Shoes online exhibition
Accession number 1984.327
These canvas shoes are of a kind commonly made by sailors for use as footwear on board ship. The sole and strap are made from ropeyarns plaited into what is called sennit. They are an example of a maritime craft using traditional ropework skills that may have continued until as late as the 1960s. This kind of shoe would have provided sailors with highly flexible footwear that still gave them a good degree of grip.
Sailors traditionally spent much of their time on board ship making and repairing clothing. A number of writers have described the time that sailors spent involved in these types of crafts. In 'Slope of the Wind', Adrian Seligman writes about a sea voyage in the 1930s where, while off duty;
“... Almost everyone is at work on his canvas shoes, fancy belt or sea chest handles”
Max Wood describes a voyage in the 1940s where;
“In the free watches men occupied themselves at their favourite handicrafts. I made a pair of rope-soled canvas shoes” .
There is evidence that at least one Liverpool sailor referred to such shoes as 'boscoes' and it is likely that they were particularly suitable for wear in hot climates.
Sailors would have made these shoes to be used and then thrown away, so it is unusual for this kind of hand made working clothing to survive. There are two examples of this kind of footwear in the Maritime History collection, both of which were found in buildings around Liverpool’s docks.
Information courtesy of Des Pawson of the Museum of Knots and Sailors' Ropework, Ipswich.
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