Sunday, August 22, 2010


Enemies of the Foot?

I've got no pictures from the 1700s, but those shoes are from 1982........

Shoes were supposedly invented in various places of the world more than 20.000 years ago. They were a necessary step to protect the foot towards cold, warmth and uneven surface. But in spite of good intentions the shoe has also caused much suffering: callous skin, corns and bunions, knee-, hip- and back pain, adhesion of toe-bones, overlaid toes, inflammation and much more. What an awful list! Cultures with barefoot people don't have such problems, so seen from the viewpoint of the foot the socalled uncivilized cultures are the healthiest!

Shoes tell us a lot when found in an archaological excavation - they give a good dating since fashion has always changed fast. The shoe can tell about its owner and about the shoemaker, who made it and repaired it and about re-use and social status. And excavation of a large landfill site from the 1700s in Copenhagen brought to light about 1600 shoes and shoe parts in leather, fabrics and wood. The written sources inform that the rubbish on the site came from the inner section of Copenhagen, which means that the shoes are from all social classes. The findings are both the distinguished lady's fabric-dressed shoe with elegant silken embroidery till the working people's rough, clumsy shoe, worn-out from hard outdoor jobs.

and from a lost world...............

The worn-out shoes are the most interesting, since the wear and tear itself holds many informations. Some tests showed that men's shoes were much more worn-out than women's shoes in spite of that the last mentioned shoes were more delicate in material and construction. Men simply wore down their shoes more than women did. The reason is simple, many men worked outdoors upon a rough foundation, while most women worked indoors - either in their own home or as a servant in others. And women threw away their shoes, before they were too full of holes, while most gentlemen waited until the shoe was close to unfit for use. Does this sound familiar? Is it the same today where women devote themselves in their looks more than men? Or is this a truth with verification? Well, the rubbish from the landfill shows that wealthy gentlemen were much absorbed in elegant clothes and fine shoes without holes.

In the 1730s were rich women's shoes and slippers often equipped with an ab. 10 cm high, slender and curved heel . The shoe with "the French heel" was named after its Parisian origin, and the name itself was an approval of this shoe. Fashion was dictated from Paris. The idea with the high heel was that its owner walked with a clip-clapping sound upon the floors of the salons - this was considered feminine and elegant. The shoe was of course also very much sought after in the lower classes, although it was a rather awkward fashion for ladies with a practical job.

A special characteristic of the 1700s-shoes is that they are symmetrical. The shoemaker used the same last for both left and right shoe- and then the owner just had to walk until they fit. But the symmetric shoes caused many foot-disorders. The ideal of that period demanded the foot to be small. Many pressed their poor feet into small shoes almost like Cinderella's sisters to make them look smaller, but this was of course not without consequences. Platfoot was in the 1700s just as common as today - a human foot is not made for "imprisonment". The musculatur grows weak and one consequence is that the foot "turns inwards", which gives a visible wear on the inside of a shoe, which was obvious in many shoe-findings.

Among the findings were only three with definite orthopaedic shoes. But the thrown out shoes all create an image of a period where people suffered for beauty and where they were dictated by fashion no matter which status. Dictated by fashion, well that sounds familiar too!

Beautiful shoes! A TV-documentary the other evening showed all the beautiful high-heelers of today from the top-designers, and I was completely lost. High heels and all, do you know that the weight of your forefoot in a high-heeler is approximately 1200 kilos! How much weighs an elephant?

I don't care. If I was still able to walk in a pretty high-heeler I would do it. Those shoes made in Italy are so pretty. I'll have to walk in sensible shoes now, but I still hold on to a small collection from the eighties! I look at them with tears in my eyes!

Source: Skalk , Archaeological magazine, "Fodens fjende", Vivi Lena Andersen, June 2009.
(and myself)

photos from my worn-out, but loved shoe collection: grethe bachmann


Teresa Evangeline said...

I wear size 11, so shoes have always been a bugaboo for me, plus I like going barefoot, but only in the summer :) I love pretty shoes and drool over ads showing the latest. I have found a few brands that give me some hope, but I will never own a pair of Jimmy Choo or a Laboutin (sp), more than likely. I have a few articles of clothing that I've kept "for old time's sake," with memories attached. One is from high school, a long time ago. Fun post.

Kittie Howard said...

I remember shoes like yours *sigh*. Those were the days. Just can't wear heels anymore, know how you feel when you look at your shoe closet *long sigh*. But I especially love your golden shoes. Grethe, I can see you dancing until dawn, a beautiful princess. (And thanks for the info; I'd sometimes wondered where heels had come from.)

Wanda..... said...

I have a few high-heel boots packed away too Grethe. Being 5'2" i need a little additional height though. The Chinese tradition of foot binding has always fascinated me...the pain women suffer in the name of beauty.

Thyra said...

Teresa! You're a tall girl. I'm only 160 cm and look even smaller among all those tall young people. When I take the bus from downtown I'm squeezed between rucksacks on those giants! And some of the tall girls wear high-heelers! I'm a dwarf!
It's good to have some memories to look at once in a while. Imagine I've got some clothing from the 50s!! I'm a dinosaur! ´)

Kittie; I did not know either that those heels came from Paris in the 1700s. Paris has obvious been a fashion center for many centuries.
We flatfooted people must start a union for beautiful flat-heelers. `)

Wanda! so you've got some shoes packed away too? I don't know how much 5 2" is, but I'm 160 cm, maybe the same? I still feel I need to be taller, but there's nothing to do. I had a traffic accident some years ago and had my knee and hip operated. I'm glad you mention the chinese tradition. I had forgotten about that. It was so awful for those poor women, but the tradition demanded it.

Have a nice day all of you!
Flat-footed Grethe`)

Kittie Howard said...

Grethe, my hub lit up like a Christmas tree when I showed him your comment about the photo he took. He's sooo happy! Thank you, thank you!