The Sensible Shoe

Leather Soft-Soled Moccasins with Porcupine Quill and Red Cloth Decoration, Eastern Woodlands, c. 1900. One-piece construction with single seam up the center of the foot and single seam at the back of the heel. PM 41-72-10/24400.1
Yellow-Painted Leather and Rawhide Hard-Sole Moccasins, Plains, Cheyenne or Sioux, n.d. Two-piece construction: rawhide soles and a one-piece leather upper with a tongue and a tie at the ankle. Blue, red, and white beads and green fringe. PM61-1-10/38986
Hide, Fur, and Twine “sandals”, Oak Creek Utah, Undated. Elk skin from the fore and hind legs with dewclaws positioned under the foot. Stuffed with fiber and leaves for warmth. PM 29-5-10/A6766.1
Leather and Rawhide Beaded Hard-Soled Moccasins, Plains, Undated. Three-piece construction: rawhide soles and a one-piece leather upper with a separate tongue; secured by a tie at the ankle collar. PM 61-1-10/38990
Dyed Leather Hard-Soled Moccasins, Montana, c. 1895. Three-piece construction: rawhide sole, yellow-dyed-leather upper, and separate tongue. Upper decorated with glass-bead floral design on the upper and red-cloth ankle trim. PM 65-35-10/44066
Leather Soft-Soled Moccasins with Embroidered Decoration, Northeastern Canada, c. 1892. Traditional three-piece construction: bottom piece wraps around the foot and gathered into a front vamp; a separate ankle collar with cloth trim. PM 94-38-10/87057
Mukluks, Alaska, c. 1933. Fur shoe with rawhide soles,red leather welt, and leather upper with glass-bead quatrefoil decoration in the front and fur trim around the ankle; fur lined. PM 969-2-10/48891
Leather and Rawhide Hard-Soled Moccasins with Porcupine Quill Decoration, Sioux, c. 1880. Three-piece construction: rawhide soles and a one-piece leather upper with a separate tongue. PM 985-27-10/60128
Leather and Rawhide Hard-Soled Moccasins, Navaho, 1922. Two-piece construction: a molded rawhide sole stitched to a one-piece leather upper, extending above the ankle with flaps over the front. PM 985-27-10/59084
High, Buttoned Boots, Plains, Undated. Lady’s leather-beaded boots with floral beaded design, ankle tie, and button enclosures up the outer leg. PM 61-1-10/38991
Wooden Shoe with Painted Floral Design, Spain, c. 1886. Black-lacquered wooden dress shoe with painted floral design on front. PM 86-50-40/55194
Sabots, France, Undated. Unadorned everyday wooden shoes. PM 18-8-40/E2513
Greenland Eskimo Ladies’ Shoes, Greenland, c. 1915. Seal skin shoes with appliquéd red leather trim around the ankle and multi-colored appliquéd quatrefoils decorating the vamp. PM 15-36-10/86649
Formed Cornhusk Moccasins, Iroquois, Late 20th Century. Basketry shoes with paper insoles. PM 995-29-10/73187
Leather and Rawhide Hard-Soled, Beaded “Parade” Moccasins, Plains, possibly Sioux, c. 1914. Three-piece construction: rawhide soles and a one-piece leather upper with a separate tongue. Used for special occasions. PM 38-44-10/12855.1
Leather Soft-Soled Moccasins with Buckles, Probably Huron, Quebec, Canada, Undated. Traditional construction with European styling. Bottom piece wraps around the bottom of the foot and is gathered into an upper vamp. PM 14-10-10/85615
Sabot with Metal Buckle, France, c. 1899. Black-lacquered wooden dress sabots with buckle strap lined with black velvet. PM 99-12-40/53837
Baby’s Beaded Hard-Soled Moccasins, Central Plains, c. Early 20th Century. Highly decorated baby shoes with red, yellow, green, and blue glass beading on the soles; white with red and green beading on the uppers. PM 33-77-10/1769
Child’s Leather Soft-Soled Moccasins, Plains, c. 1900. Traditional three-piece construction: lower piece wraps around the bottom of the foot and gathered into a vamp; separate ankle collar with red cloth trim and tie. PM 39-36-10/18416

Built for comfort and protection and unisex in style: these are the characteristics of the sensible shoe. The sensible shoe has also been persistent, remaining in use with little change to design even as new designs have developed and fashions have come and gone.

The moccasin, the brogue, the Scottish gillie, and wooden shoes are examples of the original sensible shoe. Best represented in the Peabody collections is the moccasin. Most Native American footwear is commonly referred to as moccasins, from the Algonkian mahksun or makizin. They are of two types: soft-soled and hard-soled. Soft-soled moccasins foundwere and are found mainly but not exclusively in the East. Their upper and lower pieces are made of the same or similar materials; often they were constructed from a single piece of hide. They were also straights; that is, right and left were interchangeable.

Hard-soled moccasins are always constructed of at least two pieces, and the lower piece (the sole) is of a stronger, stiffer, or thicker material than the upper. Each shoe is fitted for the left or right foot. It is not known when hard-soled moccasins developed in North America, but they were rare before 1875. A type of soft-soled moccasin-style shoe was common in many societies at least as early as the Middle Ages. The two-piece hard-soled shoe developed in Europe around 1500. Left- and right-foot-specific shoes had appeared sporadically throughout history in various cultures, but remained rare until the mid-1800s.

Wooden shoes, clogs, klompen, or sabots-associated mainly with the Dutch today-were commonly worn among the peasant classes of northern Europe from the fourteenth century onward; when they first came into use is unknown. Carved from a single block of wood, they were durable, inexpensive, and warm-warmer when stuffed with hay-and offered protection from mud, rain and animal hooves.