Book tells how shoes blaze trail

BY LINDA MILLER Published: November 8, 2009
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If shoes could talk, they would tell you a story.

Like the one about an English immigrant who made boots for both Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War.

Decades later, in the 1940s during another war, U.S. servicemen slipped into the classic harness boots.

Today, Frye boots are made with the same detail and attention that bootmaker John A. Frye insisted on in 1863. The company likes to boast that it takes 190 steps to construct a single boot.

Or maybe how in 1921, four years after a rubber company created what would become its most famous shoe, a basketball player joined the name game as a promoter. It was perhaps the first sports personality endorsement.

Two years later, the name Chuck Taylor appeared on every Converse All-Star basketball shoe. Then the hoopla really began. And it wasn’t just on the basketball court.

Have you heard about the German army physician who in 1945 hurt his ankle during a snow-skiing trip? It was then that Klaus Martens hit upon the idea of using soles of air-encapsulated rubber for support and comfort. With the help of a friend, the two started manufacturing their lace-up shoes, Doc Martens.

Once upon a time, a shoe was in need of a name. A Southern deep-fried cornball perfectly summed up the shoe’s homely style, complete with a suede upper and a crepe sole. It was a casual, informal look for men that in 1958 smacked of suburbia. Can you say pass the Hush Puppies, please?

And so go the stories in "Fifty Shoes That Changed the World” by Design Museum ($20).

Linda Miller's Blog: Fashion Matters