In celebration of the month of February, Heels.com is celebrating Black History Month with a few features of African Americansthat have contributed to the fashion and shoe industries. With the newly elected President Barack Obama, it’s clear that now is a very special time to celebrate this month. We wanted to introduce another noteworthy black historical figure; one that will change the way we look at our precious shoes!
Ever wonder how shoes were made in the 19th century? It must have been by hand, right? Or was their a machine invented to assist in the process? Maybe you never even gave it much thought (I surely hadn’t). Luckily I discovered a man named Jan Matzeliger (of both both Dutch and African descent) who invented a handy machine that attached the upper part of a shoe to the sole.
The people who were able to sew the parts of the shoe together (originally) were called “hand lasters” and expert ones were able to produce about 50 pairs of shoes in a 10 hour work day. The service these people provided made the cost of shoes very expensive. They figured no one would ever be able to create a machine that could work as well as fingers do. Matzeliger however proved them wrong and did just that, creating the machine called the “shoe laster.” It changed the world of shoes soon there after, as it lowered the cost and increased the quantities (to approx. 150-700 shoes a day!) from there on out. Shoe lovers of this time rejoiced…..as shoes were now affordable for just about everyone.
So, maybe you will remember Jan Matzeliger the next time you gawk at those fancy red soles that Christian Louboutin shoes seem to always sport. Without Matzeliger, we might not have ever seen these ruby red wonders.