17th-18th Century Shoe Project


The shoe below was recovered from the pirate ship Whydah, that wreck off of Massachusetts in 1717. 

In "pirate" re-enacting, there is no current source of correct 1690-1720 shoes that are "off the rack".  Those of us that have correct shoes (maybe 5 people) have had them custom made.

The main reason for lack of decent footwear, is that it is much easier for folks to buy an "off the rack" rev war shoe for $90-$120 bucks than it is to search out someone to do it and explain what they want.

Rev War shoes are, in general; a different pattern, they are made "right and left" instead of straight lasted, the latches are too wide, and the tongues are too short.

Fortunately, we have several examples of the kind of footwear that pirates wore.  Sam Bellamey's pirate ship the Whydah sank in 1717.  One of the items recovered by the salvage team was a leather shoe.  While there is speculation that this was a boy's shoe, John King, (see http://tinyurl.com/q7pvl ) my contention is that it is still a great example of a period shoe and shows how they were constructed.

Other shoes available to us are those from the wreck of the "Elizabeth and Mary" (E&M) (http://tinyurl.com/28erp2 ) from 1690, and those shoes recovered from the "Belle" that wrecked around 1686.

The purpose of this site is to provide anyone attempting to make a pair of "pirate shoes" with the right information and a close look as some details so help them with their project.  The info below is base off of the recovered shoe from the various ship wreck recovered shoes. 

I am hoping that a manufacturer develops the shoe and then carries it in their "catalog", so that when someone in the re-enacting community asks "Where do I get correct shoes?" I can point them in your direction.

I would like this replica to mimic the original in every way possible.  Butt stitched, tall heel, Vegetable tanned leather etc.

So.... Here are the shoes.

Ain't she a beauty???

Some notes on the shoe.

And the Achilles' heel, if you pardon the pun, is the butt stitching.  For some reason, shoes of this period are butt stitched.  If you look at the heel area of the shoe above, you will see that the pieces of leather are not overlapped and sewn, but they meet end to end, or "butt up" to each other, and a are stitched together. 

Here is a CLOSE UP

This technique it what separates "the men from the boys" so to speak, because this type of stitching HAS to be done by hand, there is no machine that will do it or even simulate this kind of stitching.

The latch for late 17th and Early 18th Century shoes are VERY small.  Some shoe manufacturers I have contacted seem unwilling to make a small latch.  The shoe in the photos is from @ 1717.  Shoe buckles circa 1660 could be a small as 3/8th of an inch wide (where the latch goes through).  By 1720 the latch could be as wide as 1".  The latch on the Whydah shoe is 2 cm tapering to 1 cm. (so 4/5ths inches to 2/5th inch).

It would be great if folks could "order" a particular size latch when the get their shoes.... like 1/2" or 3/4" latch.  I have had some buckle made to fit an early shoe and they will accommodate a 3/4" (or 18-19 mm) latch.  So, if you know anyone who needs an early pair of shoe buckles, send them my way!

More info on Period shoe buckles

Besides the latch size, the tongue on the shoes is pretty high, as well as the heels.  I do not have any more pictures of the shoe, but I was able to get a line drawing of the sides, top and bottom which may help you to figure out its construction.

Most information on 1690-1720 shoes say that square toes were in fashion.  That being said, the Admiralty Contracts (guidance for the Royal Navy slop purchases) specifies double soled, round toe'd shoes.  Again, I would like to copy the original as closely as possible, so lets go with the round toe.


Next up is the recovered shoe from the "Elizabeth and Mary"

Again, its constructed similarly, but this one has a squared toe and has the additional piece in front.  These shoes are held together with ties instead of buckles.  The recovered shoes from the "Belle" indicate both round and square toes, brown and black, and both tied and buckled shoes.

Notice the side pieces. The styling is different than on later shoes.  Later shoes seem to have a "stepped" shape, while these early shoes show more of an "angle" on one side and a "curve" on the other.  The above photo shoes the angled side in the exploded view piece.

The below shoe is a reproduction of a later shoe, superimposed with pink and yellow marks detailing the styling on early shoes.  The yellow line is the side piece that shoes the "curved" style.  This piece should be butt stitched instead of machine stitched.  You can see the "stepped" styling of the later shoe where the machine stitch marks are.


Here is a repro from Kevin Garlick in the UK

Photo by M Spencer

This shoe really captures the spirit of the ASC shoe.

There was a study done on the shoes recovered from the wreck of the Belle.  You can check it out here http://nautarch.tamu.edu/anth/abstracts/randolph.htm

This should give you a pretty good idea of the pattern or style of late 17th and early 18th century shoes.



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