Shoe of the Month – Cow’s Mouth

Cow’s Mouth

We get some interesting donations to the Shoe Collection and this shoe is a replica of a much earlier style.

The medieval poulaine, which sported a very distinctive long and pointed toe, disappeared from fashion by 1500. It was replaced with the Tudor cow’s mouth, also known as the hornbill, platypus or the bear paw. This was a flat soled shoe with a broad toe. It could be a simple slip-on shoe or, alternately, have a bar strap across the foot or be fastened with a small buckle. In the 1500s the merchant classes across Europe were beginning to enjoy an altogether wider, more relaxed style. This was a time of great political, intellectual and social change in Europe that coincided with an increase in both the presence and influence of a rich and powerful bourgeoisie. Naturally, the fashions of the day reflected this. Just think of King Henry VIII with his square boxed padded shoulders echoed by his broad toed shoes.

Cow's Mouth Shoes

Cow’s Mouth Shoes

Cow’s mouths were worn across society though the more fancy and shapely they were the higher you were on the social ladder. Amazingly, the soles of some shoes during Henry’s reign reached an incredible 17 cm (6½ in).

This shoe with its wooden last were probably made to illustrate the Tudor style or perhaps for fancy dress?

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