Nicole Kipar
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Male Footwear

First half of 17th century

Boots became fashionable at the English court during Charles I's reign. Charles had probably rickets when he was a child and it was feared that he would never walk without the aid of calipers. But then a shoemaker designed boots for him, which had hidden brass supports in the heel and at the ankle. Although he could later walk without these supports, by the time he became king, boots were indispensable in the wardrobe of the gentleman at court. They were worn by all classes, over pantaloons or breeches. Made from cordovan leather, they crumpled softly down the leg. A large piece of butterfly shaped leather (spur leathers) was stitched across the instep to hold the gold or silver rowel spurs. 

Less extravagant were boots made from buff leather (cowhide), which was heavier and more durable. The lace-edged boothose, which were worn inside the boots by the gentlemen, were usually made of linen, and protected the delicate silk stockings from being soiled by the leather. Already in 1627 gentlemen were wearing light-coloured boots with red heels and the edges of the soles stained red. The red heel became popular for aristocratic and court wear in the 1630s and continued in fashion well into the 18th century. By 1630, a protective additional sole galosh made from thick leather or wood, was used to keep the fine boots and shoes from the dirt of the streets. Shoes, by that time less fashionable for the gentleman, were ankle-high, with the sides cut out, and closed with satin ribbons. The heels came well under the instep and were about 2 inches high, covered in leather with matching or contrasting colour. The side seams had become shortened, and the vamp and quarters were cut away to leave an oval opening, small on the more practical footwear, but very big on the highly fashionable one. The shoes were mostly light coloured (especially white), while the favourite colours for boots, in addition to the light coloured dress boots, were chestnut, dark brown and black. 

The footwear was mostly made of leather, also waxed leather, while indoor slippers (mules) were made of silk. The toes became already square in 1610-20, a shape which was to dominate the whole period. While the aristocracy preferred the light, high heeled shoes and boots, the working class wore more practical and cheaper shoes, which were low heeled. They were usually dark brown, with leather latchet ties, deep square toes and closed sides. The lace ties of the upper class's shoes were either the above mentioned ribbons, often developing into elaborate roses of ribbon lace, being further decorated with pearls or spangles. Often they became grotesquely big. In addition to those roses, the shoes themselves were frequently pinked or slashed, or embroidered with floral patterns. By the 1630s the roses were no longer decorated with spangles, and were now of woven material rather than lace, usually made of silk. 

Second half of 17th century

Shoes and stockings became very important, because with the advent of tailored coat and rather tight breeches, they became the lower body's eyecatcher, and were thus once again, similar to the high middle-ages and the Spanish fashion of the 16th century, a focus of fashion and of etiquette, the male leg regaining importance, and men, especially Louis XIV himself, were proud of their long, shapely legs, in case they had them... 

The elegant stockings were made of silk, and the most elegant and expensive ones were embroidered at outer ankles and at the heel. The shoes were extremely elegant as well: the square toe became longer and very square, the heels became higher. 

Since Louis XIV was rather short, he wore heels and soles which were raised with cork, and were then covered with red leather. These red heels and red edged shoes remained a privilege for the French nobility until the French Revolution. The decoration of the shoe went through a similar development as did the clothes: in the 1660s shoes were still decorated extensively with ribbons, rosettes, etc., until buckles became fashionable in the 1670s, and in the 1680s shoes had completely lost all decorations except a small buckle at the side. Boots went completely out of fashion and were only worn in the military and for riding, never indoors as was done in the first half of the 17th century. 

The year 1660, with Louis XIV making at his maturity Paris the capital of the western world, marks the beginning of French leadership in fashion, which preferred shoes for men rather than boots. The boots still worn in the 1660s were an exaggerated version of the 1630s soft wide boots. Only as late as in the 1690s a heavy boot entered fashion again, which by then has become rigid, and was worn mainly as a riding or military boot, not any longer as a dress boot. The reasons for this development might be as such: first of all France rose in its power, while Charles II in England had a French background (he was exiled there), and furthermore boots were a reminder of Civil War in England, and therefore disappeared as fashion, but continued for riding. Charles II had lived much of his life in France and he was 30 when he was crowned King of England. Therefore his taste was French. 

From 1660 for about ten years after, cannons were fashionable, which were decorative frills below the knee on the breeches underneath the petticoat breeches. Therefore shoes were now worn, still being decorated with large bows made from ribbon to match or contrast with the colour of the shoes and garters were tied at the knee with ribbon bows at the side of the leg. For men, black and browns were the usual colours in the 1660s. The red sole and heel, a French court fashion, had been long adopted in England as well. White leather was still usually worn at court, while some buff or suede leathers were also in use. The toes were long and square, sometime forked, and overhanging the sole. 

By 1676 some toes were beginning to be blocked, the end presenting a curved, classical pediment shape. They were quite narrow in the 1680s, but began to widen again in the 1690s. Around 1710 wide, square domed toes with medium high heel and very high tongue were fashionable. 

The heels of men's and women's shoes were similar for a long time, and they were made of wood covered in leather to match or contrast with the shoes. There were more stacked heels for men and generally most riding boots used the stocked heel. Until 1700 heels were quite slender, but the shoes with the wide domed toe of the 1710s had a massive heel to balance, flaring out from the seat, hollowed up in the centre for lightness. 

The latchet tie shoes continued from the first half, but they became closed at the sides now. The ribbon ties changed as well. There were, as mentioned above, multiple ribbons like floppy bows and few butterfly bows in the 1660s-1670s, but they changed to a much stiffer, formalised wide bows. The first shoe buckles already appeared in the 1660s and were small, oblong ovals, set with stones or glass. But it took a while until buckles became the accepted fashion. Thus the early solution of tying a shoe was a buckle with a stud to lock through a hole in the latchet. The other straps tended to be narrow and the buckle, with a single spike, often appeared at the side rather than the front. From the very beginning on, buckles were treated as jewellery, transferable from one shoe to the other. Sometimes both buckles and ribbons were worn. From 1710 onwards a larger buckle was more appropriate for the heavier shoes, and the straps were cut wider to carry it, and of equal length, to take a different chape. Throughout the period the buckle or lace was set high on the instep, with the tongue extending above. 

During the 1660s-1680s the tongue was soft and allowed to fold over, but from ca. 1690 on it was stiffened with a lining. The cut of the tongue was of the above mentioned fancy shapes, so that the contrasting lining took such forms as a cupid's bow. Red lining was most popular on men's black shoes and they had red heels with the edges of the shoes reddened. Those shoes were for dress wear at court in the 1680s. For indoor wear slippers retained the mule form and had low heels. There was a variety of colours and materials, usually brocade and silk, often embroidered. They were worn by men and women.

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