Few items of clothing emit as many different messages as sandals do. They range from the fuddy-duddy and dull to the glamorous and free. Above all, sandals are the simplest and most direct practical response to the need to protect the feet. In fact, they were the earliest form of wrought foot covering.
Sandals were the basic footwear of all Mediterranean cultures. There is little variation between Egyptian and Etruscan sandals; those of Greece and Rome are almost identical. Their openness and simplicity made them ideal for warm climates but, as they moved northwards and were more enclosed, they became the precursors of the modern boot.
The straps and thongs of the early sandals served a dual purpose. In addition to giving support and strength to the ankle when the wearer was crossing rough terrain, they were also, in the Roman army, an indication of his rank. When they extended above the ankle, the sandal was the footwear of an officer.
Called caligae, these sandals were often studded with gold and silver. Gaius Caesar, Roman emperor from 37 to 41 AD, wore his caligae so regularly that his soldier called him Caligula. European painters constantly reinvented the caliga in fanciful forms, as Piero di Cosima and Janssens van Nuyssen have done in the two paintings shown here.
Quoting: Colin McDowell
“SHOES, Fashion and Fantasy” (first edition, 1989)
Ed. Thames and Hudson, London
Photographic and Bibliographic research by: Barbara Placidi