You have the right kicks this Christmas, but you also need to stand out from other sneakerheads, so what do you do? One of the easiest ways to take your sneakers to the next level is with a pair of custom laces. Seems the marketplace for shoelaces is just as varied as sneakers and the options are endless.
From prehistoric times animal and vegetable materials were used to tie up simple shoes and can be dated to circa 3500 BC. Two hundred years later more complex footwear worn by Ötzi the Iceman, (circa 3300 BC), were bound with "shoelaces" made of lime bark string. The shoes were waterproof and wide, seemingly designed for walking across the snow; they were constructed using bearskin for the soles, deer hide for the top panels, and a netting made of tree bark. Soft grass went around the foot and in the shoe and functioned like modern insole.
By the Middle Ages, it was common for lacing to pass through a series of hooks or eyelets down the front or side of the shoe.
It was however, only after the introduction of the low laced shoe with the quarters overlayed by the vamps (the Oxford Shoe) did shoe laces become an essential accessory in the 17th century. Oxford students were the first to make the shoe style popular and these were worn with stockings and shoelace charms.
Modern shoe laces were made from leather, cotton, jute, hemp, or other materials used in the manufacture of rope. Today shoelaces incorporate various synthetic fibres which enhance their properties and make them more comfortable. Flat shoelaces can be tied more securely than those with a round cross-section due to the increased surface area for friction. Generally, a flat tubular lace will stay tied more easily than a round lace with a core because the flat lace can be more crimped within the knot. “Fat Laces” describe very wide flat laces are often called "fat laces".
All can be worn with decorative lacelocks, shoe lace tags or Deubré
New colourways allow laces to be matched to the colours of schools, clubs and/or groups.
More embellishments include, the tips of the laces (or aglets) finished in copper, plastic, brass or monogramed goldplate. Aglets help prevent the twine from unravelling and also makes it easier to hold the lace and feed it through the eyelets.
Shoelaces are typically tied off at the top of the shoe using a simple bow knot. Besides securing the shoe, this also takes up the length of shoelace exposed after tightening. When required, the knot can be readily loosened by pulling one or both of the loose ends.
There are many ways to lace a shoe with six pairs of eyelets. The most common is termed criss-cross lacing. Many methods have been developed with specific functional benefits, such as being faster or easier to tighten or loosen, binding more tightly, being more comfortable, using up more lace or less lace, adjusting fit, preventing slippage, and suiting specific types of shoes.
Other lacing methods have been developed purely for appearance, often at the expense of functionality. One of the most popular decorative methods, checkerboard lacing, is very difficult to tighten or loosen without destroying the pattern. Shoes with checkerboard lacing are generally treated as "slip-ons".
Lacing patterns are so unique they have been used to convey secret messages, according to Melton and Wallace in 2007. The intelligence historian and retired CIA officer wrote "The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception," based on two manuals written by professional stage magician John Mulholland.
During the Cold War, the CIA hired Mullholland to teach their covert operatives sleight-of-hand tricks and secret signals they could use in the field.
Service agents for the CIA could convey important information by tying their shoe laces in a certain way.
In today’s urban culture, criminal gang members use their clothes in a variety of ways to communicate with each other and to symbolize their gang affiliation. Gang clothing or colours are either openly displayed or clandestinely hidden in for example, the colour of their shoes and laces. Lacing patterns and colours declare either gang affiliation or insult.
More about shoelaces
Ian’s Shoelace Site
Melton H. K., and Wallace R. (2009) The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception New York : William Morrow.