Shoe repair

Until the middle of the 19th century, leather shoes and boots were expensive, fragile and therefore reserved for the well-to-do. The artisan shoemaker repaired, resoled or sewed the shoes, but above all he made the shoes to measure: he was a shoemaker.

From the dimensions of the foot, he cut out the insole, then drew the patterns for the other parts of the shoe: the upper, the tongue, the side quarters and the buttress. He cut them out of the leather and then assembled them on the last to be fitted by sewing them together before nailing them to the insole. Then he sewed the outsole and attached the heel to the shoe blank. All that was left to do was to finish off the shoe at the sole, the laces eyelets and polish it.

Shoe making went from being a purely artisanal activity to an industrial one with the invention of the sewing machine and mass production at the very end of the 19th century. Industrial production in large numbers and at low cost made footwear accessible to a wider section of society.

Illustrations :

– Photograph of Slavko Adamovitch’s shoemaker’s workshop and his worker Antoine Cardador in Saint Astier in the 1930’s. (Private collection in Hervé Mercier, Saint-Astier, 1900-1950, volume 2, La vie Astérienne, Imprimerie IOTA, 2015)

– Photograph of the shoemaker-shoemaker shop of the Mamont family and their workers in Mussidan in the 1920s (Escarment Collection).