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Shoe Care

Shoe care was a daily ritual when leather was the material of most shoes. They were expensive to buy and so great care was taken to keep them looking good for as long as possible. Often it was the job of the man of the house to clean all the family's shoes everyday and some would only have that one pair for daily wear. Best shoes, worn on Sundays for church, would often be put away with a shoe tree inside to help keep the shape, and sometimes put into cloth bags, one for each shoe. Wax polish was applied with a brush, then buffed up with a another brush. Later came the cream polishes applied with a duster. Liquid polish with a small foam pad to apply it directly from the bottle followed, and today many use the 'quick wipe' foam pads already impregnated with 'polish'.

Left: a selection of iron cobbler's lasts. These were used to put boots or shoes on, to facilitate mending the sole or heel.
Right: A shoe cleaner. This would stand by the door and was to enable scraping the sole free from mud and to brush the sides of shoes, before entering the house.
Above: A trench digger's patten. This has a leather strap to be done up across the top of the user's boot. The metal plate sat under the sole of the boot as protection against continual treading on the top of his spade, and saved both the boot sole and the feet from the constant pressure.
A wooden three part shoe tree
Right: a selection of shoe trees. These were pushed inside the shoes as you took them off, and remained there until you wore them again. Once the toe section was firmly inside the toe of the shoe, the other end could be flexed into the heel, to keep it firmly in place. The black ones are metal, the coloured ones plasctic, and the ones at the back right are wooden.
A selection of shoe trees to keep the shoes in shape
Above: A three part shoe last. The toe and heel sections would be put inside the shoe and then the centre piece could be pushed between and so keep the shoe in shape. Note the extra leather on the toe (left) and heel (centre), to relive pressure on the sensitive points. [Rushden Museum]
A built up shoe last
Left: A shoe last, that is built up with layers of leather to increase the size of the shoe, over a high instep or a corn. Many people continued to make, at home, their own shoes and for their family long after mechanisation.
A selection of polishes from the 1970's to date
Right: A Shoe Caddy from about 1970. Made to put your foot on top to clean your shoes whilst wearing them! To hold all the polishes and brushes for good shoe care. Wax polish, shoe cream, liquid polish and the modern foam pads with a 'one wipe and it's done' polish.

In earlier times no one would go out in dusty shoes and cleaning was a daily ritual. Many shoes today are plastic, few are leather and many are uncleaned!

Shoe caddy with polishes and brushes
Above: Shoe Caddy with an array of polishes.
The little brush has brass bristles to clean suede.

Blakey-s hint Blakey's
Blakey's, or segs, were added to heels, toes and sides of soles to protect from wear and make them last longer.

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