loved Queen Hat-Shep-Sut (1479–1458 BCE ) wore bejewelled sandals. Her influence saw a rise in the popularity of sandal wearing and she actively fostered the sandal trade. Sandals took on the trappings of prosperity and authority. High quality footwear was made from ‘moroccan’ style leather with lamb and goat skins dyed scarlet, green and purple (Turner Wilcox 1948 p2). Priests wore papyrus or palm leaf sandals made so that they could be slipped on from the front or rear. Egyptian priests removed their shoes out of respect for their gods. It was also the custom to remove sandals in the presence of superior rank . Shoes were worn outside the house but never in the home and much later children wore red or green slippers.

The origin of the ancient symbol for life i.e. the Ankh (symbol for life) is unknown but Egyptologist, Sir Alan Gardiner thought insignia looked like a flattened thong. It might not be coincidence that the word ‘nkh” was used to describe the section of the sandal where a toe thong was attached. A common cure for headaches in ancient Egypt was to inhale the smoke from burning sandals.
The New Kingdon (1500 -150 BCE)

In the 18th Dynasty Thutmose III (1479–1425 BCE) ruled Egypt for almost fifty-four years During this time he undertook many military campaigns. The Pharaoh spoke of the countries he conquered, as the lands under his sandal. A wall painting in the city of Thebes shows craftsmen fashioning sandals during the time of Thutmose III). It was during this time the Jews remained captive in Egypt and many were taught the craft of sandal making. Jewish sandals were made from rush, linen, leather, or wood and were tied to the feet with thongs.
Soldiers wore heavier leather shoes and the custom was to stand on caricatures of the enemy. “You have trodden the impure Gentile under your powerful feet” (Turner Wilcox,1948 p 4). Enemies of Egypt were depicted differently: Hebrews had beards and long hair. Libyans were black figures and Syrians had white cloaks (reported in The Chiropodist, 1927, The Leeds Convention, 1926), and Hittites are depicted unshod. All the more unusual since the Hittites came from the Anatolian highlands and wore shoes with turned up toes.

In the outer chambers of the tomb of King Tut-Ankh-amen (1336 – 1327 BCE) there are two statues of the king wearing shoes with a golden ring. In the tomb of the boy Pharaoh there was is a shield decorated with figures wearing Assyrian sandals. The Mummy had pointed sandals of embossed gold with the toes curled gently upwards in the Hittite style. In Egypt golden thong sandals were used as funeral sandals (Bigelow, 1970 p32) and the belief was these provided comfort in after-death journeys. Egyptian mummies were sometimes laid to rest wearing burial sandals made from linen and decorated with jewellery (Putnam, 1996 ).

In Tut-Ankh-amen’s tomb was a magnificent box containing 93 pieces of sandals and slippers. Some were made from gold with beautiful coloured glass marquetry. One had a papyrus sole and leather ankles trap edged with a gold ribbon motif on wide straps. The motif represented the Nile scene of lotus flowers and ducks in delicate circles of gold (Turner Wilcox 1948 p4). The thongs were composed of plaques topped with enamelled gold lotus blossoms. The flexible sole was about ¼” thick. A pair of bark sandals was also found in the tomb with the representation of the Kings enemies etched on the inside of the sole.

Painted on the back of the king’s thrown were representation of himself and his Queen, Ankhesenamon . She was wearing simple sandals which followed her foot outline and attached to the foot with a single thong. The actual sandals are an exhibit in the British Museum. Ramesses III ( 1186–1155 BCE), was one of the greatest Egyptian kings and wore elaborately decorated sandals. During the 25th Dynasty (712-657 BCE) the Greeks helped re-establish order in Egypt and there was a renaissance in the arts with a return to the Old Kingdom style.

The Persians invaded and ruled Egypt (525-404 BCE). Funeral sandals were found in a mummy case of Harsiotef , Kushite King of Meroe (about 404 - 369 BCE). These were lined with cloth upon which was painted a figure. Inscribed in hieroglyphics is “ Ye have trodden the impure peoples under your powerful foot.” This is now housed in the British Museum.

Later Alexander the Great invaded in 332 BCE. The sum total of which was a rich cross fertilsation in clothing and custom.

After Cleopatra and Antony committed suicide in 30 B CE. Egypt was ruled by the Romans. By this time shoe styles had extended to sock like boots made in very fine leathers (Turner Wilcox 1948 p5). These were usually highly decorated and were fashion with a stall to accommodate the leather toe seperator (thong) in sandals (Turner Wilcox, 1948 p 5).

Anon 1927 The Leeds Convention The Chiropodist 14:91 264.
Bigelow MS 1970 Fashion in history apparel in the western world Minneapolis: Burgess Publishing Co.
Ledger FE 1985 Put your foot down: a treatise on the history of shoes Melksham: Uffington Press.
Lichtheim M, 1978 Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol II JARCE 15 127-28.
Putnam J 1996 Collins Eyewitness Guides :Mummy NSW: Harper Collins Publisher p49.
Turner Wilcox R 1948 The mode in footwear:A historical survey New York: Choles Scribrier & Sons.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A brief history of the plastic thong

After the Second World War it was important to build up the economies Asia countries and help them become self sufficient. One of the first industries to boom was the footwear industry with mass-produced plastic sandals becoming a major export. By the fifties new moulding techniques for rubber and plastic were introduced in Taiwan and elsewhere which allowed cheaper shoes to be turned out in their millions. Traditionally wooden sandals were the footwear of choice for millions of ordinary people in Asia. Simple sandals (sandal from the root ‘sandis’ meaning board) consisting of foot platform with toe and sometimes heel attachments (thongs) were known to exist in Stone Age times and are thought to represent one of the first shoe designs. Different cultures used whatever raw materials were to hand to craft the simple foot cover. Wooden sandals were worn in the Middle East and India (these are clearly depicted on sculptures, temples and in Sanskrit writing, circa 3000 BCE: rice straw sandals in China and Japan; rawhide sandals in Africa and papyrus (paper) sandals were worn in Egypt (circa1500 B.C.E.). In Persia sandals were crafted from wood and had a toe separator between the first and second toe with no thong. Platform soles were worn in bath houses and harems. Often the wooden sandals were intricately inlaid with pearl and other semi precious stones. By Biblical times sandals were commonly worn throughout much of the known world. Wood was hard wearing, readily available and preferred by some religious sects e.g. Hindus, who would not wear leather. It remains unclear whether these sandals were indigenous to India or taken from Persia (or vice versa). Trade between the Western and Eastern civilization was well established in antiquity and it is expected fashion exchange took place along the Spice and Silk routes. So it is possible the thong sandal was taken to the Far East from the Mediterranean but also as likely the reverse is true. No one really knows. Traditionally the Japanese wore two styles of traditional sandal i.e. the zori and the geta. Zori were flat bottomed sandals originally made with straw sole and leather thongs and held between the first and second toes. These are also known as Tatami Sandals. These were widely used in Japan from at least the Heian period (794-1185) although there is no history beyond this to indicate whether these were indigenous or imported to Japan. The Japanese geta is a wooden platform sandal held to the feet with a flexible thong (sometimes rope or a black velveteen fabric) that goes through the base of the sandal, up between the big toe and the second toe and then the two ends go over the arch back toward the middle or back of the foot. Getas are worn barefoot whereas Zori and Tatami sandals are worn with tabi, which is white cotton foot covering (like socks) with a split toe, between the big toe and the other four toes for the sandal thong. In 1956, the Olympic Games were covered on television for the first time and the eyes of the world fell on Melbourne, Australia. When the Japanese swimming team came to the pool side they wore getas. The ceremonial procession became a camera spectacle which was broadcast all over the world. The fashion for plastic flip flop sandals soon followed thanks to a Hong Kong based shoe manufacturer, John Cowie who had previously had seen Getas, Tatami and Zori sandals on a visit to Japan. He took advantage of the new plastic industry and started to mass produce plastic thongs. New Zealander, Maurice Yock then took them to New Zealand and patented rubber thongs calling them Jandals (a combination of Japan and Sandal) in 1957. Plastic sandals were mass produced cheaply in Japan and became a stable post war manufacturing industry especially when they started selling all over the world. New Zealand sales rocketed and soon Australians wanted to wear the casual sandals they had seen on the Melbourne Olympics. Other parts of the Far East wore variations on the thong type of sandal and these are considered unique to these regions. In Singapore the thong attachment is a strap across the top of the foot which follows the metatarsal heads. This is known as the Singapore Slide and the design later became incorporated into the Scholl Exercise Sandal. In the Philippines the wooden platform was decorated with intricate and ornate carvings. The US troops posted to the Pacific eagerly took home the carved platform sandals as souvenirs and many believe this was why sandals became popular in the US after the war. By the mid to late 50s in UK and Western Europe the new plastic flip flops from the east were a must for all package holiday tourists visiting the sun kissed beaches of the Mediterranean. In the 60s cheap shoes found popularity among many low social economical demographics including populations previously used to wearing straw espadrilles. In South America the plastic pluggers were called Havaianas (pronounced ha-vie-yon-ahs) or flip-flops. In recent years the humble flip flop has become staple fair for the elegant fashionista. The normal construction of the plastic thong usually has the thong attachment riveted to the plastic base. This is called a 'single plugger' thong. Due to an apparent fault in the production line a double rivet was madfe and the thongs were chrisitained "double pluggers." To the best of my knowledge out of all thong wearers across the globe its only Australia the Double Plugger holds sartorial sway.