Τhe history of Slippers
Τhe history of Slippers
Slippers or mule-type footwear are among the oldest shoes known to have been worn in prehistoric times. The name is thought to be derived from Middle English,'sliper' or'slipor' (Old English) meaning "slip-shoe" and broadly refers to any low-cut, lightweight shoe into which the foot can be slipped.
The oldest shoes ever discovered were discovered in Fort Rock Cave, Oregon (1938). These woven sagebrush bark baskets have been radiocarbon dated to at least 10,000 years. A simple platform (made of woven fabric) with rope toe and heel attachments (thongs). The front part of the sandal was folded in a pocket to protect the toes and the sandal was strapped to the foot with a thong. For added comfort, rabbit fur and pine needles were sometimes used.
Footwear had become more visible by the beginning of the Cradle of Civilization (Sumeria, circa 4th millennium BCE). Sumerians have noted artisans who worked with animal skins, which were still reserved for the privileged. Aristocracy wore slip-on sandals with a turned-up toe (circa 3000 BCE), with the first depictions seen on the Assyrian, Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (circa 841 BCE). Bending back toes could have been a practical innovation to help with walking, or it could have been a limitation of the time shoemakers' ability to craft bespoke footwear.
The seafaring Phoenicians (1550 BCE to 300 BCE) ensured fashionable dyed footwear spread throughout the known world i.e. Ancient Egypt (3200 BCE – 343 BCE), India (2800 BCE - 1500 BCE) and China). Babylonians (1696 – 1654 BCE) preferred perfumed sandals made from fine kid leathers, and dyed red. Footwear was also decorated with trinkets and bling.
The Persians (600 BCE) wore exotic wooden platform sandals (paduka) with a toe separator between the first and second toe. Wooden slip on sandals were intricately inlaid with pearl and other semi precious stones and commonly worn in bath houses and harems.
The term Babouche comes from the Arabic 'babush' or Persian 'papush', and describes a flat, slipper-like style with an exaggerated point at the toes. These slippers are thought to have been worn by nomadic Arab desert dwellers from the earliest of times. Funereal babouche slippers decorated with gold foil were discovered in a Coptic tomb of the 2nd century.
During the time of the Indus valley civilisation (circa 3000 BC), Indians learned to tan leather early making sumptuous clothing including footwear. The most commonly worn slip-on shoes were called chappals which were worn outside. The more heavitly decorated Mojhris were preferred by the Royal families, and worn at ceremonies such as weddings. By contrast these were embroidered with gold and silver threads, and often decorated with precious gems and pearls. The Mojhari was a flat soled closed shoe with an extended curled toe and had no left right distinction. Other types of Indian slip-ons included 'jhuttis' (jhootis or juttis) which had flat fronts.
A common practice throughout the orient was to remove shoes before crossing the threshold of a building, whether it be a place of worship or humble domicile. This is thought to be a humbling mark of respect found in many religions.
Like the Greeks, the Romans removed their shoes before entering a private home or temple. Roman patricians wore indoor sandals, carried by their slaves, and it was common etiquette to remove shoes when reclining on furniture. Only non-leather sandals were allowed to be worn in sacred temples.
Culturally, the sight of bare feet could offend and were generally hidden from sight with socks or house slippers. In Korea these were called ‘sil nae hwa’, a literal translation meant ‘room indoor shoes’. In Japanese homes, a separate pair of bathroom slippers was kept for the bathroom.
Perhaps the most famous pair of pantoufles, were described by Charles Perrault (1628 -1703) in the fairy tale Cinderella. According to the writer, she wore ‘la petite pantoufle de verre, " which was initially translated as a fur slipper (French: vair). Many believed this became a glass slipper only after the Walt Disney animated film (1950). However, this interpretation has since been discredited and the general opinion is the author meant glass mules.
Modern slipper’s come in many styles and incorporate influences from all that went before. From hotel bathroom slippers, both reminiscent of Eastern culture to the distinctly Victorian ‘pipe and slippers,’ they are still very much part of domestic life. Gone for most are the super luxurious house shoes of the very rich and the silent shoe and dancing pump too, have been replaced with modern trainers, particularly by the younger generations. Slippers are now made from many different types of material both natural and synthetic. Emphasis on security, particularly at air and sea ports has had an unintentional consequence, with an exponential rise in the popularity of ecological materials.
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