Seventeenth-Century Footwear



People took great care covering their feet during the seventeenth century. Fashionable footwear changed shape during the century, and middle-class and wealthy people eagerly purchased the new shoe styles in order to remain in fashion. Shoes and boots continued to be made on straight lasts, the basic sole pattern, so that a shoe would fit either foot. However, significant changes were made to shoe fastenings, toe shape, sole height, and the decorations applied to the upper, or tops of shoes.

By the end of the sixteenth century, shoes began to change from slip-on styles to more snugly fitting tied styles. During the seventeenth century, shoes began to fasten with ribbons and buckles. The toes of shoes changed from being round to square, and sometimes forked, a style that featured a squared toe with slightly elon-gated corner points. Square-toed shoes became so associated with men's shoes during the century that, when fashions changed in the next century, an unfashionable man was called "old square toes." All shoes and boots had heels that were at least an inch high, and were more commonly two or three inches high, during the century. Although the shoes of the lower classes and working people were made of durable leather or wool, shoes of the wealthiest people were made with expensive fabrics or delicate leather and elaborate decorations.

During the seventeenth century shoes styles began to split along gender lines. Boots became quite fashionable for men during the century. By the middle of the century, men continued to prefer square-toed shoes, but women started to choose shoes with pointed toes. Some women wore a more elaborate pointed style, called hooked, with a pointed toe that curled upward. Another style reserved for women's shoes was a white rand, a band of leather attaching the upper of the shoe to the sole. Before the seventeenth century, the rand of women's shoes was made of the same color as the sole of the shoe. White rands remained fashionable until the 1760s.

Styles worn by both men and women were slippers, which were heeled slip-on shoes with no upper covering the heel, worn at home or for casual events, and overshoes worn over other shoes to protect them from inclement weather, dirt, and puddles.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Batterberry, Michael, and Ariane Batterberry. Fashion: The Mirror of History. New York: Greenwich House, 1977.

Lawlor, Laurie. Where Will This Shoe Take You? A Walk Through the History of Footwear. New York: Walker and Company, 1996.

Pratt, Lucy, and Linda Woolley. Shoes. London, England: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1999.

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