Several readers noticed the odd-looking footwear of this 1825 woman negotiating a snowy street in last week's blog. She's wearing pattens, a kind of primitive kind of protection against foul weather, and fouler streets.
According to the Bata Shoe Museum, pattens have been in use in Europe and North America since at least the 12th century. Pattens were overshoes, a thick wooden sole with a leather top that slipped on, or buckled or tied over the wearer's regular shoes, and served to lift the foot away from mud, snow, or just the general filth that collected in early modern city streets. The example, upper left, is Dutch, from the 1400s.
Pattens were primarily worn by working-class women, and when they appear in prints like the one I showed, they were meant to imply a comic, low-brow effect. They must have been awkward to walk in - imagine the worst pair of ill-fitting platform shoes - and likely made a clumping sound, too.
Late 18th c. and early 19th c. pattens, upper right, featured an iron ring fixed to the wooden sole. In a nod to style, the soles were shaped to reflect the shape of the shoes being worn. These must have been a bit lighter to wear than the clog-like styles, although they would have made a ringing sound as they struck paving stones.
The patten, lower right, from around 1830 is more genteel. Known as a "promenade clog" or "carriage clog", this features a neatly made upper with decorative cutwork and stitching. The sole is thinner, and is made from light-weight cork.
Like so many things, technology finally signaled the end of pattens. In the 1850s, vulcanized rubber galoshes became widely available, replacing the wooden and leather overshoe with a waterproof one.
Upper left: Wooden patten, Dutch, 1400s. Bata Shoe Museum.
Upper right: Pattens, European, second half 18th c. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Lower right: Patten, Great Britain, 1825-1835. Victoria & Albert Museum.
Lower left: Shoe & matching patten, England, 1735-1750. Bata Shoe Museum.