Arts & Culture

Snazzy Shoes

It’s almost mud season, and that means lots of rain and warmer weather. It also brings the time to bring out your best water-proof rain boots. Most people own at least one pair of shoes that fit them for each activity or climate. When they go out on a sunny day, they might wear flip flops, or if it’s cold outside, snow boots might be the better option. If someone’s taking a ballet class, they will likely grab their point shoes and not their soccer cleats. But although the variety of shoes we have today is vast, all our foot coverings really have only one ancestor—the sandal.

The sandal is one of the oldest surviving footwear options from the past. Archaeological evidence shows that about ten thousand years ago, natives of the state of Oregon wore simple rope bound sandals. When studying the feet bones of ancient skeletons, viewers can find a marked difference between those peoples who wore shoes and those who walked barefoot; the later had comparably thicker and larger bones in their feet. Sandals sprung up in other cultures as well—Japanese created a wood-soled sandal meant to be worn with socks, natives in India made some from buffalo hide, and the Romans started the gladiator sandal trend that is still going today.

Next were the moccasins, loosely tailored slippers that were characteristic of the North American natives. They were designed perfectly for the climate in which the native people lived. The easily sewed shoe consisted of one to three pieces of raw-hide meant to protect the wearer’s feet from the elements. Some moccasins were less hardy, called soft-soled moccasins, and constructed using only one piece of leather. According to NativeTech’s overview of moccasins, “the most basic form of soft-sole moccasin was the simple center seam made from a single piece of tanned leather. The leather sides were brought up from the bottom and around the sides of the foot sewn in a central seam starting with a puckered stick at the toe and running along the upper instep.”

From the simple moccasin, the wood-soled shoe evolved. But footwear like the Klompen, wood clogs from Holland, were very hard on the feet. Nevertheless, they came back into fashion during the 1970s. By the baroque era, the heel had come into style. Still a trend today, the wearing of heels is still a popular way to dress up an outfit or add something fun to a casual get-up. By the seventeen hundreds, buckles made of metal replaced the laces used for holding shoes together. This made shoes much more convenient for slipping on and off.

As stated in Shoes: A History from Sandals to Sneakers, “footwear is more than a simple wrapping or protection of the foot…shoes indicate a great deal about a person’s taste and identity.” Buying new shoes can be hard. Not all stores will carry everyone’s favorite or preferred brand or style. So what does one do when their favorite pair of sneakers gets wrinkled, stained, or torn? If a pair of sneakers just needs a face lift, here are some easy tips.

Painting and embroidering are fun ways to spruce up some ratty sneakers. Just remember to cover any areas you don’t want to get painted in painter’s tape. When you peel the tape off, it will give you clean, crisp lines. If embroidering is more up your ally, make sure to tie off your sewing very tightly so the stitching doesn’t unravel. In order to keep the stitching from unraveling to a minimum, iron on some fusible fleece to the inside of the shoe, covering all areas with embroidery ends.

Adding patches or scrap fabric to the outside of your shoe can give a very interesting quilted affect, but you may need to use fabric glue instead of sewing on patches into the thick material sneakers are made of.

Another fun idea would be to write your favorite Bible verses around the white rim of your sneaker or even your favorite book or movie quote.

If you just want to make your shoes a little more interesting, try changing your laces out for contrasting colors. Doing some hand-stitching in a neon color can give a striking affect as well. The ideal spots for hand-stitched accents are around the top hem of the shoe or grommet ventilation holes (most converses have these). Have fun spicing up your old sneakers!









Photo credits:



Bronwyn Dix


  1. Your shoe history is enlightening, and thanks for the shoe ideas! Great article Bronwyn!

  2. Wow! This is so interesting! Good job!! Can’t wait to read more of your writing!!

  3. This is great, really appreciate the new ideas!! Thank you!! [:

  4. Wow, the history of shoes! Really interesting article!

  5. Thank you guys!