The history of shoe horns is shrouded in mystery. Truth be told, the origin of the shoe horn is now unknown... What we do know is that they began appearing some time around the 15th century. They really began to pick up steam and grow in popularity during the Victorian era due to tight shoes being extremely fashionable at the time. Shoe horn history is extremely interesting, and I'd like to share some shoe horn history with you today.
As stated, shoe horn history started at some point during the late Middle Ages or perhaps during the Renaissance period. The inventor is unknown, but there are many records specifying purchases that we can add to the chronicle of shoe horn history. For instance, Queen Elizabeth I of England purchased 18 shoehorns between the years of 1563 and 1566. These were presumably used by friends and family of the monarchy.
Shoe horns are definitely a one-time kind of purchase, as the royal family didn't require another shoe horn made until 1586. Our available chronicles of shoe horn history state that these products were constructed from metal, bones, wood, ivory, or not so suprisingly horns. The longevity of this item can likely be attributed to the sturdy material used in its construction. Since shoe horns can easily stand the test of time, they were often decorated in one way or another.
Scrimshaw is a type of etching that allows for intricate details to be marked onto pieces of bone. Shoe horn history has many examples of shoe horns that have been personalized with some form of scrimshaw, and seeing these pieces makes me long for a simpler time. While our physical form will pass away, we can continue to exist in the form of something simple such as a piece of artwork. I don't mean to wax poetic, but it is amazing to me that something that seems mundane such as a shoe horn can carry our legacy onward into the future.
Evolution of the Shoe Horn
Alright, back on track with the shoe horn history lesson. Shoe horns started out as relatively small implements that were simple in design, aside from the artwork that took me on a tangent in an earlier paragraph. As the use of these implements became more wide spread, people did what they do best and began to innovate. What was once just a grooved piece of whichever material became surprisingly elaborate in some instances. The first innovation that I could find in the annals of shoe horn history was an added hook on the handle that allowed the shoe horn to be hung up on a wall or somewhere else when not in use.
Once the hook was developed it seemed to open the floodgates. The shoe horn history is a bit murky here regarding what happened in which order, but the variety of shoe horns began to deviate wildly. Long handled shoe horns made use easier, while others got shorter to become more portable. The shoe horn that I'd love to pluck from the pages of shoe horn history is an example from London that feature a bottle opener on the end.
There are countless instances of shoe horns featuring interesting handles. Holes and loops for hanging, ridges and ripples for easy gripping. One of the most interesting examples that I spotted in my research of shoe horn history featured a rather large ball on the end. It might be good for arthritic hands, but I prefer to imagine it as a mace-like weapon. That burglar thinks he's safe because my shoes aren't on? Well, whammo! Joke's on you buddy. Of course, that might just be the side effect of an overactive imagination.
Shoe Horns Today
I think that counts as another tangent. Sorry, I swear that's probably the last one. So where does shoe horn history bring us but to the modern day? Since tight-fitting shoes have fallen out of fashion the noble shoe horn doesn't get talked about very much. Some don't realize that they exist at all, while other people can't live a single without their shoe horn. This has much to do with the compartmentalization of modern society, but I said I wouldn't go on another tangent. The most common uses for shoe horns are medical, but they can be very helpful for anyone who has experienced the agony of putting on a tight shoe.
There are compact shoe horns that you can use when sitting down if your balance is lacking, or you can snag a longer shoe horn to slide those shoes on while standing. Whether you sit or stand, using a shoe horn will make slipping your shoes on easier than ever. You might just wonder how you went so long without using one. There are even retractable shoe horns that will allow you to change the length of your shoe horn based on whimsy, and I'm a big fan of whimsy!
Allow me to let you in on a little secret. My feet are fat. Unfortunately, both my children have picked up my genetics. It's not something that can be solved medically, so we do what we must and utilize shoe horns. It can be particularly useful for growing kids when you're trying to squeeze an extra week or two out of their favorite pair of shoes. If you wear boots or just shoes made of stiffer leather, you might be amazed at just how easy a shoe horn can make things when sliding them on and off. It's not just a relic of the past, although shoe horn history is richer than I first anticipated.
If you're in the market for a shoe horn I'd suggest Silly Feet's shoe horn for kids. Shoe horns are easy enough to use but they don't mean a thing if you can't entice your children into actually utilizing them. The fun color of our shoe horn encourages my kids to use their 'magical' shoe horn daily. Can it make them run faster and jump higher? Maybe not, but the mind is a powerful thing.