Discover the history of lace up shoes, the oldest shoes in human history.

Lace up shoes are the oldest shoes in human history: according to most reports, shoelaces are as old as the shoes themselves. However, this type of shoe is also present nowadays as a symbol of elegance that matches every gentleman outfit.

The Origins Of Lace Up Shoes

The first lace up shoe was discovered in a cave in Armenia by a group of archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia.

It is a 5,500-year-old lace up shoe. It was made from a single piece of cowhide and included a leather cord lacing system on both the front and back seams of the shoes.

Shoelaces kept early man’s shoes tight and fitted, satisfying their need to travel long distances for food, water and shelter without causing severe damage to their feet.

In addiction, archaeologists think that about 5,000 years ago, during the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age periods, cave men and women also used specific shoelace designs to distinguish between tribes.

development of LACE UP shoes over THE CENTURIES

In 2000 b.c., ancient Mesopotamians wore simple pieces of leather that fit beneath the foot and were bound to the foot and ankle with laces that were likely of rawhide. Without these laces, the soles were useless.

The footwear of ancient Greeks and Romans included sandals with rawhide lacing. Roman soldiers spread the use of shoes to western Europe, particularly the utilitarian footcovering of the marching soldier.

Ancient Britons adopted the Romans’ simple sole with a thong between the large toe and second toe, with rawhide laces securing the sandal to the foot.

There was a fair variety of laced shoes during this period, including shoes of more luxurious fabrics and furs that have not survived.

Fast-forward to the 16th century, shoes start looking even more like to our modern shoes. They were first seen in Ireland and Scotland.

scotish lace up shoes 1
Lace up shoes, 1500, Scotland.

In the Elizabeth era, lace up shoes were popular among men looking for a solution to keep foot dry in muddy bugs.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, lace up shoes were widely used among soldiers at war because of foot and ankle support. They had modern lacing systems made of leather threaded through holes in the top strip of the shoe.

19th lace up shoes 1
Lace up shoes, 1900, Europe.

By World War I, soldiers increased the functionality of the shoe, adding hobnails to the soles to increase grip, traction and durability of the shoe. This helped soldiers maintain balance during important battles on slippery snow, rocks and uneven ground.

Lace up shoes have come a long way in the past years, evolving alongside man and influenced by environment, culture and needs.


The history of the lace up shoes continues to our days becoming the most worn shoes by men in every season.

This model hasn’t lost its original essence: they match every outfit due to their versatily, becoming a timeless model.

borgioli lace up shoes
Some of Fratelli Borgioli’s lace ups shoes in leather.

Nowadays there are two versions: the Oxford and the Derby, the difference depends on the type of lacing.

They are suitable for business looks, ceremonies but also for informal occasion: they are an evergreen model that dominates the catwalks and shops.

They should never be missing in the wardrobe of a modern metropolitan gentleman.

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