So, what’s your favourite type of footwear? Shoes, sandals, boots, moccasins or crocs are likely suspects – but just spend a moment or two thinking about what it would be like to walk everywhere with barefeet! Glass, chewing gum, a host of other unpleasant items and, of course, the elements may present themselves as hazards. Indeed, it’s interesting to note that scriptures suggest that sandals were worn to protect feet from as early as 1000BC.
Of course, overtime, footwear has become more than just a practical way to protect feet. Fashion has for some time played a big part in the design and manufacture of our footwear and as far back as the medieval times, the shape of the shoes we wear has been considered, by many, to be an indicator of one’s status.
As with most things, progression ensued and in the 1800’s, traditional shoe makers became fearful for their livelihoods, as sewing machines found their way into the industry. This was a serious situation and as the 1841 UK Census revealed there were, at that time, 1,821 shoemakers operating within Northampton alone! Incidentally, no surprise then that Northampton football club was and still is known as “The Cobblers”.
As using machinery became the norm, the traditional craftsmen (and their family members who often helped out) became very concerned about their futures and in some cases even their ability to survive financially! In the 1800’s then, “Shoe Manufacturers” and their factories become the enemy of the “Traditional Shoemakers”, struggling to make a living.
The good news is that traditional shoe making wasn’t completely pushed out, with some hand making operations actually continuing well into the 20th century! But wait, isn’t it great to see that there are still hand crafted shoes in today’s marketplace? An example is “Crockett and Jones”, founded in 1879 in Northampton, where traditional shoemakers’ experience is evident, with many stages of the shoe making process being carried out by hand. In fact, 200 individual operations are meticulously carried out to ensure that a high quality product reaches the customer.
Another example of an outstanding organisation, based in Italy, is Grisport Boots and Shoes. Grisport manufactures 90% of its products in the Dolomite Mountains, in Montebelluna, Italy. The remaining 10% is produced in European factories. Grisport’s first pair of handmade walking boots were made in 1977. Today, over 15,000 pairs of Grisport boots and shoes are made every day. By using state of the art technology, including solar power, the company’s aim remains the same – “To provide comfort and quality whilst using the very best materials.”