History of made-to-measure footwear and the craftsmanship of the bootmaker

At Chamberlan, all of our bespoke shoes are made in our workshops by our specialized craftsmen. Shoes for every day or bridal shoes , Chamberlan creates the pair of shoes of your dreams.

It is difficult to imagine the number of operations required to manufacture a shoe. Whether it is from the reflection of the stylist or the designer until the placing in the store of the finished products, this process sees the intervention of a multitude of know-how as well as a close collaboration between the workshop and many suppliers. . The creation of a shoe is done in several steps that we will present to you in this article, but before, we will present the history of the shoe.

How was leather tanning invented?

Between 5000 BC and the Christian era, the tannery took off rapidly. In Egypt, the use of scrapers and knives is widespread. Tanners also know how to exploit certain tanning fruits such as acacia drops for example as well as alum (aluminum) salts. The first leathers dyed with natural vegetable dyes appeared.

In Assyria, the practice of tanning is known. In Pergamum, the first parchments appear, they are composed of dry and untanned skin, the importance of which is well known since they will serve as the first support for writing.

In antiquity, shoes could be classified into two species: those which consisted of a sole connected to the foot by links and those which completely covered the foot, as do modern shoes.

In China, mineral salts have been used for several millennia when, for their part, the American Indians were probably the first to know how to use the brains and fat of certain animals, including deer and fallow deer, as a tanning agent. From this very soft leather they make their famous moccasin.

The first Greeks used acacia bark and gall nuts which is a plant growth very rich in tannin and which is due to the bite of an oak parasitic insect. He made helmet visors and covered their shields with leather. Homer sells the quality of the boots and Hesiod advises the use of leather shoes stuffed inside.

However, although justly famous, the Greeks could never match the Romans. The Romans obtained excellent leathers, whose reputation was worldwide. They are the first to tan on a large scale; they use the barks, the leaves of sumac and the alum. They already know how to use round vats and certain instruments, traces of which can be found in several excavations.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, part of the leather manufacturing techniques disappeared. Only the Byzantines and the Arabs kept their traditions, and it was precisely in Turkey and North Africa that the tannery industry reappeared, between the 5th and 8th centuries. Red leathers are then made from vegetable tanning materials and white leathers from alum. These techniques will reappear little by little at the beginning of the Middle Ages, in southern Europe.

Around 1100, the first corporations of workshops working leather were born, grouped according to their type of activity:

  • Those tanning with bark, in particular of oak, called tan, take the name of tanners.
  • Those working the skins (mainly of sheep and goats) with alum, the mixture of which with ashes is called mégis , take the name of tanners.
  • A third corporation was created, bringing together the workshops that worked the leathers after tanning to soften them, coat them with grease and flatten them. This corporation takes the name of currier; the word would find its origin in the Latin name coriarius , meaning “leather worker”.
Leather tanning

What were shoes like in ancient Greece?

Greek shoes were most often military shoes leaving the toes completely free: a simple sole fixed by a single link going around the instep, such were the solo (Roman soldier’s sandal), the crepido, the sandalia , on the contrary, the calculations , the pero , cothurne, etc., were of full leather.

The coarse boots of the Franks and Gauls were succeeded by the elegant Gallo-Roman boots, which the Crusaders changed to the hooked slippers of the Orientals. From there, derive the famous poulaine shoes.

shoe history