Leather Shoe History


Leather shoes through the ages

We all love a beautifully made leather shoe. Even our ancestors, living between the Neolithic and Bronze ages, opted for a comfortable one-piece foot covering made from cowhide.


The benefits of leather

So what’s the appeal of leather when it comes to shoes?

Throughout the centuries, leather has always been readily available. And it can be easily shaped, moulded, stitched and made waterproof.

Leather is loved for its comfort and breathability too. Unlike manmade fabrics and materials, leather keeps feet cool and comfortable. And nothing beats the feel of soft leather shoes that mould over time to perfectly fit your foot.

And, of course, there’s leather’s durability. By putting your shoes in the hands of the experts who use specific cleaning products and waxes, high-quality leather shoes for both men and women can last a lifetime.

By the Middle Ages (500 – 1500) leather shoes were made from a shaft and sole stitched together, and closures included buttons, straps and laces. Again, social status came into play. Princes and Earls were allowed to wear long, leather shoes with a point that curled up at the front (a poulaine), up to a length of 30 inches. While knights could only wear a poulaine that measured 18 inches and farmers were restricted to a mere six inches.

From 1600 – 1800s, fashionable men were found in long leather boots. While in court, both men and women wore low-heeled leather court shoes, often decorated with a bow. As the wearing of breeches died out and the long trouser took over, the half boot became popular, especially with Oxford students in the 1830s. It quickly became known as the Oxford boot and was fastened with laces or buckles. The version with laces ultimately became the Oxford shoes we know today.

Leather shoes were mass produced from the 19th century onwards, although the most discerning customers continued to have their leather footwear made to order. It was as this time the notion of having shoes made for left and right feet came about. Until about 1850, shoes were made on straight lasts with no difference between the right shoe and left shoe. There were often two widths though. A basic last produced a ‘slim’ shoe, which was then made wider to create a ‘stout’ shoe.

By the last century, leather was made more durable and developments in leather tanning enabled the leather to be more manipulated and shaped. It meant new styles were developed, although the classic lace up leather brogue continues to be a firm favourite.


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    About Us

    We have over 30 years’ experience in luxury leather shoe restoration and are well known for our care and attention to detail.


    At Robornes, we use traditional methods to replicate how your shoes were made originally and use the same tools, techniques and waxes that have been used for more than 100 years.... Read More

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    Email: sales@robornes.com

    Call: 01482 606864


    Robornes t/as Restorers Limited

    Co Reg Number 05618265

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