HAND-CRAFTED LEATHER GOODS
The shoe known as the moccasin was essentially made from one piece of leather, which was the usual practice, long before shoes were made from two separate pieces, namely the soles and the uppers.
A single piece of hide or skin was pulled around the foot and served as the basic covering for many of the peoples of Europe, Africa, Asia and in the Americas.
In many parts of Europe, especially in the Balkans, this kind of footwear was known by the Serbian word for shoe, opanke, and were usually made by their wearers.
The word moccasin originated centuries ago in North America, being the Algonquin (Algonkian, a leading group of native American tribes in the valley of the Ottawa and around the northern tributaries of the St Lawrence) word for footwear with a soft bottom, or sole.
Opankes generally acquired soles of hardened leather but the moccasins of North America were soft-soled for such purposes as stealth in hunting, walking on snowshoes and kneeling in canoes.
The early Northern Plains moccasins with their soft soles were made in one piece and folded, with a side seam. The two-piece moccasins with stiff rawhide soles probably came into being with the advent of the horse, when people began to move greater distances over the Prairies, and everyone, men, women and children, wore the same style with only the size differing.
Tanned buffalo, elk, moose and deer hide were the leathers of choice with domestic cowhide moccasins being a sign of hardship and a scarcity of wild game.
Hides were either white or smoked, depending on their purpose, with everyday ones being plain, and decorated ones for special occasions including some with beaded decoration on the soles specifically intended to be seen when sitting cross-legged on the ground.
Dyed porcupine quills were used before the introduction of seed beads, with designs varying but including squares, diamonds, bars and stripes. Floral designs were the result of European influences, being done in bilaterally symmetrical forms using geometric shapes depicting non-realistic flowers.
Red cloth obtained in trading would sometimes be used on cuffs and as fill-ins, and at the same time domestic cowhides were beginning to be used for making clothing and rawhide for hard soles.
It was at the beginning of the twentieth century that lower-cut and ankle-boot type moccasins started to appear and by the twenties and thirties, became very popular.
Today the term "moccasin" also describes a popular style of leather shoe construction which may have an added separate hard sole not only of leather, but rubber or synthetic materials are often used.
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