A Tied Up History of Laces

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They may not be the most exciting part of what we do, but whether you choose a brogue, an oxford or a desert boot; your shoes wouldn’t be much use without a pair of shoelaces.

Laces have just as long and useful a history as shoes themselves. Despite this, due to the nature of shoemaking materials, only very few of the earliest examples of footwear have survived for us to study.

The oldest shoe ever discovered is the Areni-1 shoe which dates back to around 3500 BC. Though very simple, the shoe features leather shoelaces that pass through holes cut into the hide of the body of the shoe. A few hundred years later, around 3300 BC, the shoes worn by Otzi the Iceman were slightly more complicated in design. They were held together with shoelaces made from lime bark string.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans were also keen lace wearers. The iconic sandals worn by both men and women across these nations were fastened with leather laces.

Moving on to the twelfth century now, and the shoe and shoelaces relationship begins to look more familiar. In examples of medieval footwear we see shoelaces passing through hooks or eyelets that are placed either down the front or side of the shoe. 

Though clearly shoelaces had been in use for thousands of years, they were officially ‘invented’ when Englishman Harvey Kennedy took out a patent on them on the 27th March 1790. Though he obviously didn’t invent shoelaces, Kennedy did invent a new feature: the aglet.

For those not in the know, the aglet is the metal or plastic wrap at the ends of the shoelace that protects the lace from fraying and makes it easier to thread the lace into your shoes.

Interested in learning more about the history of shoes and shoemaking? You’ll like this post on lasts, one of the key tools of our trade.

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