Revisited Myth #16: In “the olden days,” shoes were made straight, not as rights or lefts, so they could be rotated as we rotate tires and would wear evenly.

The Hunter Millinery Shop interiors.  Shot for 2007 CWJ photo essay on Trades.

Some history myths are statements that were true at one time but not true at another. Sometimes part of the myth is true, part is false. Docents and tour guides need to be alert to the context. A good example is the statement above about shoes. Just when are “the olden days?”

According to Al Saguto, master shoemaker at Colonial Williamsburg and one of America’s experts on historical shoemaking, there is some truth to this myth, depending upon your time frame.

“About Shakespeare’s day,” he says, “the wooden forms that the shoes were made on went from being left and right to being straight as an economy, so you only needed one to make the pair of shoes . . . and about 1800, they started to go crooked again. So, for a period of about 200 years, most of the shoes were made on straight forms, but left and right shoes are back in style before the 19th century.”

Al says that even straight-made shoes will quickly conform to the wearer’s feet and turn a little right or left, however shoes were not rotated for the purpose of wearing evenly.

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2 Responses to Revisited Myth #16: In “the olden days,” shoes were made straight, not as rights or lefts, so they could be rotated as we rotate tires and would wear evenly.

  1. Thanks for this post. I enjoy your blog but don’t always take time to leave a comment.

  2. Gerald Ritter says:

    I was confused by the time references. Perhaps sticking to either style would make it easier to follow. i.e., “1600s” or “seventeenth century.”

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