Thursday, September 30, 2010

Moccasins and Mukluks: From Function to High Fashion

Moccasins are a traditional type of Native footwear that have recently found their way into mainstream popular culture and fashion. Traditional moccasins come in innumerable variations according to the material, construction and beadwork design specific to each nation or tribe. To truly appreciate the beauty and appeal of comfort, let's take a look at the history of design, construction and the origins of the word "moccasin" itself:

"The soft elk skin, deerskin or buffalo skin slippers worn by Native Americans and known widely as moccasins were a fashion of shoe shared by many different tribes over time. The seemingly simple design of moccasins, however, was actually so nuanced that Native Americans could attribute moccasin footprints to different tribes and identify one another accordingly. Subtle variations in stitching or fringe detailing or the finishing of the heel could distinguish one pair of footprints from another. Beyond this, the decorative detailing in beadwork or quill design on the front tab, or vamp, of the moccasin would also signal origins or affiliation. -Source: Aurora History Boutique

"Native American moccasins were designed for their specific environment. Hard-sole moccasins, usually made from two or more pieces of hide, are often associated with the western plains and deserts areas. The hard sole of shaped rawhide and fitted leather upper required more tailoring than other moccasin varieties. Hard-soled moccasins were important to protect feet from harsh cactus or prairie-grass covered ground, and sharp rocks not worn down by water. The turned up toe of many two-piece moccasins (like that of the Apache) prevented sharp objects from running into the seams and injuring the foot. Soft-soled moccasins, often constructed from a single piece of leather were common in the Eastern Forests and were made by bringing up the sole of the shoe around the foot and puckering or patching the material around the instep. Soft-soled center seam and pucker-toe moccasins were well suited to travel through woodlands with leaf and pine-needle covered ground. Some soft-soled moccasins from the Plains and Northwest Coast were made from one piece but they were sewed along one the side of the foot rather than the center."
-Source: Native Tech

Origins of the Word

The word moccasin in association with Native American footwear has been adopted by the greater American public but it was never a universally understood word within the different Native American tribes. Moccasin was the word for shoe in the Virginia Algonquian language and was passed into English as a generalization through the encounters early English settlers had with the native community. Captain John Smith of the Jamestown settlement is attributed with noting the translation in his 1612 glossary, ‘mockasins: shoes.’ In actuality, each tribe used words in their own language or dialect to signify shoe/slipper and it is coincidence that has made ‘moccasin’ the lasting word in English. It is more than coincidence and surely a tribute to the beauty of the design and image of the moccasin that it has been preserved as a style of shoe until today and continues to permeate the broader fashion market."
-Source: Aurora History Boutique

Today, contemporary manufacturers are looking back to traditional design to make Moccasins for the masses. The images seen here come from a Metis owned business which produces gorgeously constructed and detailed moccasins and mukluks offered in suede and nappa leather, rabbit fur trim, fleece lining and vibram soles.

Recently, Manitobah Moccasins, pictured above, were featured in Oprah Magazine. Countless celebrities have also been spotted sporting variations of this traditional footwear.

 ...and they continue to appear on the runways of some of the world's most recognizable fashion designers, such as Chanel

 Visit our online gallery of native made moccasins today to choose a pair that best suits your individual style and environment.

79 Rue St.Paul Est
Montreal, QC
H2Y 3R1


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