No one quite knows the first time shoelaces were used to secure shoes. In fact, most reports indicate that shoelaces are as old as shoes themselves. Archaeologists believe that ancient peoples used shoelaces for the same reasons we currently use them, experimenting with materials to influence comfort, fit and even style.
They think that about 5,000 years ago, during the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age periods, cavemen and women also used specific shoelace designs to distinguish between tribes.
Most importantly, shoelaces kept early man’s shoes tight and fitted, accommodating their need to travel long distances for food, water and shelter without causing severe damage to their feet. Could you imagine embarking on long hunts across overgrown land with only your bare feet? It makes me sore just thinking about it.
Throughout history, shoes and shoelaces evolved as man evolved, changing with our environments, fashion trends and professional and recreational needs. In order to understand the evolution of shoelaces, we must take a journey through the incredible timeline of shoes, starting with the oldest leather shoe in history: the Areni-1 shoe.
The world looked like a very different place 5,500 years ago. Thousands of years before industrialization, Earth was overgrown, belonging to nature and shared by early man. Believe it or not, the oldest leather shoe found by archaeologists existed during this time period.
Shocking to archaeologists, the old, moccasin-like shoe looked eerily similar to the modern shoe. It was made from a single piece of cowhide and included a leather cord lacing system on both the front and back seams of the shoes.
These early, fitted shoes were especially necessary for nomadic tribes, as shoes allowed them to travel faster with safety. Maybe cavemen were a bit smarter than we give them credit for!
Before the recent discovery of the 5,500-year-old shoe in Armenia, it was believed that the first closed-toe shoes were found on a frozen caveman. Scientists named the 3300-BCE iceman Ötzi, marveling at one thing in particular: his shoes and laces.
Unlike modern-day humans, these cavemen were forced to hunt for all resources, including the hide from which they formed some of the first shoes known to man. Ötzi’s shoes appeared to be more complex than the shoes found on the 5,500-year-old Armenian, comprised of both brown bearskin and deerskin. Instead of leather, Ötzi was discovered wearing shoelaces made from a hemp-and-rope net that lined the top and inside of the shoe.
Image Source: Current Archaeology
As early as 2000 BC, Greeks and Romans made shoes comprised of leather pieces bound to the foot and ankle with leather laces. These moccasin-like, open-toed sandals were known as the carbatine, derived from the word karbatinos, meaning “made of rawhide.”
Unlike modern-day sandals, the carbatine were meant to fit either the right or the left foot. Don’t you wish you never had to worry about putting your shoe on the wrong foot? Sounds like a time-saver to us!
Fast-forward to the 16th century and shoes start looking even more similar to our modern boots. Brogues were first seen in Ireland and Scotland during the 1500s, popular among men looking for a solution to slow-draining shoes when wading out of wet, muddy bogs. The shoes were able to drain and dry quicker because of the characteristic perforations decorating the sides of the boots.
Instead of laces, most early brogues were fastened over the top of the foot with a perforated strip of leather and a buckle. Brogan shoes with which we are familiar today evolved from these brogues.
During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, brogan-style shoes were popular among soldiers at war because of foot and ankle support. They had modern lacing systems made of leather threaded through holes in the top strip of the shoe.
By World War I, soldiers increased the functionality of the shoe, adding hobnails to the soles to increase grip, traction and durability of the shoe. This helped soldiers maintain balance during important battles on slippery snow, rocks and uneven ground.
While Ötzi the Iceman and the Areni-1 shoe provide evidence that shoestrings have been around for thousands of years, Englishman Harvey Kennedy officially patented the shoestring in March 1790.
Kennedy was not the first to invent shoelaces; however, his version of the shoestring included the aglet, a metal or plastic sheath that protects the ends of the laces. The aglet prevents the shoestrings from unravelling, making the process of threading the laces through the eyelets much easier. Needless to say, shoelaces with aglets were a hit.
Like brogues that used buckles rather than laces, other types of no-tie shoes began gaining popularity in the mid-20th century. In 1968, Puma became the first major shoe company to sell sneakers with Velcro-fastening systems. Surprisingly, the new style caught on rather quickly, reaching a peak in 1980s among parents of young children looking for faster alternatives to traditional tying laces.
However, at the turn of the 21st century, the style lost popularity because of its bulky, outdated appearance. Adults and children alike did not want to limit their styles to the plain selection of Velcro-fastening shoes. Instead of a no-tie shoes, people wanted no-tie laces that could be installed in any shoe with eyelets.
As a result, Lock Laces® were born. Lock Laces® simply remove shoe-tying from your life entirely. All you have to do is replace your old laces with our elastic no-tie laces. They tighten and loosen with an easy-to-slide lock, keeping your shoe perfectly fitted for the entire day. This innovative idea changed the concept of shoelaces forever.
Shoes and shoelaces have come a long way in the past 5,500 years, evolving alongside man and woman and influenced by environment, culture and necessity. If you’re interested in learning more about how no-tie laces can benefit your lifestyle, check out our articles on the benefits of Lock Laces®.
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