As the story is told, in 1492 Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue and accidentally ended up in America – were he met the Algonquians. Obviously, traditional European dress varied extremely from traditional Native American dress. One of those differences was footwear. While Native American apparel varied greatly from tribe to tribe- one thing remained relatively common- the footwear as most tribes wore what we call “moccasins.” Interestingly enough, if you look at all the drawings from Europeans first coming in contact with Native Americans- you will see that nearly all the illustrations show Native Americans barefoot- wonder why? Nevertheless, this post, randomly inspired by Columbus Day, focuses on moccasins – Moccasin history and various styles with all their comfortable glory.
While Native American Apparel varied greatly from tribe to tribe- the one nearly universal element was the moccasin. The word “moccasin” comes from an Algonquian word (also spelled mocasin, mocassin, moccassin, mocassions,or mocussin, depending on the language and transcriber), but that is only because Algonquians were the first Indians encountered by Europeans–they were used as footwear from Sonora to Saskatchewan Native Americans. While the term “moccasins” may be understood and accepted by all of them at this point, most Indian tribes have their own native word for them.
American Indian moccasins were originally made of soft leather stitched together with sinew. Though the basic construction of Native American moccasins was similar throughout North America, moccasin patterns were subtly different in nearly every tribe, and Indian people could often tell each other’s tribal affiliation simply from the design of their shoes. (In fact, the common names of some large nations like the Blackfoot and the Chippewas refer to their characteristic moccasin styles.) Tribal differences included not only the cut of the moccasins but also the extensive beadwork, quillwork, and painted designs many Indian people lavished on their shoes. In some tribes hardened rawhide was used for the sole for added durability, and in others rabbit fur (or, later, sheepskin) was used to line the leather moccasins for added warmth.
Since then, however, the style has evolved somewhat into a very adorable form of footwear today: the moccasin. The beauty of the shoes is that they are so comfortable- they’re feel slippers (lots of slipper style moccasins that are ridiculously comfortable and warm). Yet, the shoes if worn right can be a very trendy and sexy statement. Check these out:
For those vegan friendly enthusiasts that like the moccasin inspired style but don’t like the tanned leather- check out these VEGAN Chocolate Wrap Boot by Toms
So comfortable and quite stylish. Thank you Native Americans for these amazing contributions to footwear.