We will take a quick look at all the exhibitors of the shoe industry, and then, specializing our examination, say a few words about the manufacturer chosen as the type of this great industry, which has an annual production of one hundred million francs in Paris.
The manufacturing processes have divided the shoe into three distinct classes: the sewn shoe, the nailed shoe and the screwed shoe.
The sewn shoe does not have a special manufacturing centre, however, we can mention, for their exceptional importance: Paris, Nantes, Marseille, Bordeaux and Fougères. As for the nailed shoe, it is mainly manufactured in Paris, Liancourt, Romans, Blois and Angers, while the screwed shoe is a Parisian speciality. These two last processes tend, successively, to decrease the cost prices; and the improvements intervened in certain nuances of nailing or screwing, have no other goal than to ally better the solidity and the good market with the flexibility of the sole; it should be added that the nailing and the screwing can be carried out more easily by the mechanical means and produce, consequently, a reduction in the prices while increasing the speed of work.
Cows and oxen provide the best soles for our walk. Calf, kid, goat, sheep, constitute in various degrees of malleability the uppers of our boots and, on their more or less intelligent choice, depend the preservation of the suppleness of our feet, and the absence of those horny excrescences which are often so painful? From this condition of suppleness, without which walking becomes painful, was born the distinction between men's shoes and women's shoes.
Footwear has its artists like cabinet making and bronzes. At the Exhibition, some masterpieces of form and ornamentation for men were noted; but certainly the ladies' cute foot inspired the workers more.
Never has the art of shoe-making been pushed further than it is today; and in spite of the red heels of Louis XV, which were more eccentric than graceful, we must give the prize to our modern industrialists. An object of first necessity, the shoe has not forgotten that next to art there is industry, industry which by its more economical processes must satisfy all pockets and all requirements.
Would one believe that France, which exports 40 million francs worth of shoes per year, still has a few places where this trade is unknown?
Austria has greatly improved her shoe manufacture; her patent leather boots from Worms and Mainz have astonished our most competent manufacturers and threaten them with serious competition. Prussia has made little progress. England produces, in general, heavy and common shoes; America manufactures at full steam, solidly, but without art. It is the land of the Times is Money, and the freed slaves put on their shoes without looking too closely at the colour as well as at the shape. Italy has some serious manufacturers in Turin, Milan and Bologna, much more than in Florence. In Spain, too many sandals, and among the Turks, the antique golden babouches, but wide and flattening the foot, which is understandable, since they remove their shoes where, out of respect for the Divinity, we remove our hats.
China did not display shoes. Why not? The feet are removed in women for coquetry!
As I have said, the prize goes to France and Paris - to Paris, which produces manufacturers like M. Pinet, whose shop window contains a variety of exquisitely elegant types; this industrialist is a practitioner who became a householder by his own merit. Creator of ingenious forms, expert in the choice of raw materials and at the head of all the progress that can perfect his industry, such was the exhibitor with whom we are dealing at the Champ de Mars.
Mr. Pinet, who has devoted himself especially to women's footwear, has made a host of progress worthy of attention. To the selected taste of his lasts, to the application of a meticulous and very exact system of sizing, having for effect to ward off all the eventualities of a manufacture rolling in advance on nearly 1000 different kinds of shoes, he has known how to add the creation of a kind of heel more graceful, more convenient and of an easier execution than in the past. We know that high heels are in fashion today. Our nature is to grow in every way. The old heel fixed at the end of the boot hindered walking and tended to be thrown out. M. Pinet understood that the real centre of effort of the heel of the shoe is exerted more under the arch of the foot than under the human heel, and by a mathematically calculated arrangement, he fixed it proportionally to its height at the most convenient place for the ease of walking. This innovation gives his boots a graceful silhouette that is noticeable at first sight. Let us add that the improvements of this industrialist are not limited to this, and that his factory, of which he was himself the architect, is conceived on a most intelligent technical plan.
A large part of his production is exported to Smyrna, Odessa, Alexandria, and represents a very important figure.
In short, he holds a very distinct position between the popular factories and the private workshops where the order reigns.
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée