The earliest professional shoemakers could only be supposed from Egypt where labourers are depicted making sandals, using tools not dissimilar to tools still being used by hand shoemakers. However, leatherworkers also used the same equipment as the shoemaker, and so it is impossible to define the period in which shoemaking as a singular profession developed.
During the Roman Empire, shoemaking progressed from artisans working alone in small settlements to congregating in streets near the town’s center or marketplace, where guilds grew to be established. Guilds protected and regulated the shoemakers, their suppliers, and their customers from unfair business practices and pricing, and ensured high-quality products.
Apollo was the chosen patron deity of Roman shoemakers, with images and statues of him gracing the entrance to streets reserved for individuals of that profession. Similarly, photographs of the Christian patron saints of shoemakers adorned the church buildings and guildhalls of medieval Europe. During the third century, noble Roman brothers Crispin and Crispinian were converted to Christianity and went to Gaul to preach the gospel, working as shoemakers at night.
They were eventually tortured for their faith and put to death. Although the legend is unreliable and Saints Crispin and Crispinian have lost their fame of sainthood, they have remained the client saints of shoemakers since the fifteenth century, and their feast day, October 25, is still celebrated as a holiday for the shoe industry in France.
There is proof that by the fourteenth century, shoemakers were already making footwear for speculative sale. This was once aided by the adoption of standardized measurement. In England in 1324, measurements for distance were standardized under King Edward II. Consistent in size, three barley-corns laid end-to-end equalled one inch and the foot-long “ruler” became the foot measurement of King Edward, the ruler of England.
The different standard of measurement was the hand, used since biblical times, and used to this day for measuring the height of horses.
A hand equals 4? inches or thirteen barleycorns. When a standardized measurement for shoe sizing began in the late seventeenth century, children’s sizes were deemed to be much less than the size of a hand and adult sizes were those over a hand. Adult sizes began with the deduction of 4? inches, so an adult woman’s size 4 shoe means it is made for a foot 8? inches long.
Under Louis XIV the Paris Point system was standardized as ? centimetre, and became the standard for most of Europe, but Germany persevered to comply with the English measuring system.
A shoe is an item of footwear intended to protect and comfort the human foot, while the wearer is doing various activities. Shoes are also used as an item of decoration and fashion. The design of shoes has varied enormously through time and from culture to culture, with appearance originally being tied to functionality.