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What are Shoe Makers?

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  • Written By: Jason C. Chavis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 December 2016
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Shoe makers are people who perform the traditional craft of designing and constructing shoes. The profession is generally conducted by hand using a variety of specialized tools. Footwear has been a necessary component to fully clothing humans for thousands of years. As such, the art changed and altered heavily over the years.

The different type of footwear produced by a shoe maker varies greatly on where the professional is located and what skills he or she has. Some examples of footwear include boots, clogs, sandals, moccasins or basic shoe designs. Traditionally, a shoe maker will use leather or wood to construct the shoe, while modern craftspeople have added rubber and plastic to the designs.

A shoe is divided into different sections, each of which is separately created and then assembled into a full piece. The base part of the shoe is known as the sole. It can be made from a number of harder elements and generally includes many layers of padding for added comfort. The upper portion of the shoe can be as simple as a small piece of leather or cloth in the case of a sandal or as elaborate as a piece that covers the full foot, ankle and more. Shoes and boots will also feature a piece known as a tongue that can be pulled and adjusted with laces or Velcro® for comfort and tightness.

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A shoe maker will use a variety of different tools to help perfect the design of the shoe. The base item used is called a last. This is a piece of iron, wood or plastic that is shaped to resemble a person's foot. Shoe makers will use this device to craft the shoe, placing the sole, upper and tongue together around the last and binding them into one piece. Lasts are designed in a variety of shapes and sizes to help the shoe maker better design the shoe for different people.

According to anthropologists, the earliest shoes have been found in Oregon, United States, and date from around 8000 BCE. The idea of actual shoe makers as a profession is assumed to have begun around 1000 BCE, as a greater understanding of the foot's structure was established. Throughout the Middle Ages, the profession grew in popularity and status, finally becoming an integral part of society. Shoe makers were even awarded a patron saint in the form of Saint Crispin and became a subject of numerous popular culture stories throughout the years, including the story of the shoemaker's elves. During the 20th century, the industrialization of shoe making caused the profession to fall from popularity. Today, many shoe makers also work in the shoe repair business.

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