Friday, May 29, 2009

Boots of the early Middle Ages





By the Middle Ages, boots were a type of slipper generally fur lined and worn to keep the feet warm by the higher clergy. From the late 12-14th century a popular lightweight short boot from France was the estivaux and another more tightly fitting boot was the stivali. The estivaux boots worn in England were worn high and wide on the leg. This forced the wearer to adapt a bow legged gait and had the added disadvantage of allowing rain to pour into the leggings. The stivali was worn tighter on the leg. The name stivali still survives in the German, ‘steifel’ and the Italian, ‘stivale.’ Boots were available in different colours but black was the most popular although red was also popular.



By the 14th century armed boots were reinforced with steel rods and chain mail. The military style was copied in leather boots and became popular with courtiers in the 14th and 15th centuries. These were worn by both men and women. At one time it was considered very fashionable to wear only one boot. According to Ribeiro & Cumming (1989), boots circa 1340 were laced across the top of the foot. Alternatively ankle length boots were elaborately punched with small cruciform holes. Fashions for ankle length long pointed boots lasted until the end of the 1400s and by 1460 seemed hose was worn with boots. Ankle length boots were sometimes protected with pattens and 1492 stylish men wore boots and shoes with rounded toes.



The brodequin was a light boot which had evolved from the cothurna and caliga. Until the 16th century, brodequins were light shoes worn inside boots and houseaux. The term also described an instep strap or stocking which young men wore inside their boots. Only in the 18th century was the brodequin found as a sort of a boot. Brodequins became fashionable footwear for ladies in the 19th century and were worn with fine linen or silk stockings. Brodequins were worn by dancers at the grand ball. The name was also given to a short army boot. Liturgical brodequins were richly ornamented silk or velvet stockings used for the consecration of bishops or the coronation of monarchs.

References Ribeiro A & Cumming V 1989 The visual history of costume London: BT Batsford Ltd.

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