Skip to content

History Of Buckle Shoes

Discover the history of buckle shoes, an aristocratic symbol that embraces buckle boots, buckle sandals and many more.

Buckle shoes are seen in many iconic movies, where aristocratic English life is represented. However, this type of shoe is also present nowadays as monkstraps, a symbol of elegance that matches every gentleman outfit.

The Origins Of The Buckle Shoes

Did you know that buckle shoes have originated as a new way for fastening shoes?

“This day I began to put on buckles to my shoes, which I have bought yesterday of Mr. Wotton.”

Samuel Pepys, Administrator of the Navy of England, 22 January 1660

Thanks to Samuel Pepys, we have one of the earliest written records of this new practice. Apparently, the English member of the Parliament was ahead of his time.

Until the end of the Seventeenth century, buckle shoes were not certainly considered a top fashion choice: laces were still the main way to fasten men’s shoes.

Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys, Administrator of the Navy of England

The true history of buckle shoes began after the 1688 Glorious Revolution when they began to be considered a fashion icon. The industrial production began, resulting in more elaborated and skilled crafting of this type of shoe.

Soon, in the Eighteenth Century, the buckle shoes began to evolve from a purely stylish and functional role to performing both social functions as well.

In this period, men of distinction increasingly asked for buckle shoes, used as a symbol of wealth.

The demand for this type of shoe was so huge that a complete industry of buckle shoes was established in England, which employed thousands of people.

These buckles were made from a variety of metals: from silver to brass, including iron, steel, and copper. They could also incorporate gemstones, commemorative motifs, or pleasing designs.

The customization was indeed a way to show a man’s rank and privilege.

woman silver shoe buckles
Woman silver shoe buckles, 1780-85. Credits to  LACMA Image Library.

The history of buckle shoes continues In 1789 when the French Revolution began. Due to the decorative nature of the shoe buckle, they were used as a political statement to show support for the monarchy.

After the end of the French Revolution in 1799 all fashions associated with aristocracy, including buckles shoes, were rejected for less extravagant wear.

In this sense, this type of shoe was able to survive thanks to its original purpose of a new way of fastening shoes, while it could no longer be worn as an item of fashion.

Design And Production

Initially buckle shoes had a very little aesthetic value: they were designed to be solid and waterproof.

Only in the 1740s, when their industrial production began, this type of shoe extended outside the mere concept of functionality.

Gemstones were added to make buckle shoes more attractive and customizable, allowing for variation in shape and color.

In the Eighteenth century, clothing was the key representative of class and identity: that’s why we witnessed several attempts to create shoe buckles that looked expensive but could be sold at an affordable price.

aristocratic woman buckle shoes
Woman’s silk damask shoes with buckles, 1740–1750, England.

If expensive buckles were made in silver, less expensive ones were made of shiny steel cut to resemble diamonds. This kind of buckle shoes was appreciated by many members of society to attempt to alter their clothing to that of someone of a higher status.

Consequently, the value of the shoe varied according to the metal used in production, from copper to the precious silver and gold.

As a result, Dandies aimed to own fifty or more different types of buckles. Silver or gold gilt buckles were the most popular, with bejellewed fasteners kept for special occasions.

Jewelers and shoemakers were challenged to keep up with demands for novelty designs. 

As shoe buckles began to fall out of fashion towards the end of the century, buckle makers began several attempts to save their sales by altering the traditional buckle with new designs or methods and make it more appealing and modern to fit the tastes of their consumer.

Buckles Shoes Nowadays

The history of buckles shoes continues until our days: we usually refer to this type of shoes as Monkstraps. It is essentially a derby, not closed by laces, but through a sideband that ends with a buckle.

This model hasn’t lost its original essence: it matches elegant outfits because of the buckle, which gives it an almost noble touch

leather buckle shoes
A pair of Fratelli Borgioli’s buckle shoes in leather.

Nowadays there are many versions: they go from the smooth leather versions to the brogued ones, and buckles can vary from one to three.

Double buckles confirm as a classic for a stylish outfit. buckle boots and buckle sandals are also a must for the everyday gentleman.

The advantage of this shoe is that it hasn’t the drawback of possible breakage of the laces, but it’s preferable to wear it with straight and not too long pants, otherwise the buckle may get caught with them.

If you liked the history of buckle shoes, discover other curiosities with the history of sneakers. Enjoy the reading!

My Agile Privacy
This website uses technical and profiling cookies. Clicking on "Accept" authorises all profiling cookies. Clicking on "Refuse" or the X will refuse all profiling cookies. By clicking on "Customise" you can select which profiling cookies to activate.