Sandals have been a popular variety of summertime footwear for nearly as long as humans have worn shoes. This article will take you on an adventure showing you the evolution of sandals in history
The origin of the sandal extends well past the Birkenstocks and plastic flip-flops we know today into the spans of pre-history. Although there is a lack of archeological evidence to support when sandals first appeared, the oldest pair of sandals in existence dates back to the Neolithic Age, some 10,000 years ago. These ancient sandals were made from woven plant fibers and the rough bark of trees with fur or pine needles add for comfort. However, it wasn't for thousands of years before they started crafting these foot coverings from animal skins.
Egyptian hieroglyphs provide some of the oldest images of sandals, even going so far as to show how they were made. During Egyptian times, the sandal began to take more of the form we know it as today, with a harder outsole and softer insole. This is especially fitting as only the highest in Egyptian society wore sandals; many even had servants whose particular job it was to carry the sandals of their masters for them while they went about their business. While pharaohs had luxurious sandals of fur, animal hides and waxed threads, it became common place for Egyptian priests to wear sandals made of papyrus.
The ancient Greeks were the first to adopt fashionable footwear, having a shoe for every occasion. It is from this civilization where sandals got their name from the ancient Greek word sandalon, meaning "wooden shoe". Sandals were favoured by women for their ornate decoration while men preferred baxeae that were made from willow leaves and other fibers. Sandals, on the other hand, were made from solid wood or animal hides. It soon became common practice for ancient Greek women, especially those of ill repute to have hob nails or carvings on the bottom of their sandals that bore the words like "follow me."
After the Romans conquered Greece in 146 BC, Greek styles of clothing continued to influence Roman culture, including the sandal. The Romans made their own unique modifications to the sandal, stiffening them with tacks to make for a more robust piece of footwear for the armies of their ever-growing empire. While foot soldiers marched in sturdy cleat-like sandals, the free citizens of Rome still chose the softer animal hide sandals, dying them different colours to help distinguish social rank. During the ostentatious days of the late Roman Empire, sandals were even decorated with gold and precious jewels as a way to show off wealth. This was particularly effective as sandals were both easily dirtied and lost, showing that if that happened, they could afford to get another pair.
It is believed that the sandal made its way to India along the Spice and Silk routes that made their way through the country. However, the footwear took hold of the country in a big way. Everyone wore sandals, from beggars to holy men. While most wore sandals of woven straw, gurus wore the paduka, a wooden sandal with just a wooden knob between the first and second toe made from fragrant wood like teak or sandalwood.
Although the sandal originated elsewhere, Asian countries such as China, Korea and Japan are credited for their spread throughout the world. Throughout Asia it was customary for the lower class to wear sandals while the upper class toyed with foreign close toed shoe styles. The sandals of the lower class were almost exclusively woven with rice straw, a material found in abundance. In the 17th century, Japan adopted the geta, a wooden sandal that sat on stilts to elevate the feet from the damp ground.
Spain and South America
In Spain, Portugal and the south of France, espadrilles made from the esparto grass were the sandals of choice. They were confined to the region up until the 15th century when Spanish Conquistadors brought them on their conquests of South America. From there, the espadrilles were incorporated with local materials and native craftsmen to create new incarnations like the Havaiana in Brazil or the Huaraches in Columbia and Mexico. It was later after the invention of vulcanized rubber by Charles Goodyear that the first rubber soled sandals began to appear in South America.
20th Century Revival
During the 18th and 19th centuries, sandals fell out of fashion for the upper class as closed toe shoes became the fashion of the day. However, in the early 20th century, they made a remarkable comeback through, of all things, the new biblical epics that ensnared millions in the silent cinemas. As the costume creators for these movies had no actual historic examples, the sandals were based on Victoria era theatre designs. Although inaccurate, actresses loved them so much they wore the sandals off set and their fans wanted to be seen in the same trendy sandals. By the dawn of the Talkies, the sandal had transformed into a heeled model that had become synonymous with pin up girls, further fanning the flame of this age old footwear's comeback.
Post World War II
During World War II in the United States, leather shortages made sandals a popular children's footwear as they could be made from scraps used to produce boots for the soldiers fighting abroad. However, after American soldiers came home from abroad, their souvenirs of Japanese zori saw the sandal takeoff as popular leisure and beach time shoe. By the 1950's new molding techniques for rubber and plastic from Taiwan allowed sandals all around the world to be made cheaply and in bulk, bringing about the sandal we all know and love today. By the 1960's the suitcase of every family travelling to the Mediterranean, the beaches of the Caribbean or other warm climates contained a pair of affordable sandals.
The sandal has been a staple on the feet of humans since the very beginnings of our history. They have not only been the longest lasting style of footwear, but they have also been the most constantly evolving. Keen's new UNEEK open air footwear brings about the next evolution of the sandal. The design of the Keen UNEEK allows unique individuals to have everything humanity has loved about the sandal without everything they hate. The design allows for easy slip on with all the breathability of a sandal while still providing the protection, comfort and outsole grip of a closed toe shoe.
This article sponsored by Keen Uneek Footwear.
There’s unique, and then there’s UNEEK - the new sandal from KEEN. Using innovative two cord construction, KEEN UNEEK molds to your feet for the perfect fit. The two cords and a simple, free-moving cord junction design allow the upper to move and adapt to the shape of foot. This construction provides freedom of movement while providing security and structure. The lightweight PU midsole delivers durability and comfort while the high traction rubber outsole with razor siping ensures secure footing. Now that’s UNEEK. Two cords and a sole.
For more information visit http://www.keenfootwear.com/en-ca/uneek
Connect with Keen on Twitter : @KeenCanada