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Shoe Buckle

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Saved by i.r.bartholomew@warwick.ac.uk
on February 17, 2016 at 3:28:55 pm

Shoe Buckles 


shoe buckle  n. a fastening for a shoe, in the form of a buckle, also an ornamental buckle worn on the front of a shoe.

1482   in York Myst. Introd. 40   [Those that] maketh ffisshe-hukes or shobakilles.

1847   Thackeray Vanity Fair (1848) xxxix. 359   A large pair of paste shoe-buckles.



Apparently only a tool used to fasten one's shoe, shoe buckles have been identified as having been used as early as 450 BC, and can be tracked through history to the modern day. However, it is during the seventeenth century, after the civil war, that the shoe buckle industry began to flourish, conforming to the fashion of King Charles II returned from exile. This is illustrated through Samuel Pepys dirary entry on Sunday 22nd January 1660 in which he states "This day I began to put buckles on my shoes", thereby, through the mention in his diary, representing the impact of such an item had on his every day attire. 

The popularity of the shoe buckle expanded quickly from this period - those producing them becoming very wealthy, and the craft of shoe buckles becoming ever more elaborate and skilled. It is as a result of this that during the eighteenth century the shoe buckle evolved from having a purely stylish and functional role to one to performing both social and functional roles. 


An item that could be highly prised, the shoe buckle was one of the few fashion items worm by both women and men. The eighteenth century marked both the rise and the fall of the shoe buckle, therefore involving the huge developments in design and value of the shoe buckle, until its demise in the 1790s. 







Shoe Buckles in Literature

The popularity of the shoe buckle in the eighteenth century was reflected in popular literature of the time, often being referred to in passing, as expected with such a commonplace object, or referenced due to its value. Richardson's "Pamela" illustrates this when Pamela is given "three pair of fine silk shoes, two hardly the worse...the other with wrought silver buckles on them" amongst other items of clothing from her master, and she is "astonished, and unable to speak for a while". Throughout the story of Pamela it becomes clear that she has formed an association between what she wears and status, and as such it is evident that the gift of "silver" shoe buckles is more than that of a pretty item - it enables her to feel superior due to the superior metal they are made out of. Thus it is evident that, whilst worn by people from all classes, valuable she buckles represented a class divide, and as such such valuable buckles enabled Pamela to cross class boundaries. 


However, the shoe buckle continues to be used in well known children's literature even in the modern day. The nursery rhyme "One, two, buckle my shoe" has been well known since the nineteenth century, but is believed to have been initially used as early as 1780 in Wrentham, Massachusetts. This not only shows how common the concept of a show buckle was in the late eighteenth century - common enough to be used in an easily comprehensible children's nursery rhyme - but also the extent to which the shoe buckle became an international object. In America it took longer for the shoe buckle to fall out of fashion than it had in Europe, their popularity continuing throughout the eighteenth century into the early nineteenth century. By this time the use of the shoe buckle had become truly international, particularly popular in Europe and North America. However, by the mid nineteenth century they had been predominantly been replaced by laces and it seems it is only through the medium of children's literature that the use of "shoe buckle" in everyday language has survived, as due to the repetition of the phrase in the use of a nursery rhyme, no one has questioned the use of such an object as an archaic term rarely referred to in the modern day.



Montagu's "The Reasons that Induced Dr. S - to write a Poem called the Lady's Dressing Room"

Richardson's "Pamela"

Cleland's "Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure"

Sterne's "Tristram Shandy"

"One, Two Buckle my Shoe" - Henry Bolton, collector of counting rhymes in 1885 said the rhyme was used in Wrentham, Massachusetts as early as 1780 p333






Due to the fact that the shoe buckle was an every day item there was understandably much criminality surrounding them as they were an easy item to access and to sell. 

The value of the buckles taken ranged dramatically, reflecting the variety of buckles on the market depending on what a  consumer could afford. Old Bailey record show buckles stolen with a value as low as 1d (equivalent to 27p in modern monetary values), whereas other records show thefts of shoe buckles to be as high as 2l (£149.58) for a single pair. 


The contrast in punishment was high, corresponding with the value of the robbery. Whilst both these thefts were in conjunction with other items, and therefore do not reflect what the theft of a single buckle might have resulted in, there is still a contrast of value for the thefts which reflects the value of the shoe buckles. Whilst Catherine Simpson was fined 10d (£3.58) John Andrew Martin received the death penalty for such a considerable robbery. 




















It is worth noting that whilst the shoe buckles stolen by Catherine Simpson were the the item of lowest value which she took, the most valuable shoe Buckles Martin took were of a comparatively much higher value in his collection of goods. 

Variety in values of shoe buckles - Old Bailey Records show a range in stolen shoe buckles ranging in value from 1d (27p) http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17730908-14-defend187&div=t17730908-14&terms=shoe|buckle#highlight to 2l (£149.58) http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17681207-9-defend109&div=t17681207-9&terms=shoe|buckle#highlight



Popularity began to decline in the late 1780s and the early 1790s. An appeal was made to Prince George, the Prince of Wales by shoe buckle manufacturers in an attempt to maintain the popularity of the shoe buckle. (document) Holland and Hunt (Hutton) documented the events. (Treatise on the Progressive Improvement and Present State of the Manufactures in Metal 1834)  

https://historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/results?terms=shoe%20buckle&date=1693-1810&undated=exclude&variant=variant (show table) 



As shown by this table, there was a dramatic and steady rise in the use of the phrase "shoe buckle" in texts reflecting the increased popularity of shoe buckles as fashionable objects. The table clearly reflects how shoe buckles became a more common object of interest throughout the eighteenth century, from having very little recognition at the beginning of the century to being much more popular by then end. However, towards the end of the table it is evident in that the number of times "shoe buckle" is mentioned in texts begins to decrease, thereby illustrating not only the increase but also the decrease in popularity of the object as a statement of fashion. 


Not just in UK


http://0-www.18thcjournals.amdigital.co.uk.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/transcript.aspx?imageid=253654&searchmode=true&previous=1 - commonly advertised as a fashionable and desirable item.


Hogarth's "The Rake's Progress" and "The Marriage Contract" (The Countess's Levee)

Hogarth's works, reflecting "modern, moral subjects", illustrate how the shoe buckle may be used in satirical works. "A Harlot's Progress" - the illustration of a young girl whose innocence leads to her into the world of prostitution, and ultimately her untimely death, illustrated through the subtle and symbolic in his prints uses shoe buckles consistently throughout. 


However, the popularity of shoe buckles also took a political turn in both England and France. Whilst in England an appeal was made in early 1792 to "The Royal Conductors of Fashion" from the buckle trade of London and Westminster to halt the change in fashion away from shoe buckles. Whilst Prince George, the Prince of Wales, did attempt to sway the change in styles, he ultimately made very little effect on the lapse of the shoe buckle which were completely out of fashion by 1793 except in court where George had required his courtiers to wear them. https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0316700700&terms=prince%20of%20wales%20shoe%20buckle&date=1791-1792&undated=exclude&pageTerms=prince%20of%20wales%20shoe%20buckle&pageId=ecco-0316700700-10 

http://0-gdc.galegroup.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/gdc/artemis/NewspapersDetailsPage/NewspapersDetailsWindow?failOverType=&query=KE+shoe+buckle&prodId=BBCN%3ABNCN%3ANCUK%3ADMHA%3AILN%3AINDA%3AMOME%3ATTDA%3ATLSH%3AUSDD&windowstate=normal&contentModules=&fullCitation=true&display-query=KE+shoe+buckle&mode=view&displayGroupName=DVI-Newspapers&dviSelectedPage=&limiter=DA+117900101+-+117901231&u=warwick&currPage=1&sortBy=&displayGroups=&source=&disableHighlighting=false&search_within_results=&p=GDCS&action=e&catId=&activityType=AdvancedSearch&scanId=&documentId=GALE%7CZ2001519946#fullCitation - spring shoe buckle

http://find.galegroup.com/bncn/retrieve.do?sgHitCountType=None&scale=1.00&orientation=&sort=DateAscend&docLevel=FASCIMILE&prodId=BBCN&tabID=T012&subjectParam=Locale%2528en%252C%252C%2529%253AFQE%253D%2528tx%252CNone%252C9%2529brunswick%253AAnd%253AFQE%253D%2528ba%252CNone%252C6%2529%25221UBI%2522%253AAnd%253AFQE%253D%2528da%252CNone%252C10%2529%252217900313%2522%2524&searchId=R8&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&currentPosition=1&qrySerId=Locale%28en%2C%2C%29%3AFQE%3D%28tx%2CNone%2C9%29brunswick%3AAnd%3AFQE%3D%28ba%2CNone%2C6%29%221UBI%22%3AAnd%3AFQE%3D%28da%2CNone%2C10%29%2217900313%22%24&retrieveFormat=MULTIPAGE_DOCUMENT&subjectAction=DISPLAY_SUBJECTS&inPS=true&userGroupName=warwick&sgCurrentPosition=0&docId=Z2001520031&docId=&docLevel=FASCIMILE&workId=&relevancePageBatch=Z2001520031&contentSet=LTO&callistoContentSet=BBCN&docPage=page&enlarge=true&firstEnlarge=true&pageNum=1&newOrientation=0&recNum=&newScale=0.33 - patent for "Brunswick spring shoe buckle



Meanwhile, in France, the French Revolution started in 1789, and shoe buckles were used as a political statement to show support for the monarchy. To wear an extravagant shoe buckle showed support for the monarchy and was in direct disobedience of the revolutionaries, who had declared that all buckles and silver adornments should be donated towards the revolutionary movement.  However, after the revolution it became a requirement for the revolutionary infantry for each man to provide "1 pair of shoe buckles" https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=hOz058L2jNwC&pg=PA38&lpg=PA38&dq=french+revolution+shoe+buckles&source=bl&ots=aAU-Y81TUl&sig=W0znDVS_x40J5l0pYXErwbNEU2s&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj9k9uShLvKAhVE2SwKHdceAk8Q6AEIRzAJ#v=onepage&q=shoe%20buckles&f=false showing the continued use of the shoe buckle used as a required item of clothing, of only for utility. 


Design and Production

Expensive buckles were made in silver but the less expensive ones were made of shiny steel cut to resemble diamonds.

clothing as identity

Throughout the late eighteenth century paste stones became popular decorations for shoe buckles as they were not only cheap, but also easy for the designers to cut them to produce their maximum potential without fear of damaging a valuable stone. 




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