Beak shoes are a fad that primarily spread in England and France. Interestingly, their occurrence in Central Europe is limited, as the examples found so far show. Furthermore, this fashion was apparently reserved for the upper classes of society, as the excavations at Baynard's Castle in London have shown. Here the royal wardrobe was not far away in the 14th century. This fact is also confirmed by countless representations in the 14th and 15th centuries, in which only the rich upper class wore such shoes.
However, caution is advised with figurative sources. On the one hand, there was a type of leg warmers that had a thin leather sole and were worn almost exclusively indoors or outside with trippers . This form is found particularly often in paintings from the 15th century, it gives the impression of a somewhat longer point. On the other hand, the upper class was portrayed with such pointed shoes because they were a status symbol. The frequency of the presentation cannot be reconciled with the finds, especially in Central Europe. It can be concluded that the social position should be emphasized here and that the images give a distorted impression.
Models of the pointed shoes described are already in the 2nd millennium BC. Can be seen on images of Hittite gods and kings. In research, they are also referred to as beak shoes.
It is questionable whether they owe their creation (around 1090) to Count Fulko von Anjou or Angers, who wore long pointed shoes because of his deformed feet . Pointed shoes with moderately pointed tips have been worn since that time, but the round shape was almost always the norm. It may be that they first appeared in Europe with the Poles , as the earliest English name Cracowes (from Krakow ) may indicate; but they were already worn in the Orient before . The author of the Eulogium Historiarum dates its first appearance to the years 1361-1362:
“Eodem anno et in anno praecedenti tota communitas Anglicana versa. […] Habent etiam sotulares rostratas in unius digiti longitudine quae Crakowes vocantur; potius judicantur ungula daemonum quam ornamenta hominum. "
“In that year  and the previous one, the whole of English society was turned upside down. […] Lately you have shoes with finger-length tips, which are called crakowes . They look more like devil's claws, not like clothing for people. "
An edict issued by Cardinal Robert of Courçon for the University of Paris in August 1215 dealt with the lecturers' footwear "in sotularibus" (in pointed shoes): "Sotulares non habeat sub capa rotunda laqueatos, nunquam liripipiatos" (for round caps, no decorated shoes, especially no shoes with pointed ends, may be worn).
Pointed shoes first became popular in the late 14th century - in the 1380s, perhaps as early as the 1370s - and were out of fashion again by 1400. However, they became so popular again in the mid-15th century that dress codes were enacted to regulate their use and associated excesses. In 1463 (at the time of Edward IV) it was ordered that no knight, squire, nobleman or other person could wear pointed shoes longer than 2 inches. In 1465, the decree was tightened so that no cobbler or shoemaker was allowed to make shoes with tips longer than 2 inches. Even from this time, however, there are no known shoes with the often-cited excess lengths.
In the course of time, not only the nobles, but all layers of shoes wore pointed shoes, which is why the length of the toe was precisely regulated in dress codes and based on the social status of the wearer. This is where the saying “live big” comes from. Despite all the regulations, the beaked shoes lasted until the end of the 15th century, when they were replaced by the duckbills and later the very blunt bear claws or ox mouths .
The length of the tips
Occasionally it is claimed that the tips of the pointed shoes were so long that they had to be tied to the knee or belt. There is no basis for such claims. They relate to two fragments of an 18th century description of a painting by James I of Scotland, which has never been confirmed since, and to claims made by two antique dealers of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Stow and Camden. Stow does not give a source. Camden makes reference to the above quotation from Eulogium Historiarum , but its translation is not reliable.
As the excavations in London and Dordrecht show, for example, the tip length was usually about a fifth of the foot length (93 of 210 shoes found in Baynard's Castle), the longest tips were about half a foot long (7 out of 210 shoes).
Pointed shoes were sewn reversely. That is, they were first sewn inside out and then turned. The tip was a particular challenge because it could not be turned. Therefore, the toe was sewn with hidden stitches only after turning the shoe.
It was nothing new that the sneakers were cut differently for the right and left foot. The fashion of producing a pair of identical shoes, i.e. without a left-right distinction, was only popular for some time in the 17th century, but was then abandoned.
In the first half of the 15th century, both sexes were joined by Trippen (wooden soles with straps). These lower shoes were designed with long tips, just like the pointed shoes. The aim of the wooden soles was to protect the fine fabrics and leather as much as possible.
- Francis Grew, Margrethe De Neergaard: Shoes and Pattens: Medieval Finds from Excavations in London 2 . Stationery Office Books (1988), ISBN 978-0-11-290443-4
- Olaf Goubitz, Carol Van Driel-Murray, Willy Groenman-Van Waateringe: Stepping through Time: Archaeological footwear from prehistoric times until 1800 . Stichting Promotie Archeologie (2001), ISBN 978-90-801044-6-4
- Francis Grew, Margrethe De Neergaard: Shoes and Pattens , p. 115. Olaf Goubitz et al .: Stepping through Time .
- Francis Grew, Margrethe De Neergaard: Shoes and Pattens , p. 29.
- Belkis Doinçol: Notes on some Hittite clothing. P. 224 ( PDF )
- Francis Grew, Margrethe De Neergaard: Shoes and Pattens , p. 116.
- Jorit Wintjes : Introduction. In: Konrad Goehl : Avicenna and its presentation of the medicinal effects. With an introduction by Jorit Wintjes. Deutscher Wissenschafts-Verlag, Baden-Baden 2014, ISBN 978-3-86888-078-6 , pp. 5-27, here: pp. 5 f.
- Francis Grew, Margrethe De Neergaard: Shoes and Pattens , p. 117.
- Quoted in J. Strutt: A complete view of the dress and habits of the people of England, from the establishment of the Saxons in England . 2nd Edition, London 1842, ii236, footnote 3.
- Cf. Francis Grew, Margrethe De Neergaard: Shoes and Pattens , p. 117.
- Francis Grew, Margrethe De Neergaard: Shoes and Pattens . Olaf Goubitz et al .: Stepping through Time .
- Francis Grew, Margrethe De Neergaard: Shoes and Pattens , p. 30.
- Olaf Goubitz et al .: Stepping through Time
- From the Stone Age to the present: the shoe and its history . Retrieved August 24, 2014