The History of Leather Part 2 – Stone Age footwear

Posted on 11/07/14

Mans first footwear forays (3486 BC)

So, about that previous article… It might have been a little premature to poo-poo the notion of Stone Age man pulling together a tentative shoe…

In 2008 an immaculately-preserved shoe was recovered from the Areni-1 cave complex in the Vayots Dzor province of Armenia. Thanks to the cave’s cool, dry conditions, well, that and a generous layer of sheep dung, the shoe was found in near-perfect condition.

Its design wouldn’t set the world on fire, of course, but it is a pitch perfect example of minimalism and simplicity. It’s the iPhone of shoes.

Sort of.

Not really.

The shoe’s one-piece leather-hide design isn’t something we see replicated today, at least not by highstreet stores and mainstream fashion designers. That said, there are still some craftsmen making shoes from single pieces of cowhide. They’re only doing so for a premium price, mind you, but the ‘whole cut’ leather shoe option is available.

You’d think that the lovingly-named ‘Areni-1 shoe’was a functional, utilitarian affair – protecting the foot and nothing else. That might not be the case, actually. Designer Manolo Blahnik said that he was “in no doubt that a certain appearance of a shoe meant belonging to a particular tribe”. As such, the shoe’s appearance, along with the rest of its wearer’s outfit, might have identified the wearer as being from a specific tribe.

Archaeologists and shoe historians, yes that’s right, shoe historians, have even speculated that the Areni-1 might have been one of the very first mass-produced shoes. At the very least, the Areni-1 might have been an early precursor of the North American moccasin, which we’ll come to further down the line.

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