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Random Thoughts

Lace them up

Hudson Cooper
Posted 6/10/22

Although often overlooked when discussing clothing, the shoelace plays a prominent part in attire. Except for slippers, loafers and sandals our shoes require shoelaces for a proper fit. Shoelaces …

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Random Thoughts

Lace them up


Although often overlooked when discussing clothing, the shoelace plays a prominent part in attire. Except for slippers, loafers and sandals our shoes require shoelaces for a proper fit. Shoelaces have a history almost as long as the shoe itself.

The oldest known shoelace was discovered in a cave in Armenia. It was found in 2008 attached to a shoe that was named Areni-1 after the cave where it was found.

Carbon dating is so accurate that it revealed that the shoe dates to 3,500 B.C. possibly on a Tuesday afternoon around 1:15 pm. The shoe and shoelaces were in near perfect condition due to the cool and dry conditions of the cave that was sealed up with sheep dung.

Why the owner of the shoes left them in the cave is a mystery. Some speculate that the owner’s wife implored him “next time take your dung-coated shoes off before you enter our cave!”

The next historical shoelace find are the laces dated to 3,300 B.C., attached to the shoes of an ill-fated individual known as Otzi the Iceman, a distant cousin of Frosty the Snowman. Otzi, whose real name was Mike, was discovered in 1991 in a cave near Austria. Otzi was a mummified human who exhibited signs of being killed by multiple arrows.

So, like the Errol Flynn movie where he portrayed General George Armstrong Custer, Otzi also “died with his boots on.” Otzi’s primitive shoelaces were made of bark from a lime tree and woven through crude holes of his leather shoes.

Marching forward in shoelace history we arrive at civilizations that thrived on having their soldiers invade far away countries to plunder. The Greeks and Romans made conquering others easier by building roads made from clay and rocks. Tired of hearing their legions complain of sore feet, their leaders provided shoes that were bound with shoelaces laced through holes in the leather material.

Eventually in the 12th century, shoelaces were provided with eyelets and hooks attached to the sides of shoes. They made wearing shoes more comfortable and last longer. Maybe that is why the shoemaking industry calls the solid form for manufacturing shoes a last. A last is a model of a foot and is used to shape new footwear.

Shoelaces have been around for thousands of years. For all those years a universal problem was that eventually the end of the laces frayed making it difficult to thread them in the eyelets.

All that changed on March 27th in 1790 when Harvey Kennedy said, “ask not what this shoelace can do for you, ask what you can do for this shoelace.”

This Kennedy obviously did not invent the shoelace, but he did invent the game-changing aglet. The aglet is that metal or plastic strip that wraps around the end of the shoelaces. This prevents fraying and extends the life of the shoelace.

Making it easier for the aglet to slip through an eyelet was enough to “let” Kennedy register a patent for the shoelace.

Despite the advances in shoelaces over the years, there is one unwritten rule that rears its ugly head at inopportune times. Pardon my indulgence but let me refer to it as “Cooper’s Conundrum.” Let me set up the situation where it arises. You have an important meeting but instead of getting dressed for it, you spent the morning trying to solve “Wordle.”

After hurriedly putting on your clothes, you slip on your shoes and reach for the laces. Tugging on them you hear a pop as you hold a broken shoelace. The conundrum is how does a shoelace realize when it is an awful time to break?

As you race around the house trying to remember where you stored extra laces, relax because besides developing conundrums, I have a solution for the next time. (As an aside, isn’t conundrum a fun word to say aloud?)

Okay, back to my solution. Do you ever watch those fishing shows where anglers haul in an 80-pound tuna on a taut line? My idea, patent pending, is to weave shoelaces around an imbedded fishing line. Not only will your shoelaces never break, but if stranded on a desert island, you will be able to catch fish as you await rescue.


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