Poulaine of brown archaeological leather
L. 10 1/2 in. (27 cm)
Bashford Dean Memorial Collection, Funds from various donors, by exchange, 1956 (29.158.914)
This shoe, part of a larger collection of objects excavated from an archaeological site on the Thames River in London, provides a glimpse of the fashionable shoe style for men from the fourteenth to the mid-fifteenth century. The poulaine, a long pointed shoe, remained the popular footwear, with its overall length expanding and contracting, for almost 150 years. The poulaine's long, exaggerated toe points were often stuffed with moss or other materials for support. Intentional slashing and embossing of the leather were common decorative embellishments. By the late fifteenth century, the poulaine was superceded by an equally exaggerated style of shoe that was unusually broad across the instep and toe. This style was relatively short-lived, however, and was quickly replaced by a shoe that more closely approximated the natural shape of the foot.