Incredible shoe stories

Interesting and little-known facts about footwear that will make you smile

Do you know that in the Roman Empire social status was shown by the colour and type of shoes? There was a sharp division, clearly showing each Roman’s class and gender. Men wore black shoes, women – white; only the emperor had the privilege to wear red boots and senators had the right to wear black lace-up boots. Open-toe shoes were taboo to decent ladies and only courtesans had the right to wear them.

In ancient Burgundy, a person’s rank of nobility was shown exactly by the toe box length of shoes as well as the length and decoration of socks. The higher a nobleman stood in social hierarchy, the longer the toe box of shoes and boots had to be. Following the same logic, the socks had to be just as long and decorated. This went so far that people started to turn shoe toe boxes and fix them with special devices to shoe soles.

Even today, Tunisian tradition dictates that the groom must give as a gift to the bride a candle, pillow, white gloves and white slippers. The bride needs the candle to burn while she decorates her hands with henna, the pillow – to rest her hands while she decorates them so that they will not become tired, and the while gloves and slippers are needed to show the future husband that she enters his family with joy.

The first open-heel slippers were intended for concubines in sultan harems. The reason why all concubines wore only slippers was that if a concubine decided to run away from the harem she would not get far with this type of shoes. Later, in the Crusades, the crusaders brought slippers to Europe together with the treasures collected during their conquests.

Greek hetaerae wore sandals leaving marks into dust that said “Follow me”. In this way the hetaerae attracted the attention of their rich clients.

The first analogues of rubber soles were used by Indians who found that if they put their feet into the juice of a plant resembling rubber, after the juice dried their feet “got” impervious soles allowing them to move quiet and fast.

The high-heel shoes loved by all women have a long history and we greatly owe their appearance to ancient Egypt. Contrary to all logic, however, they were not intended for the upper class and pharaohs but for… ordinary villagers. Villagers found it easier to cultivate land on high heels that sank into the soft earth and gave better support in field work.

In Europe, high heels were intended for men who used the heels to keep on the stirrup of their horses while riding. At that time ladies wore long dresses and it was highly indecent to have their shoes or socks seen. Ladies shoes long remained low-heel until Madame Pompadour (the lover of the French king Louis XV)  decided to order for herself high-heel shoes and this caused a small fashion revolution.

Nowadays, the fashion sensation was caused by shoes which must have a high heel but it is missing. These shoes are Victoria Beckham’s favorites and she wears them with great pleasure. If you wonder how balance is kept on this type of shoes, we will say that balance is kept by making the front part of shoes heavier.

And could you imagine that till the end of the 18th century the left and right shoe were absolutely identical? As late as the beginning of the 19th century master shoemakers started to produce left and right shoes.

With the purpose of preventing shoe theft, in the past the Japanese army stored solders’ left and right shoe in different storehouses.

Despite his large, almost two meter height, the Russian tsar Peter the Great had very small feet and his shoe size was only 38.


In World War II, a scandal between two shoemaker brothers – Adi and Rudi Dassler, lead to the division of their common company and to the appearance of two of the modern world sports shoes and goods trademarks – Adidas and Puma. (Sometimes even scandals between relatives could be beneficial to mankind).

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