Categories : Costume history
The most characteristic shoes between the 13th and 15th centuries in Europe, whether for men or women, were crakows. These shoes were very pointed and up to two and a half times the actual size of the foot in length. Unsurprisingly, the size was related to the social rank of the wearer and allowed to distinguish the poor from the rich. The longest were reserved for princes and dukes. This demonstrated that the wearers of these uncomfortable shoes could not perform physical tasks such as working in the fields and marked their social superiority. Common folk were only allowed an extra half foot length.
These shoes were stuffed with wool and even hair, and reinforced with metal wire or boning. Sometimes the tip was held at the ankle with cords to prevent it from bending while walking. Some more precious models could be adorned with decorative motifs embroidered in silk. It was a real work of craftsman, the price was therefore substantial and it is surely one of the reasons which pleased the nobility so much and which allowed this trend to persist for so long.
Everyone who could afford it, would buy a pair of crakows in order to follow the trend that lengthened and refined the legs. However, this did not sit well with everyone because in some countries royalty tried to ban the trend because of ridicule, and the clergy because of humility. After several decades of this fashion, the kings of France and England had even taken steps to prohibit the wearing of crakows or limit the length of the tips. The success of these royal ordinances remained mixed. And before that, from the beginning of the 13th century, the clergy, advocating the values of humility, rose up against the pointed crakows which referred to the virility of men. The gritty hints were unworthy of the church, and the wearing of such shoes was banned in several cities. As with orders given by royalty, those given by the clergy had little effect.
This fashion for pointed shoes ended by itself towards the end of the 15th century. France and England dictated the rules of fashion in Europe at this time, and the new kings François I and Henry VIII marked the beginning of a new era.