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The history of the lace


We already imagine you, head bent, hands tying the laces of your super Nike Air Max 270 (or others!) and then suddenly, you ask yourself the question: "Who invented these straps? This article will tell you more about the origins of the famous straps, which can be found on shoes as well as on clothing and other accessories.




From a very young age, we are taught to tie the laces of our sneakers properly. Everyone has surely had their share of mishaps as a child. Fortunately, dad, mom or big brother was there to give you a helping hand. Nowadays, books and tutorials for children are available to make learning more fun. Anyway, big as you are, you now know how to tie them, right?


From this obligation, we know that the straps are there to maintain the sneakers or shoes on the feet. We appreciate their practicality, since loosened, they make it easier to put on the shoes. They are also aesthetic and, how much we crack on the yellow and white sneakers with large purple straps, like the emblematic colors of the Lakers. No matter the shape of the laces, flat and wide, round and thin or round and thick, they all have the same role. But whose idea was it?




March 27, 1970, a milestone in the history of shoe straps, as it was the date when the patent for the shoe leather lace was filed by Harvey Kennedy. The gentleman took a handsome share of an invention ($2.5 million) that was, however, created many centuries ago.


Needle, cord or lake all meant the same thing, but the word "lace" first appeared in the 14th century when common people had access to the first products with leather needles. It was indeed the shoemakers of old who fashioned shoe strings from scraps of leather. The leather scraps were worked with water and oil to be softened and rounded. But to go further into history, discoveries have made it possible to go back in time and find out who or what people also used cords to hold their shoes.




It is as difficult to determine the exact history of shoelaces as it is for shoes. Archaeological records of footwear are rare because shoes were generally made of materials that deteriorated readily. The Areni-1 shoe, which has been dated to around 3500 BC, is a simple leather "shoe" with leather "shoelaces" passing through slotted "eyelets" cut into the hide. The more complex shoes worn by Ötzi the Iceman, who lived around 3300 BC, were bound with "shoelaces" made of lime bark string.

In 1991, more exactly on September 19, a couple of German hikers alerted the Austrian gendarmerie after discovering a body, probably victim of an accident according to their estimation. The body was found at an altitude of more than 3,200 meters in the Hauslabjoch glacier in the Ötztal Alps and was in fact a mummy. So, having studied it thoroughly, scientists thought that he died around 3255 BC.

So what does this have to do with shoelaces? Well, what interests us are the shoes of the mysterious character, named Ötzi! They were made of deer skin and bear leather was used as soles. A layer of hay was woven into the shoes and used as a lining, probably to protect the feet from the cold. To top it all off, there were laces made of bark strings. Yes, laces! The men of the Bronze Age were already clever. But unfortunately, in those days, discoveries were not considered important.



Similar to the shoes of the mummy Ötzi, a shoe dating from the Neolithic period was found buried in the ground during road works in the canton of Zug, Switzerland in 2000. Although no thong was found, an imprint of it could be seen on the shoe.


Still in Switzerland, this time in the commune of Saint-Blaise, another shoe was found. It was in fact a sandal made with strips of oak bast. A few fragments of thin cords were still visible and they were surely used to hold it on.


This is evidence that shoe straps existed long before Harvey Kennedy. He simply improved them.




Under Louis IX, there were already thread and silk lace makers among the craftsmen of the time. Of course, shoe cords were made by hand. The use of the braiding machine dates back to the 18th century when the Englishman, Thomas Waldford invented it. The machine was later perfected by a German named Bockmüll. The loom was made of iron and produced about a hundred laces a day (for your information, one aune = 1.18 m). In 1783, Perrault designed a wooden loom.


Today, the main lace-making factories are concentrated in the United States. Their method consists in making braids of laces with the help of bobbin machines. One machine can produce up to 80+ meters of lace per hour. Cotton and even synthetic materials such as nylon, polypropylene or polyester can be used to make shoe strings.


The Areni 1 shoe

Image source: Wikipedia


Ötzi the Iceman

Image source: BBC


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