You never know when you’ll need a top-notch “shoe fact”. So just in case you’re asked, here are 31 of our favourite facts about shoes.
1. It takes over 100 separate processes to fashion a single shoe.
2. Humans invented the first decent shoes somewhere between 40,000 and 26,000 years ago, and according to anthropologist, Erik Trinkaus, our toes have slowly become shorter and weaker.
3. The oldest pictures of shoes ever discovered are 15,000 year old cave paintings found in Spain.
4. Crepe rubber is the best way to rub stains from suede shoes – though failing that, a normal pencil eraser will do.
5. The best way to stop spills staining your suede shoes is to powder the area with talc or corn flower to soak up the moisture, then after drying overnight, give the shoes a brush.
6. Treat your suede shoes to a quick blast of steam from an iron to help plump up the nap.
7. The army really do use spit to polish their shoes, though a handy saucer of water in which to dip your polishing rag works just as well.
8. Goodyear welting is a method of shoe manufacture invented by Charles Goodyear in 1869, which enables shoes to be resoled many times over. A Goodyear welt is a strip of leather, rubber or plastic that’s stitched through the sole using a special machine. As soon as the sole shows signs of wear, goes soft or a hole forms, you can simply get your shoes repaired rather than giving them the boot.
9. The UK shoe sizing system was invented in the 1300s when King Edward II decreed that feet should be measured in barleycorns, of which there are three to the inch.
10. Penny loafers get their name from American university students who, from the mid-1930s onwards, developed the habit of pushing pennies into the slot at the front of the shoe, in case they needed to make a phone call.
11. Tasseled loafers were originally a bespoke order placed by Paul Lukas, the star of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Tender is the Night (1962).
12. The best time to apply shoe polish is just after you’ve taken them off – the heat from your feet helps the oils in the polish penetrate the leather.
13. Renovating a pair of old shoes? Give them a good wash using saddle soap to remove dirt and old polish, as-well-as help moisturise the leather.
14. Plains Indians wore hard sole moccasins, but forest-dwelling East coast Indians preferred a soft sole.
15. Brogues were originally the footwear of Ghillies, Scottish gamekeepers; the holes were to let the water drain out freely.
16. In 1935 Paul Sperry of New Haven Connecticut noticed his dog’s ability to run over the ice without slipping. Copying the tread of his dogs paws, he cut tiny slits into his shoes’ rubber soles – this was the tread for which the boat shoe is famous.
17. Online retailer Spartoo.co.uk surveyed 2,000 adults to discover that men now buy more shoes than women, and spend more on them.
18. Oxfords were originally a side laced boot made popular by students at Oxford university.
19. The Desert boot is a relic of the second world war. Nathan Clark (of Clark’s shoes) got the idea from the shoes the British 8th army commissioned from cobblers in the Cairo Bazaar.
20. The first left- and right-footed shoes were made in Philadelphia in the early 19th century.
21. Pope Benedict XVI is famous for being the first pope to “retire”, but he also brought back the papal red slipper. His were hand-made by Adriano Stefanelli of Novara.
22. The Beatles used to get their Chelsea boots from Anello & Davide of Covent Garden.
23. In biblical times, handing over one of your sandals was considered a good way to seal a deal, especially a marriage when the father of the bride gave the groom one of his daughter’s shoes.
24. In Hungary, the groom drinks a toast from his wife’s slipper.
25. In the UK, it’s unlucky to place shoes on a table because in northern mining towns, when a coal miner was killed in an accident, his shoes were put on a table as a mark of respect.
26. The largest pair of shoes in the world measure 5.29 m x 2.37m x 1.83m and are the proud possession of the city of Marikina in the Philippines.
27. Dutch wooden clogs, called klompens were a better bet than leather footwear for the denizens of the low countries because they didn’t rot so fast after walking on the boggy ground.
28. Henry VIII decreed that mens shoes should be 6 inches wide – presumably so he’d be less embarrassed by the sight of his own gout-swollen trotters.
29. The original moonwalker, Neil Armstrong’s boots are still floating around in space having been jettisoned in case they contaminated planet earth.
30. In China, it’s traditional to bring good luck to a marriage by chucking one of the bride’s red shoes from the roof.
31. Our favourite shoe quote comes courtesy of Jack Handley: “Before you criticise someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes… That way when you criticise them, you’re a mile away from them and you have their shoes.”
What’s your favourite shoe fact? We’d love to know – please leave your comments and facts below.