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Barleycorn measurement for shoe sizes

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brittonc
501223.  Tue Feb 10, 2009 12:17 pm Reply with quote

On a recent episode of QI it was mentioned that shoe sizes are measured in barleycorns (1/3"). This was for adult shoe sizes but what are childrens shoes sizes measured in and why does it stop at 13 and then go back to 1 for adult sizes?

 
misterchris
501247.  Tue Feb 10, 2009 12:55 pm Reply with quote

I found the following which suggests that children's shoe sizes were measured in barleycorns.

Quote:
Britain's King Edward I decreed that for a standard of accuracy in certain trades, an inch be taken as the length of three contiguous dried barleycorns. British cobblers adopted the measure and began manufacturing the first footwear in standard sizes. A child's shoe measuring thirteen barleycorns became commonly known as and requested by, size 13. And though shoes cut for the right and left foot had gone out of existence after the fall of the Roman Empire, they reemerged in 14th century England.

 
suze
501394.  Tue Feb 10, 2009 5:23 pm Reply with quote

First of all, a caveat - the following applies only to the British system of shoe sizes. North America, Europe, and Australia all have their own systems.

In Britain, a child's shoe measuring one hand (4 inches, 12 barleycorns) is size 0. The sizes then progress in barleycorns (so 4 1/3 inches is size 1, 4 2/3 inches size 2, and so on) up to size 13.

That means that a shoe measuring 8 1/3 inches is child size 13. A shoe one barleycorn larger is adult size 1, and again the sizes then progress in barleycorns.

Why the sizes start over after 13 is not known. Some sources suggest that's it's simply because when Edward I's cobbler devised the system, he had only thirteen actual barleycorns at his disposal. Accordingly, once he reached 13 he scored a line on the last, picked up his barleycorns, and started over. No, I don't really believe it either, but it seems to be as good an explanation as we have.


Briefly on the other systems. The North American system uses the same size increment of the barleycorn, but size 0 is called size 1 and hence all sizes are one larger. Furthermore, that scale only applies to men's shoes; for no apparent reason, a woman's shoe is measured in the same way and 1 is then added. Accordingly, I wear a size 6 shoe in Britain (usually), which for a woman is called 8 in North America.

Australian shoe sizes use metric barleycorns - three barleycorns to the centimeter - and then add on 2 for a woman's shoe.

European shoe sizes are based on the "Paris point"; a Paris point is two metric barleycorns. As in the British system, the same length of shoe is called the same size whether for a man or a woman.

 
brittonc
501413.  Tue Feb 10, 2009 6:05 pm Reply with quote

Thanks for the info. Now I understand the difference in childrens shoe sizes which is what I was unsure about. Quite Interesting really! :~)

 
bobwilson
501416.  Tue Feb 10, 2009 6:08 pm Reply with quote

metric barleycorns? whatever next

 
Moosh
501417.  Tue Feb 10, 2009 6:11 pm Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
metric barleycorns? whatever next


A tax on sneezing. It's just around the corner.

 
bobwilson
501509.  Tue Feb 10, 2009 9:30 pm Reply with quote

metric inches?

 
dr.bob
501713.  Wed Feb 11, 2009 6:10 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
for no apparent reason, a woman's shoe is measured in the same way and 1 is then added.
[...]
Australian shoe sizes use metric barleycorns and then add on 2 for a woman's shoe.


How very odd. Does anyone know why the colonies have this strange compulsion to pretend that their womenfolk have enormous feet?

 
Peregrine Arkwright
501757.  Wed Feb 11, 2009 7:40 am Reply with quote

.

But why do women's clothes sizes only have even numbers? Are there no odd women about?

PA

 
Jenny
501952.  Wed Feb 11, 2009 11:00 am Reply with quote

It's OK Peregrine - practically every manufacturer has a different way of interpreting sizes, so you can be the same woman and wear three different sizes from three different manufacturers, so there's something around for all us odd women.

There is also, of course, the phenomenon of size creep.

 
suze
502005.  Wed Feb 11, 2009 12:21 pm Reply with quote

Given the way that shoe sizes are calculated, you'd think that any shoe claiming to be (say) British size 6 would be the same size as any other.

But no, and I don't know why not. When I need to buy shoes, I'm usually a 6 but sometimes a 5.

In North America, where half sizes are not available in all ranges by any means, but rather more often than in Britain, it's always been 8 or 8 though - I can't remember ever needing 7.


Shoe sizes don't vary quite as much as bra sizes seem to, but getting that way.

 
Alfred E Neuman
503046.  Fri Feb 13, 2009 2:56 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
First of all, a caveat - the following applies only to the British system of shoe sizes. North America, Europe, and Australia all have their own systems.


Which is a bit of a bugger when you live somewhere where shoes can be imported from any of the above listed areas, or made locally. So you try before you buy.

 
themoog
503057.  Fri Feb 13, 2009 4:39 am Reply with quote

Peregrine Arkwright wrote:
.

But why do women's clothes sizes only have even numbers? Are there no odd women about?

PA


There was an article on the radio yesterday about the (more widespread) introduction of odd sizes but I can't find anything specific in a quick search.

 
Sebastian flyte
503127.  Fri Feb 13, 2009 6:40 am Reply with quote

Yes there are odd sized ladies jeans at George at asda.

 
MichalSchams
731957.  Fri Aug 06, 2010 2:10 pm Reply with quote

Odd sized clothes are stupid. I accidently bought some odd sized jeans without knowing. How many people out there have odd sized legs? lol

 

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