Shoe of the Month – Willem Ruys

Willem Ruys

This striking shoe sc

ulpture is called Willem Ruys and was conceived and made by the Dutch artist Joyce de Gruiter in 2011 / 2013.

With an endless source of inspiration from top designers such as Louboutin, Blahnik, Vivienne Westwood and Jimmy Choo, Joyce de Gruiter designs and manufacturers her own shoe collection Shoes 2 Make U Happy. These are shoes not to wear but to admire. Her shoe sculptures are made of mixed media and wood and finished with 22 carat gold leaf and pearlescent pigments. She takes architectural forms that although playful, sometimes undergo an ironic metamorphosis.

This shoe sculpture was inspired by the passenger ship Willem Ruys which, in the 1940s, brought the designer’s parents from Asia to Europe, which was a meeting of two opposite cultures and literally East meeting West.

Willem-Ruys Shoe Sculpture

Willem-Ruys Shoe Sculpture

The sculpture is made from wood, krijinto, pearlescent paint and gold leaf.

Northampton Museums and Art Gallery is always delighted to expand its collection of shoe sculptures from around the world.

Shoe of the Month-Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit

These fabulous boots were designed and made by artist April Phillips in 2013. Can you see what is different about them? Yes, the rabbits have three ears and the boots are, unsurprisingly named The Rabbit Has Three Ears.

These boots are just one pair of five made by Australian artist April Phillips from preliminary sketches made at Hospitalfield House during her Royal Overseas League annual artist residency in 2010.

The Rabbit Has Three Ears Boots

The Rabbit Has Three Ears Boots

The Imaginary Happenings of Hospitalfield explores the alternative realities of being removed from everyday modern life and how our imagination can transport us to see the world anew.

All of the imagery decorating the boots has been illustrated, hand carved and painted in layers by hand. April Phillips explores a story influenced by the history and unique experience of spending time living and working at Hospitalfield.

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is always keen to add contemporary footwear to the shoe collection and we are delighted  to have these wonderful boots in the collection.

Shoe of the Month – Lego-tastic!


Shoes can be made from many different materials. This shoe has been made from Lego!

It was made by Sami Smith aged 8, a local Northampton schoolboy. He is Lego mad and decided one day to create a Lego shoe. It took him most of a day. He then thought where would be the best place to display it and he thought of us at Northampton Museums and Art Gallery, the home to Europe’s largest shoe collection. We are delighted to be able to display it as our February shoe of the month.



Shoe of the Month – One warm step for mankind…

One warm step for mankind…

Keep your feet lovely and toasty this January in a pair of original Moon Boots. Footwear manufacturers Tecnica of Giavera del Montelo, Italy, created the iconic Moon Boot in the early 1970s. They soon took off and became a popular fashion trend.  Tecnica trademarked the Moon Boot name in 1978 and still manufacture the original moon boot today. There are many imitations but with the name only trademark, only the Tecnica boot can be marked as the original moon boot.

Moon Boots

Moon Boots

The boot is said to be the ultimate in comfort. The uppers are nylon with a crisscross lace system to snuggle down and fit perfectly.

The lower waterproof PVC sole has great traction. The boots are sized small, medium and large and there is no left or right foot due to the boot’s polyester form lining. These boots will keep you warm in -30 degrees. They were donated in 2006.

Shoe of the Month – All that glitters…

All that glitters…

Make a knockout entrance at your Christmas party in these fabulous boots.

They were recently donated in response to our ‘We want your shoes!’ campaign. We think they were designed and made by the shoe designer to the stars Terry de Havilland in the 1970s.

silver leg boots

silver leg boots

The Shoe Collection at Northampton Museum & Art Gallery is the largest collection of footwear heritage and design in Europe. The collection is a rich resource covering footwear design and fashion, manufacture, social and political history. It is designated as being of national and international importance.

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is actively looking to develop its Shoe Collection through gifts and bequests. We are particularly interested in shoes with exceptional or everyday stories, designer shoes by the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Gucci, Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Jimmy Choo, Roger Vivier, André Courrèges or early Salvatore Ferragamo, celebrity shoes that have belonged to famous or significant people, shoe catalogues, non-designer contemporary footwear, footwear from South America and items relating to shoe retail.

If you would like to donate your shoes please contact

Wishing you all a shoe-tastic Christmas and New Year

Shoe of the Month – Give it some wellie!

Give it some wellie!

Today the word Wellington usually means a waterproof rubber boot for wet weather work or leisure.  However, the name originally described a new shape of boot and the first Wellingtons were always made of leather.

Throughout history, boots have been a favourite form of footwear, especially for men.  In the early 1800s a new style was developed that was simple and elegant – practical for the soldier and smart for the fashionable gentleman.  This new design took its name from the military commander Arthur Wellesley, who became the 1st Duke of Wellington.  A celebrated hero, Wellington won many victories against the French in the Napoleonic Wars, most famously the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.  He was renowned for his interest in good quality footwear and a caricature of the Duke (drawn by ‘Paul Pry’ in 1827) shows his whole body replaced by a Wellington boot!

Leather Wellingtons 1860s

Leather Wellingtons 1860s

Since then, the traditional leather Wellington continued to be worn by the military for ceremonial or ‘dress’ occasions.  In civilian life, however, Wellingtons began to go out of fashion by the 1860s when men started to prefer ankle boots.  Nevertheless, the Wellington boot had been a fashion classic of the early and mid-nineteenth century, with many slight variations in style.

These beautiful black and red morocco leather Wellingtons date to the 1860s. They are slim and supple enough to be worn under trousers, though they could also be worn over the trouser leg. They must have been very eye catching when worn.

Shoe of the Month-Hip Hop to the Beat

Hip Hop to the Beat

There is a dance theme in the museum this October with the Strictly Shoes exhibition highlighting the amazing shoes worn for ballroom and Latin American dance, but we also have many more examples of dance shoes in the collection from ballet to tap dancing to clogging and break dancing. We are always very keen to increase our dance shoe collection.

Break dancing, b-boying or breaking, emerged in New York in the 1970s as part of the hip-hop movement amongst young African-American and Latin American communities. Many of them were in street gangs and taught themselves martial arts as self-defence, from which many of the acrobatic and creative moves in break-dancing have developed.

Some of the most impressive break dancing involves floor-orientated moves, called ‘power moves’, such as the floor spins and flips.

adidas Superstar

adidas Superstar

How you looked was all-important. Outrageous outfits were combined with sneakers to create the iconic look. The hip hop movement had deep associations with sneakers from the very beginning. However, the one hip-hop band forever associated with a love for adidas sneakers is Run DMC. Run DMC had a long lasting effect on youth culture and made corporate brands more aware of the huge youth market for trainers. Run DMC were famous for wearing adidas Superstar or shell toe trainers and many followed their lead. This pair are  from 1992.

Shoe of the Month – Concealed Shoes

Concealed Shoes

This single boot was found hidden in the attic of a cottage in Tonge, Kent. It is an example of what is known as a concealed shoe. These are shoes or boots that have been deliberately hidden in buildings to help ward off evil spirits that might want to harm the house and its occupants.

There are a lot of theories as to why people concealed shoes, but as yet there isn’t a definitive answer as the practice is shrouded in mystery.

Concealed shoes are usually worn out and there is often only one shoe. Many of them are children’s shoes.

Concealed Shoe

Concealed Shoe

So why were shoes hidden? Shoes have a special significance. A shoe is the only item of clothing which takes on the shape of the person wearing it. It is container shaped and it is thought people believed that it held something of the wearer’s essence even when it was not being worn, so that the good spirits contained in the shoe would ward off evil spirits.

We occasionally accept concealed shoes as a donation, though most people who find them put them back ‘just in case!’

We do keep a concealed shoe index at the museum. At the moment the index stands at approximately 1,900 entries from all over the UK and also records concealed shoe finds in North America, Canada and a number of countries in Europe including France, Spain and Poland. We would be very happy to hear about any concealed finds. Please contact


Shoe of the Month – Helena Pygott Mule


This amazing mule was designed and made by Helena Pygott, while she was a student on the Footwear Design and Manufacture course, De-Montfort University, Leicester during 1998 – 2002.

Helena Pygott Mule

Helena Pygott Mule

This turquoise, grained leather mule has a sculpted silver painted wooden sole and heel with a leather horn sticking out of the vamp. Three square panels of hologram decorate each side of the upper.

The Shoe Collection is always happy to support students and future shoe designers and is delighted to be the home for some of their designs.

Shoe of the Month – soleRebels


The life of your shoes does not always begin when you start wearing them, nor does it end when you take them off.

Recycling is the process by which used materials are creatively evolved into new products to prevent waste. For many years footwear across the world has been innovatively produced from recycled goods.

Many exciting new designers and shoe companies are exploring the benefits of ethical and recycled fashion.

These shoes made from recycled rubber tyres and fabric are a wonderful addition to our contemporary footwear collection, which we are always trying to continually update and expand.

soleRebels, is a contemporary Ethiopian firm selling recycled footwear worldwide. They currently employ 45 full-time staff who produce up to 500 pairs of shoes a day for a worldwide clientele.



 soleRebels continue an age old tradition of collecting and sorting used tyres, which are hand cut ensuring a perfectly fitted sole that is long lasting and very comfortable.

“We took this wonderful indigenous age-old recycling tradition and fused it with fantastic Ethiopian artisan crafts and excellent modern design sensibilities and turned it into footwear that has universal flavour and appeal that is now a market beating export brand being enjoyed by people around the globe!”

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Co-founder and Managing Director