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Cream silk brocade turnshoe with green heel

Shoes can be expressive. They reflect the wearer's personality.

Shoes can be special. They are purchased for important occasions such as the first day of school or a wedding. Shoes can be status symbols. Both past and present designer brands remain exclusive. Shoes can be works of art. They are designed and created. Shoes can be magical. They are central to stories such as 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'Cinderella'. Shoes can be good luck charms. Concealed in the fabric of buildings, they were thought to offer protection from evil spirits.

Explore the history of footwear through the collections at Lynn Museum and Norwich Costume and Textiles.


1250 - 1799

Early shoes - The earliest surviving King's Lynn shoes date back to about 1250. Archaeologists excavating in King's Lynn in the 1960s found well preserved remains of leather shoes almost everywhere they dug. 


Victorian shoes - Before the mass production of shoes, towns like King's Lynn had their own craftsmen who made and mended boots and shoes. 'White's Norfolk Directory' of 1845 lists 67 boot and shoemakers trading in King's Lynn.


Walking jewellery - The most popular style of footwear was the bar shoe. It had a simple design with a heel, single strap and button to fasten. Shoes were made from satin, brightly coloured leathers and exotic skins. 


Ready-to-wear - During this period the look of the High Street changed. Department stores such as Marks and Spencer and Burtons the Tailor opened shops in King's Lynn. Local, well established, independent retailers continued to trade. 


Footwear during the war years - On the Home Front clothing was practical. People were encouraged to 'make do and mend' - modifying the clothing that they already had. Shoe polish wasn't available so people were encouraged to use a cut potato to shine their shoes.


Fun and fashion - During the 1950s young people had more disposable income resulting in a development of youth fashion. These thick crepe-sole shoes are commonly known as creepers.  Local cobblers began to refine the creeper to include larger soles.


Shoes a-go-go - Local cobblers began to refine the creeper to include larger soles. Go-go boots may have been named after go-go dancing in nightclubs.


A platform for shoes - In the early 1970s popular fashion and lifestyle magazine 'Vogue' declared "there are no rules in the fashion game now." Disco music inspired many fashions of the late 1970s. 

Modern day

High tech and the high street - Specialist sport shoe manufacturers are now using cutting-edge technology to enhance the user's performance. These new developments are changing what a shoe is, and what a shoe can do for its wearer.