Friday, August 27, 2010

The Height of Fashion: Slap Sole Shoes

Friday, August 27, 2010
Susan reporting:

We NHG do love shoes, and this pair must have been right on the cutting edge of fashion when they were new, the must-have Louboutins of 17th c. London.

Like many extreme fashions, slap soles evolved from a useful idea. Earlier in the century, gentlemen would slip flat-soled mules over their riding boots to prevent the heels from sinking into the muddy ground of stable yards. Some enterprising shoemaker took the idea a step further, and put the flat sole beneath a pair of gentleman's heels, and the slap sole was born. While the sole is connected to the front of the shoe, the part beneath the heel was not, which made for a clacking, slapping sound as the gentleman walked. The women's versions - like the ones shown here - were anchored at the heels as well, and any slapping-sound was further muted by felt along the bottoms of the soles. I'm guessing the slap sole was also easier to walk in, much as a tall wedge offers more support than a narrow stiletto.

In addition to the slap soles, these shoes feature an extended square toe that overhangs the sole (much like the current island platforms.) The shoes are made from fine white kid that never would have gone near a muddy stable yard. The heels are very high for the time, much higher than most ladies would dare. The gold braid and bright pink silk ribbon trimming has faded, and the wide pink ribbons through the latchets that would have been tied into extravagant bows are missing. But the magical allure of these shoes remains, and it's easy to imagine them climbing the stairs in Whitehall Palace.

Here are two more examples of slap soles: an Italian pair, trimmed with silver and gold lace, and another English pair said to have been a royal gift from Charles II.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Semmelhack of the Bata Shoe Museum for her assistance updating this post.

Above: Slap Sole Shoes, c. 1650-1670, English. Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto.


andrew1860 said...

Wow! I have never heard of slap-sole shoes. The pair in the photo are Beautiful! Thanks for the history lesson.

Miss Kirsten said...

So awesome! I'd wear them in a heartbeat. Tho I bet they WERE loud!

Chris Woodyard said...

So much for
Her feet beneath her petticoat
Like little mice stole in and out!
(Sir John Suckling, 1641)

Heather Carroll said...

So I'm guessing these wouldn't be the shoes of choice for a mistress sneaking into her lover's room at night?

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Nope, Sir John Suckling must not have been listening when this lady came clattering down the hall. My guess is that it must sound like a combination of high heels with hard flip-flops. No sneaking around in these....

Anonymous said...

Totally, totally hot, and too sexy. I can see these on the runway in Paris or NYC. I never guessed antique shoes could be so amazing!

Darlene said...

I saw these very shoes first-hand in May while visiting the shoe museum. The slap soles and chopines were the highlight of my trip there!

Anonymous said...

How funny! When I was a kid growing up in Hawaii, we wore flip flops everywhere, but we called them slaps.

Anonymous said...

You basically just copied that description from the Bata museum. You should have at least acknowledged that.

Unknown said...

I would think it would be no different from the Slapping sound of Flip-flops of today or the clack clack clack of high heels on tile.

I often wonder if perhaps the reason for the attached format of the former chopine was more practical in some manner.

I just think of other useful reasons that today's researcher might not recognize, but someone from a time when the streets were muck & filth -- and Ladies of status sought to stay clear of it all -- let us consider the act of getting in & out of a carriage with the shoe & unattached platform. Getting in a carriage or out WITH merely a volumous dress can be a challenge. Add to this a shoe in a shoe! I'd vote for the two to become one, myself!

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