Friday, October 7, 2016

Straps in Training, Part 2: 1794-1813

Today's post is a continuation of the October 6th, 2016 article Straps in Training: Wearing Shoes "Sailor Fashion" in the Age of Sail at British Tars: 1740-1790. The author is Buzz Mooney, a longtime reenactor, maritime history enthusiast, and friend.

Straps in Training:
Wearing Shoes "Sailor Fashion" in the Age of Sail
Part II: 1794-1813

In Bill Sullivan’s recent article on, I found this intriguing little gem: “Sailors wore their shoes 'sailor fashion,' swaggering around with one buckle strap flapping out of the buckle and tugged to the front; others in the backcountry and German-speaking areas turned both buckle straps outward to flap up and down like mule ears, tying them with a string—kind of like wearing your cap backwards or loose-lacing your Timberland work boots.”

I decided to see what I could find, to illustrate or verify the notion of shoes worn “sailor fashion”. Were there period sources that mentioned this, and was it shown in period illustrations? When did sailors wear their shoes in this manner, if at all? The article didn’t cite any sources, so I had to explore this notion on my own... Tom Apple told me that the cordwainer at Colonial Williamsburg had told him that this practice was called “training the strap”, and both he and Steve Rayner directed me to Bennett Cuthbertson’s A System for the Complete Interior Management and Oeconomy of a Battalion of Infantry... (London, 1768:135)
"XVI. It should be particularly observed, that the Men do not wear their Shoes, on the same feet, but that they change them day about, to prevent their running crooked; nor should they be permitted to have their Shoe straps pulled toward the toe, like Sailors: but are to be accustomed to tuck the ends of them, under the rim of the buckle.”
So here was a direct, period reference to the style, with a description that told me what to look for. The next step was to see what illustrations I could find, to show this “in action”, and, I hoped, to give me an idea whether this was a brief fad, or a long-running fashion. My particular hope was to show whether it ran throughout the periods cited in Dalton and Bartgis’s blogs, which cover the range of periods I re-enact, as a sailor. I was pleased to find that artists of the period often showed some variation of “training.”

The Cuthbertson book told me the style was commonly recognized as a sailors’ fashion in 1768, which suggests that it had been common for some years, so that at least gave me a fairly early confirmation, and the images I found showed that the style continued into the 19th century.

For the entirety of Part 1, including a definition of the parts of a buckle and images of the fashion in art from 1778-1790, please continue reading the article at British Tars: Straps in Training: Wearing Shoes "Sailor Fashion" in the Age of Sail.

Part II: 1794-1813

We now turn to “British Plenty”, by Henry Singleton (1794).
"British Plenty"
Henry Singleton, London, 1794.
Original at Royal Museums Greenwich

This shows a strap on the left shoe, hanging over the frame.

Next is a satirical print from 1799.
“The Spanish Dollars makes the English Merry”
Viera Portuense, London, 1799.
In the collection of the British Museum.

This etching shows the right shoe with a strap over the frame,
but the left with it under.

1806’s Jack and Poll at Portsmouth, by Argus (Charles Williams) shows the fashion continuing into the 19th century, almost 40 years after the date of Cuthbertson’s comment. This brings us not only into the era of “Nelson’s Navy” but past it, as Jack and his faithful Poll mourn the death of His Lordship.
"Jack and Poll at Portsmouth"
Charles Williams, London, 1806.
Royal Museums Greenwich

Though it this is harder to make out, it appears all four of Jack’s straps
are trained forward, with one on the right shoe passing over the frame,
and the rest passing under.

In this caricature from 1809 we see the shoes of three sailors, but only one trained strap is shown with any clarity.
"Saturday Night at Sea, or Nautical Notions of Honor"
S.W. Fores, London: 1809.
Royal Museum Greenwich.

The strap on the right shoe of the man in the red jacket is hanging out over the frame.

[I noticed a trained strap in the 1813 caricature "The Yankee Torpedo", which is the latest date for a print that I've yet found featuring the trained strap fashion. - B. Bartgis]
"The Yankee torpedo" Thomas Tegg, London, November 1, 1813.
In the collection of the Library of Congress.
Both shoes show the trained strap.

There appear to be two variations on the style: one features one strap hanging loosely over the forward edge of the buckle frame, and the other has the straps crossed and fed under the forward side of the buckle frame, as seen in "Watson and the Shark" (1778). The one-strap-forward style is more common in illustrations.

In conclusion, this fashion seems to have existed from at least the mid-1760s to the 1810s. Further research may reveal if the trained strap fashion went earlier than 1768, or if it continued as long as buckle shoes were still worn.

Stay tuned next week for some photographs of Mr Mooney's shoes with the straps buckled and trained in various manners to demonstrate what the fashion looks in real life!

No comments:

Post a Comment