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Worldbuilding: Footwear

At some point people decided to protect themselves from frost, snow, ice, rain, thorns, sharp objects, and animal excrement. Thus began the curious trip from sandals and moccasins to four-inch high heels and platform shoes that resemble horse hooves. From foot-binding to bunion-inducing, toe-squishing fashion foibles, humans have taken footwear from function to fetish.

From a historical perspective, sandals were the easiest to produce. From tying pieces of wood to one's foot to crafting sandals from skins and wrapped fabric, footwear made it easier for the upright-walking creature to navigate difficult terrain with their feet intact. Perhaps it resulted in weaker foot pads, but once begun, the practice of foot coverings flourished.

Slippers were a natural evolution and could be crafted from all manner of fabrics sewn to hides or padding.

Then cobblers added higher heels to keep clothing out of refuse lining the streets or to add inches to one's height. In some cultures, wooden clogs did the trick. From wood to metal, the platforms went from useful to outrageous. 

Leather was a natural choice to make books and shoes sturdy enough to survive rain and snow. Then came rubber for galoshes and athletic shoes.

Once we dispensed with practicality, shoes became an art form with silks, brocades, precious metals, and gemstones fit for a queen. There were pumps, wedges, flats, and curled toes. Artists love to show off their wild imaginations.

With dreams of space, special gravitational boots became necessary.

What type of footwear did your characters wear and why? What did the choice say about their character, position in society, or occupation?

What did footwear say about the people in your story? As you move up and down the societal structure of your story world, do they go from rags to ostentatious impracticality?

What footwear does your main character wear and why does s/he choose it? Do they have a collection that fills a room or only one pair?

What do their choices reveal about their character? Do they imagine themselves a pirate, a cowboy, or ballerina? 

Do they need special footwear for their profession? Do shoes have hidden weapons in the toes, jet packs, or magical transportation capability?

In a Fantasy or Science Fiction tale, what do your characters wear and what materials were utilized to make them? Are they made for fighting, flight, or leisure?

Suggested references:

1. Shoes: A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More  by Linda O'Keeffe
2. Shoes: A Brief History  by Linda Woolley and Lucy Johnston
3. Shoes: The Complete Sourcebook by John Peacock
4. Shoes: A History from Sandals to Sneakers  by Giorgio Riello and Peter McNeilby
5. Shoes: Their History in Words and Pictures by  Charlotte Yue and David Yueby
6. A History Of The Shoe And Leather Industries Of The United States Together With Historical And Biographical Notices; Volume 2 by Charles H. McDermottby
7. The Book of the Feet - A History of Boots and Shoes by J. S. Hall

Next week, we will discuss accessories.

For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.

Other titles in the series:

Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary (Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience Fiction,
Team VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at  

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