Learn all about shoelaces and how they added to the development of foot wear.
The shoelace is one of the oldest components of footwear. However, while it is presumed that even cavemen used some sort of shoelace to keep their footwear on their feet, evidence of this is missing because most laces were made from materials that were biodegradable like leather, plant fibers and sinew. What we do know about the history of the shoelace is that they were an important part of human migration and survival.
As Far Back As We Can Go…History of the Shoelace
One of the earliest pairs of shoelaces ever found was found on a Bronze Age man called Otzi the Iceman. Otzi, who lived over 5,000 years ago, had boots that were remarkably advanced for the Bronze Age. They were made up of a leather shell, internal insulation and a pair of shoelaces made from string composed of lime bark. This example of early shoelaces is probably a very good representation of how laces were used by early man to bind materials together and to secure footwear to people’s feet.
The development of shoelaces was probably one of the first technological advancements made by humans. There are several reasons why early humans needed a shoelace. First of all, because they didn’t have thick pads on the soles of their feet they needed an artificial foot pad that would stay in place and provide protection from sharp rocks, cold weather and other hazards. Secondly, as humans migrated away from the comfort zone around the equator, climate became a serious issue that posed a threat to their survival. As they crossed into colder climates they needed footwear that could be stuffed with insulation like fur and bound tightly to their legs to prevent snow and water from filling up their boots. Just think, without shoelaces, humans most likely would never have survived their migration into Asia and Europe, and most likely would not have survived the last Ice Age.
History of Modern Shoelaces
While a primitive shoelace has existed since prehistoric times, the shoelace that we know and love today wasn’t developed until about the 1100s. The Museum of London has several specimens of early 12th century shoelaces that were designed to work in tandem with eyelets or lace hooks. The development of this modern shoelace system made it possible for shoe and boot designs to evolve. Shoelace systems allowed shoes and boots to be mass produced in standard sizes, as opposed to being custom made for each person. This advance was made possible by the lacing systems ability to tighten a shoe or boot as much or as little as needed to fit the person’s foot, ankle and calf perfectly.
The next major advancement of shoelaces was the addition of synthetic fibers to the shoelace. Synthetic fibers allowed shoelaces to be modified to compliment the design of the shoe. Generally, synthetic fiber shoelaces looked better than natural fiber laces because they didn’t fray as easy and they could more easily be died. Synthetic fiber shoelaces also tended to last longer than natural fiber laces did, making them a better investment for shoe owners.
One of the biggest advancements in the shoelace’s design was the addition of shoelace tips. These tips, which could be made from plastic, brass, copper or some other type of metal, made it easier to thread shoelaces in shoe eyelets. These tips also helped to prevent fraying of the shoelace and helped to maintain and improve the overall aesthetics of the shoe lace.
Shoelaces have played an important role in human evolution. Just think what the world would be like if the modern shoelace had never been invented. For example, just think how sports would have been affected if athletic shoes did not have shoelaces. Also think about how sports’ records and performance would have been affected without lace-up shoes. It’s not a pretty picture, is it?