The History of Shoelaces & Parts of a Shoelace

Shoelaces (also known as shoe strings) play a pivotal role in our lives. Laces create a system that fastens our footwear to our feet by using different lacing patterns. 

Shoelaces are the reason why most of our sneakers and boots don't fall off when we walk. So, where exactly do laces come from? What's the history of shoelaces and how did they come to be?

Shoelace History

So it's hard to exactly pinpoint when shoelaces first existed and the same goes for shoes in general. This is because the materials used for footwear deteriorated easily.

One of the first signs of shoelaces used in history dates back to 3500 BC, where the Areni-1 leather shoe had leather shoestrings which slotted through eyelets that were cut into the hide.

It was around 3300 BC, where we started to see complex shoes that were bound together by lime bark string. These shoes were worn and used by Ötzi (The Iceman) who lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE.

If we're talking more modern times with a shoelace system that we know today. The Museum of London has examples of shoes with a lacing system that consists of eyelets, hooks, and a knot from the medieval times (around 12th century).

Nowadays, shoelaces are made out of material like nylon or polyester to avoid deterioration. Before laces were made using materials like leather, cotton, and hemp. In today's world, shoelaces are commonly made from nylon paracord or polyester flat/rope laces.

Who invented shoelaces?

The invention of the shoelace cannot be exactly identified because of the deterioration of footwear back in the day. The first signs of an identifiable shoelace system would be from Ötzi with the Areni-1 (a cowhide leather shoe).

In March 1790, Harvey Kennedy invented the aglet and he patented the shoestring officially. His version of the shoelace included shoe aglets (shoelace tips), which to this day makes it easier to thread laces through your sneakers. Sources say that Harvey earned over 2.5 million dollars from the modern shoelace in the 1790s.

Parts of a Shoelace

Many people don't know, but there are different parts to a shoelace. The shoelace consists of two shoe aglets (shoelace tips) and a shoelace string, which comes in different materials and types, depending on what type of shoe the lace is used for.

When discussing parts of a shoelace, you'll also need to include the shoe eyelets, since these are essential for shoelace threading.

Shoe Aglets (Shoelace tips)

Aglets are the tips of a shoelace. These aglets are essential so that your shoelaces don't unravel, but also to simplify shoelace tying. Shoe aglets are commonly plastic tipped, however, you can add metal aglets to your laces. Metal aglets are not mandatory, but they add a luxurious look to your laces and they also add protection to your shoelace tips so that they don't fall apart.

Shoelace Tip & Plastic Aglet

Shoelace (Shoestring)

The shoelace itself can come in various different types. The most common shoelaces are flat or round. However you can get bubbly shoelaces, paracord shoelaces, leather laces, denim shoelaces, ribbons, and much more.

Shoestring and shoelace

Shoe Eyelets (Shoelace holes)

Eyelets are the shoelace holes on your shoes. Depending on the type of footwear that you have, these eyelets vary in size. Shoe eyelets can be as simple as a slit through the shoe, a plastic-edged hole, or even metal-rimmed.

Shoe Eyelet & shoelace holes

Lace Lock (Shoe Dubrae)

Some shoes also have a lace lock which are a nice accessory for looks, but lace locks also keep the shoelace in place on the shoe.

Certain shoes will have a lace lock towards the middle of the tongue, while some like the Nike Air Force 1, will have a lace lock at the bottom of the shoe. The dubrae is mainly used so that the shoelace does not extend on one side and cause the lace to be uneven when tied.

shoelace dubrae and lace lock

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