Wishing you a boot-iful time Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is home to one of the largest collections of shoes and shoe heritage in the world. The collection’s strength lies in its very broad range, from Ancient Egypt to the latest fashions, from workwear to high-end designer creations and from Northamptonshire-made shoes to footwear from around the world. But we don’t just collect shoes. The scope of the collection covers accessories including buckles and laces, shoehorns, shoe trees, spats and polish, shoemaking tools and machines, catalogues, trade journals and photographs and paintings and prints depicting shoes and shoemaking. This postcard shows a well-worn pair of boots which are not the most Christmassy of images, but perhaps because they are very well worn, they symbolise the wearer’s very essence, strength and luck, attributes that can be positively passed to others. So, the sender of this postcard is sending the recipient lots of luck, hope and strength for the future. Unfortunately, the card was never written on so sadly we don’t know who it was for.
Back to School!
September heralds the start of the new school year and a new pair of school shoes.
Clarks have been well known for their children’s shoes for years. Even today Clarks are a reliable place to go and get your child’s feet measured and come home with a ‘proper’ pair of shoes.
Clarks began advertising children’s shoes back in the 1930s. This was quickly followed by them introducing a choice of width fittings for their children’s shoe range and the first ever Clarks foot gauge – two innovations which became a benchmark in the care of growing feet.
This pair are a classic Velcro bar strap from 2003. Called Tittle Tattle some styles never change that much at all.
Animals Wear Shoes Too
This year is the 50th Anniversary of the book All Creatures Great and Small. First published in 1970 James Herriot’s enchanting memoirs were based on his veterinary practice in a small Yorkshire town. They became so popular they were turned into a TV series.
We have a small collection of animal shoes including boots for horses and dogs, a cow shoe and an elephant boot. They were all worn to protect the animals in different situations.
This is a rubber Wellington for a sheep. It was made by Dunlop in 1946. Sheep sometimes wore wellington boots to stop them getting diseases which could be caught from wet pastureland.
A sandal is a style that has a sole with straps, thongs or a toe knob to hold it on the foot. They are recognised as the earliest form of footwear. Early examples were relatively simple creations made from the natural materials available. Recycling materials is a great way of producing hardwearing and cheap shoes. Recycling discarded rubber tyres is common in many countries including India and Ethiopia. As has been often said ‘old truck tyres never die, they just get turned into sandals.’
This pair of rubber toe thong style sandals consist of straps and a toe loop to help keep them on the foot. The tyre tread is still visable on the sole. They were purchased in 1992 from a roadside stall in Nirona, Gujarat, India for 7 rupees.
Anyone for Tennis?
Although Wimbledon is cancelled this year, we can take a nostalgic walk down memory lane with this pair of Dunlop Green Flash trainers. Today Dunlop are famous for making tyres but had been making rubber soled shoes for sport from the 1870s. From the 1930s they were making tennis shoes. British World No. 1 tennis player Fred Perry wore Dunlop tennis shoes and won the Wimbledon men’s title three times in succession between 1934 and 1936. The next British player to win Wimbledon was Andy Murray in 2013. This pair are from the 1970s.
Seventy-five years ago, on 8 May 1945 Britain celebrated Victory in Europe
As they had done during World War One, Northamptonshire’s shoe factories during the Second World War were dedicated to manufacturing military footwear on a grand scale and for a wide range of military situations.
The war was not just fought on land and at sea, but also in arctic and tropical conditions, beneath the sea and in the desert. Women were also conscripted into roles that included non-combative jobs in the military. From 1941, Northamptonshire factories made shoes and boots for the WRENS (Women’s Royal Naval Service) and ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service),
Princess Elizabeth joined the ATS in February 1945 at the age of nineteen and reached the rank of junior commander. Northampton Museum has a replica of the brown leather lace-up shoes made for her as a 2nd subaltern in the ATS by Dawn Shoes, Northampton
We have lots of hand painted or hand sketched shoe designs in the shoe collection.
Inspiration for shoe designs can come from anywhere. Shoe designers can combine inspiring influences with creativity, skills, passion, knowledge and sometimes improvisation to create their shoes. Designers can have very different approaches to the design process.
These designs are by Eunice Wilson a British shoe designer in the 1950s to 1970s who designed for companies such as such as Lotus Ltd., Dolcis, and C.J. Clark. She was also a consultant and fashion forecaster to shoe companies in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand
The nineteenth century fashion for boots particularly for outdoor wear meant etiquette required a change of shoe once indoors. For both men and women, the indoor slipper became popular.
For men the basic style was a tabbed fronted slip on shoe often worked in a Berlin wool design, tapestry or kelim tapestry weave. This style eventually became known as the Albert slipper, in which the vamp extended upwards to form a tongue resting on the foots instep. The style has remained a classic. Today the Albert slipper is usually made from black velvet with a quilted lining and leather sole.
These slippers sport a wool cross stitch design of stars and circles and are dated 1870-90s.
Emma Hope designed this mule. Made of red velvet, the front section of the shoe, known as the vamp, is decorated with a gold thread diamond design with glass beads. An applique design in gold and cream leather of two cupids is either side of a large gold heart. The embroidery was by Karen Spurgin, 1987-94.
Emma Hope’s tagline is ‘Regalia for Feet’ and anyone celebrating Valentine’s day would surely have a great time in such a romantic design.
Happy Chinese New Year
Among some Chinese people particularly in Southern China it is believed that children wearing shoes and hats with faces on them can hold evil spirits at bay. These fierce faces fool the spirits into thinking that that the child is a powerful tiger or dragon and so cannot be harmed. The faces not only repel evil spirits, but also provide the wearer with greater strength and protection.
These shoes were brought back from China in 2012. They were collected by two third year Footwear Department bursary students Natalie and Jessica from the University of Northampton. Their travel bursary came from The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers.