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Reconstructing Leather Goods

Leather was an extremely common material in medieval times, far more pervasive than it is now. It was used for shoes, belts, purses, cases, armor, clothing, horse tack and saddles, bags, and more. Some leather items were plain and utilitarian, while others were highly decorated, with embossing and other leather "carving" as well as dying, painting, and even gilding.


The solid core of our information on shoes comes from the Museum of London's book Shoes and Pattens by F. Grew and M. de Neergaard.

Here are a pair made for Sir Geoffrey, to wear with his armor. Not visible in this picture are the holes near the toes through which pass the points for tying down the tips of his armored sabatons. The uppers are black to hide the oil stains. The lovely pale topbands you see around the ankle hole have come to blend with the rest of the shoes due to exactly those same oil stains. Recently the shoes have been clump soled, extending their life.

Sir Geoffrey's shoes, like almost all of our shoes, are sewn over a last, a wooden form that helps shape the leather while providing a solid surface during sewing.

This pair of shoes is a "low-cut" style, not particularly suited to the outdoor life since they tend to pick up stones and scoop them down under your feet.


These are hypothetical reconstructions based on manuscript illustrations and the construction of much later leather cases.

These are leather cases for carrying goods, based on manuscript illustrations showing rounded, brown-colored objects with straps and buckles. We tried to match the silhouette we saw in the pictures.

What medieval people put in them, we don't know - it's hard to use X-ray vision on a manuscript illustration. We use them to carry Sir Geoffrey's armor, since the leather is a negligible weight to add to the weight of the armor itself.