A shoemakers shop, 1760’s France, from Diderot
Heels to bear the precious charge
More diminutive than large
Slight and brittle, apt to break
Of the true Italian make.
The top boot, the typical male footwear of the 17th Century, faded away into the areas of riding dress during the early 18th Century as it was replaced by the shoe.
Fashionable men’s shoes in the early 18th Century had high but sturdy heels, painted red for court wear and high fashion, a high tongue, and long square ended toes.
Informal men’s shoes had lower heels and shorter wider toes, and were invariably made of black leather.
Shortly into the century, the dominant shape became that of informal shoes and dress shoes began to be made in a similar fashion to ordinary shoes, with the addition of red heels and buckles.
Shoe buckles became the prime focus of men’s shoes for most of the century until the late 18th Century when political revolutions prompted members of the radical left to discard them as decadent aristocratic luxuries.
Women’s shoes in the 18th Century were divided into three categories: mules, or backless slippers, shoes, or closed foot gear, and pattens, outdoor shoe coverings which protected delicately made shoes.
Women’s shoes had sharply pointed toes and high curved heels. Buckles were also a central attraction on women’s shoes.
Women’s shoes were almost unchanging in shape (only narrowing the curved heels) from 1700 to 1780, when shoes took a dive to low heeled slippers.
By the late 1790’s, heels disappeared entirely and the soft, flat, square toed slipper which dominated the next 50 years of women’s shoes had appeared.
Image from Diderot’s Encyclopedia, c. 1762