Shoe of the Month – Elephant Leather

Elephant leather

Shoes can be made out of many different materials including wood, rubber, textiles, straw, plastic, metal or even paper. All you need are soles which are strong enough to protect your feet and uppers to keep the shoes on your feet.

Leather is probably the most popular material and many different skins can be used from crocodile to goat, from ostrich to sharkskin.

These shoes are made from elephant leather. Elephant hide is very, very thick, often 10 – 12 cms, and to make the leather more flexible and easier to work with the leather has been split. With very thick hides, the middle split can be separated into multiple layers until the thickness prevents further splitting. Apparently only the large ears of an elephant are suitable to make useable leather from.

Elephant Leather Shoes

Elephant Leather Shoes

These shoes were made for the donor in the 1970s, but have never been worn.

 

 

Shoe of the Month – George Webb and Sons

George Webb & Sons

Makers of Fine Footwear for Men

George Webb & Sons were one of Northampton’s most famous shoe manufacturers. This shoe is just one of many recently donated to the collection by the son of a former manager there, Oliver J Farey.

George Webb (1870-1940) started out in the shoe industry and progressed to the position of works manager with the firm of Albert E Marlow. He spent twenty eight years at Marlow’s and progressed to become Managing Director. In 1927, at the age of 57 he left the company and spent his life savings to establish his own firm. He purchased an empty factory in Brockton Street, Kingsthorpe Hollow, rented machinery, and started the new business with his two sons as equal partners.

The new works were known as the Mentone Works, making “shoes that give tone to men”. The firm expanded until they employed about six hundred people.

As orders increased, additional premises were required. These included a factory at Black Lion Hill near Northampton railway station, another at Walgrave and one in Bridgend in South Wales.

When George retired, sons Dennis and Frank became joint partners and managing directors. In 1946 the firm became a Private Limited Liability Company, going public in 1951. By 1963 the firm was producing 24,000 pairs of shoes weekly. After passing to different owners, the factory closed in1982.

George Webb Shoe

George Webb Shoe

The Webb brands of shoes included Mentone, Savile Row, Castello, Park Lane, Alpha, Excelsis, Metropolis, Northern King, City Craft, Royal Parade, Brockton, World-Walk, Selborne, Duration and On Top.

Shoe of the Month – Showing Off

Showing Off

This jockey boot was made by G M Tebbutt of Northampton. It is a perfect miniature version, perhaps made as a sample of the type of footwear manufactured by the firm. Shoemakers also had access to lots of scraps of leather and sometimes used these to make tiny shoes. Some of these are so tiny; you wonder how the shoemaker managed to make them.

Jockey Boot

Jockey Boot

Shoemakers have always been craftsmen. They had served an apprenticeship to learn their trade and were proud of their skills, with a strong history of making exhibition, prize and small scale footwear.

From the late 18th century until the 1860s, prize competitions were held to find the best craftsman. To show off their skills, the shoemakers made special shoes with odd shaped toes and heels and hand sewn seams with up to 40 stitches to the inch (2.5cm)

Special shoes were also made for exhibitions, beginning with the Great Exhibition of 1851. These were full size shoes and could be worn if you could get them on your feet. They all showed a very high standard of workmanship.

 

Shoe of the Month – The Cellona® Shoe

The Cellona® Shoe

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery are always delighted to receive donations of new and innovative shoes to the shoe collection, in particular the orthopaedic / health shoe collection.

The Cellona® shoe is the very latest innovation for those people with bandaged feet. At a time when people are faced with reduced mobility this shoe provides protection and stability. It has a firm reliable base and support, a non-slip sole and creates a good foothold making it easier to walk. It is hygienic and hardwearing. It is fully adjustable for comfort protecting the wearer against wet and cold weather; it can be worn as a closed shoe or open sandal and will fit securely to all foot shapes.

The Cellona® Shoe

The Cellona® Shoe

The shoe has revolutionised the wearer’s ability to walk in comfort with the required support in all weathers.

 

Shoe of the Month – City Mules

City Mules

Feet connect us to the world and help us move through the world. Bare feet are seen as humble, but shoes are vehicles for mobility and therefore linked to status. Different forms of footwear across the world are sometimes limited to members of certain classes by law, social taboos and financial cost. Putting one’s best foot forward involves wearing shoes that signify one’s status, class and ambition.

These women’s ‘City Mules’ are made from wood inlaid with mother of pearl with a leather strap. They came from Syria in 1968.

City Mules

City Mules

Amongst the rural nomadic Bedouin tribes, women and children would often not be able to afford shoes, going barefoot or at most owning simple sandals. Only women who considered themselves wealthy enough to be ‘city ladies’ wore shoes. The more women at a Bedouin wedding wearing shoes, the higher the status of the marriage.

Shoe of the Month – Ski Boots

Ski Boots

Ski boots were originally leather winter boots fixed to the ski with simple leather straps. As skiing became more specialized, the design of ski boots developed, leading to a split in styles between those worn for alpine skiing and those for cross country skiing, including the introduction of a stiffer leg with the advent of the ski lift.

Many ski boot brands were established including in 1950 the Austrian company Humanic . They started manufacturing leather boots before introducing buckles in 1965 and plastic components in the early 1970s. They changed their name to Dynafit in the 70s.

Ski Boots

Ski Boots

These boots were purchased in 1975 by the donor’s father when he first learned to ski. The donor took them on when his father moved onto a more modern pair in the late 70s. They were worn until the mid-80s.

 

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?