Boots

Boots, shoes that cover part of the leg as well as the foot, have been worn to protect the feet and legs since very ancient times. The people of ancient Greece, beginning with the Minoans from the Greek island of Crete dating from 3000 to 1400 B.C.E. , made many different styles of boots and developed shoemaking into a skilled craft and a fine art.

The ancient Greek society of Minoans, named for a legendary king in Greek mythology, Minos, had a highly developed sense of decorative fashion. Along with colorful skirts and tunics, they wore many types of slippers, shoes, and boots. Though most historians believe that shoes were not worn indoors, many Cretans did wear boots outside. Women wore delicate ankle boots as well as tall boots with high heels, and Cretan men wore tall boots that covered the calf and were tied on with leather straps. Young Minoan men and women played a special athletic game where they performed gymnastic stunts over the backs of running bulls. For these ritual games, they wore special knee-high boots of leather dyed tan, red, or white.

Later, in the classical Greek society of the fifth and sixth centuries B.C.E. , almost all Greeks went barefoot much of the time. Shoes were never worn inside, and even the wealthiest people only wore sandals outdoors. However, those who did heavy outdoor work, such as soldiers, farmers, hunters, and some slaves, often wore boots rather than sandals. Ancient Greek boots resembled sandals in many ways. Many were tied on with leather straps like sandals, and some covered the sole, sides of the foot, and calf, while leaving the toes and the top of the foot bare. Some young Greek men wore leggings that resembled boot tops but left their feet bare. Soldiers often wore high boots with wooden soles and leather tops, which were tied on with wide leather laces. Other Greek boots had leather or felt soles that laced up the front like modern shoes and tied at the ankle or the calf. By the end of the fifth century B.C.E. many young men wore highly decorated boots made of white leather or fabric, with turned down tops trimmed in bright colors.

The stage actors who performed the famous Greek dramatic plays also wore boots. Different styles of boot were used to help the audience distinguish the characters. For example, since all ancient Greek actors were men, the actors who portrayed female characters often wore loose-fitting boots, while the actors who played the male characters wore tightly laced boots to help the audience distinguish the men from the women in the play.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Kippen, Cameron. "The History of Footwear: Sandals." Curtin University of Technology Department of Podiatry. http://podiatry.curtin.edu.au/sandal.html (accessed on July 24, 2003).

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume: From Ancient Mesopotamia Through the Twentieth Century. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

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