Even handling shoes in a charity shop can make you curious. It's that idea of walking a mile in another's person's shoes. We all know some variation of the quote, or think we know it, though how exactly it goes is debated and some people seem to think it was originally a parable whilst others claim it was an American Indian saying and/or a song by Joe South. Some people just know the spin-off joke ie. "Before you judge a man walk a mile in his shoes...after that who cares, he's a mile away and you've got his shoes!" Still, it inspires me.
When I handle a shoe that someone once walked in, certainly it feels different to handling any other item of vintage clothing. Shoes say something about our contact with the earth. The way someone might have moved can be a little more easily guessed at if you can see the shoes they would have been wearing. And knowing something of someone's bearing can help you empathise with their likely life experience. It can aid your imagination regarding the limits they themselves, or fashion, or their position in society placed upon them, upon their feet. You can understand better their ability to kick against strictures or to dance, or to run. It can help you imagine how they felt about interacting with the world, about being alive.
"It may come as a surprise to many readers to discover that shoes worn during the Regency did not differ much from what is worn today" - https://www.janeausten.co.uk/regency-shoes/
For more information about Kilerton House click here
This site by Jessamyn Reeves Brown offeres two invaluable pages about shoes from this period:
I couldn't help but begin by looking at a couple of pairs of earlier examples held at Killerton, these probably date to approx 1795:
"As the decade progressed, pointed toes rapidly gave way to rounded ones, and heels disappeared almost completely. Although materials continued to became plainer, colors proliferated. I have seen existing Regency shoes in lavender, pink, and robin's-egg leather, and many pale colors in satin" - http://www.songsmyth.com/shoes.html
These are dated: 1800's
Click here to hear Shelley telling me about how shoes with soles known as straights had no definitive left and right, meaning stickers were often placed inside saying gauche and droit (by French makers). She refers to the beautiful labels found inside showing where they were sold and the makers symbols found stamped on the soles showing where they were made.