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Shoes - Left and Right

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165253.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 8:39 am Reply with quote

Further to our discussion last Monday:

Shoes – Left and Right

“As late as 1850 most shoes were made on absolutely straight lasts, there being no difference between the right and the left shoe. Breaking in a new pair of shoes was not easy. There were but two widths to a size; a basic last was used to produce what was known as a "slim" shoe. When it was necessary to make a "fat" or "stout" shoe the shoemaker placed over the cone of the last a pad of leather to create the additional foot room needed.”


I think this would suit next year's possible "Footwear" topic!

165376.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 12:00 pm Reply with quote

I think this is a nice question. The timing of the change seems to be linked to the development of the sewing machine in 1846 by Elias Howe, which prompted the introduction of various machine-based processes in shoe-making.

We should note here that sandals have obviously been made in left-right pairs since antiquity.

Elias Howe looked very like Bill Bailey, BTW, and gave his royalties from the sewing machine to fund the Union Army during the Civil War.

165379.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 12:03 pm Reply with quote

I say it's a nice question, but I'm not sure what the question actually is. Pitch in, everyone.

Here's one for starters:

Why did getting dressed in the dark suddenly get complicated in 1850?

Maybe for the Empire / Victorian spesh.

165417.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 2:19 pm Reply with quote

Just as an FYI, as it's QI though not necessarily connected with shoes - during the American Civil War:

the drill sergeants repeatedly found that among the raw recruits there were men so abysmally untaught that they did not know left from right, and hence could not step off on the left foot as all soldiers should. To teach these lads how to march, the sergeants would tie a wisp of hay to the left foot and a wisp of straw to the right; then, setting the men to march, they would chant, “Hay-foot, straw-foot, hay-foot, straw-foot”—and so on, until everybody had caught on. A common name for a green recruit in those days was “strawfoot.”

On the drill field, when a squad was getting basic training, the men were as likely as not to intone a little rhythmic chant as they tramped across the sod—thus:

March! March.! March old soldier march!
Hayfoot, strawfoot,
Belly-full of bean soup—
March old soldier march!

I have heard this said of British army recruits during the Napoleonic wars, and in fact the poem Wessex Guidebook by Louis MacNeice refers to it when it begins:

Hayfoot, strawfoot, the illiterate seasons
Still wend their way through Somerset and Dorset
While George the Third still rides his horse of chalk
From Weymouth and the new salt water cure
Towards Windsor and incurable madness...

The phrase also crops up in James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with reference to soldiers and the Napoleonic wars.

However, I don't have another source for the British link.

165525.  Fri Apr 13, 2007 2:13 am Reply with quote

It's interesting that you should link shoes with the Civil War Jenny, I once read that the Battle of Gettysburg only happened due to shoes.

The story goes that the confederates were low on footwear, and an advert in a local paper said that Gettysburg had a shoe-sale on. The army decided to head over, accidentally bumping into the Union on the way and causing the most bloody war in American History.

Don't know if it's true, like, I imagine it's not.

165543.  Fri Apr 13, 2007 4:02 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
I say it's a nice question, but I'm not sure what the question actually is. Pitch in, everyone.

How about a picture of Elias Howe followed by the question:

What did this man do which made it rather important to be able to tell your left from your right?

Or maybe have some kind of link to the fact that shoe shops traditionally display only one of a pair of shoes outside their store to prevent theft, since one half of a pair of shoes is not much use to anyone (modulo gangs of one-legged shoe thiefs a la Not The Nine O'Clock News). Presumably, if there were no left or right shoes, such a practise would be more risky as you could just grab two random shoes and, once they'd been worn in, you'd have a pair.

165571.  Fri Apr 13, 2007 4:58 am Reply with quote

I think this is a really fascinating fact, Vitali.

My way into it would simply be a picture of a pair of pre-left/right shoes, and the question:

“Which is which?”

Keep it simple, and let the panel do the work.

165654.  Fri Apr 13, 2007 7:28 am Reply with quote

X-ray machines were used to fit shoes in the US in the 40s & 50s. They were banned in the early 70s, but as late as 1981 they were in use in Madison, W Virginia.

Here is one:


165659.  Fri Apr 13, 2007 7:41 am Reply with quote

They were used in this country, when I was a kid.

165689.  Fri Apr 13, 2007 8:40 am Reply with quote

Yes I remember those too.

167367.  Wed Apr 18, 2007 11:06 am Reply with quote

Another possible question here can be: When and where the promotion "Three shoes for the price of two!" was revelant?
F: In a hospital for amputees
A: anywhere prior to 1850 (where there was no distinction between left and right shoes/boots - see my earlier posting)

167383.  Wed Apr 18, 2007 11:31 am Reply with quote

Why would a soldier need to know the difference between hay and straw?

168167.  Fri Apr 20, 2007 6:55 am Reply with quote

Here's a picture of an elephant shoe, created for sore-footed "Tina" at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

They made a special cast of the elephant's foot, but...

Sadly Tina passed away days before the shoes were completed.


168208.  Fri Apr 20, 2007 8:03 am Reply with quote

Wonderful! Is it left or right, egg?

168210.  Fri Apr 20, 2007 8:07 am Reply with quote

You mean you can't tell?


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