Double Bar With Center Straps: Origins--Immigration

Figure 1.--

A HBC reader writes of the origins of of the twin-bar sandal with a center strap. There are a number of possibilities. Countries such as Bulgaria, England, and Germany may have played a frole in the development of this style in America. A HBC reader believes that Bulgaria may have been especually important. HBC is less sure, in part because there were so few Bulgarian immigrants. We are, however, not at all sure about this.

Fashion and Immigration

A HBC reader asks as to how immigrants affected fashion. Here of course the original British settlers had a substantial impact on fashion. As a result, English fashion dominated American fashion, especially men and boyswear throughout the 19th century. Our reader wants to know about European immigration which began with the Irish and then from Scandinavia and eastern and souther Europe later in the 19th century. We are just beginning to assess this topic. Our basic thoughts on the subject are at this time are that immigrants did not greatly impact American fashion. While immigrants played a major role in the building of modern America, we think that, however, their influence on fashion was relatively limited.

Chronological Trends

Chronological trends may provide some clues as to the coutries in which this style developed. The earliest images we have found to date of children wearing these sandals was in North Dakota. HBC has a write up on the immigrant boy from Bernadino), and another image from Calgary, Alberta, dating from 1903. A HBC reader has corresponded with Prof. Cameron Kippen , a podiatrist from Perth, Australia, who is an "expert" on the history of shoes/sandals. Prof. Kippen believes, and I concur, that this style did not originate in these rural areas. They were probably brought to North America by immigrants. If not the UK, then were did they come from. I have read that many early cobblers were German immigrants. Could they have brought the barefoot sandal from Germany? The only support for this is the German boy from the 1870s.

Country Trends

We have begun to collect some information on countries which could have influenced the development of the double-strap sandals.


Our reader writes, "My hypothesis is that the style came to North Anmerica with immigrants about 1900, probably from people who lived in the area of the old Roman province of Dacia or modern Bulgaria. I am centering my research on Bulgaria. where the style is currently shown as part of peasants' costume. It is also referred to as "tsurvouli" and was also used by Bulgarian soldiers. I'm going to try to attach a picture and a Bulglarian history writeup. I am assuming the tsurvouli came from a Roman style, but maybe it's Slavic in origin. I had no leads to follow until I saw the ad in the 1914 Montgomery Ward catalog showing a two bar closed toe t-strap shoe in the women's section illustrating a "new" style from Bulgaria. I focused attention on Bulgaria and found to my surprise that these shoes were called "tsurvouli", and were worn by peasants (hand made), and by the Bulgarian army. (They supposedly played a role in helping the Bulgarian infantry defeat the Turks in the 1912 Balkan War because they allowed the soldiers to move more quickly than the Turks, who wore traditional boots. ) I have a picture of a Bulgarian soldier on a postage stamp wearing tsurvouli. I am currently of the opinion that the barefoot sandal style was brought to North American at the turn of the 20th century by immigrants from Eastern Europe. How did the barefoot sandal type get to eastern Europe? It may have evolved there on its own with Slavic influence. It may also have been introduced there by Roman soldiers, who I understand wore sandals with socks and closed-toe sandals in colder provinces of the empire. I have an illustgration of such a shoe/sandal----unfortunately, I didn't cite the source of this image (at the time I saw it, I didn't know I would be doing any research on this topic)."


England would not have influenced America by immigrants. Rather English fashions were vert influentiasl in America. Sandals became very popular in Britain, especially for children. The most popular style was a single-bat "T"strap. We are also unsure about the origins of this style in Enhland. We had thought that the double and single strap sandal were essentially connected and being of primarily British origins. A reader writes, "After looking at several thousand images from US and abroad, I cannot find any evidence that the style originated in the UK, in spite of the fact that it is often called an ":English Sandal". I believe this latter name came later when British prep school boys (and girls) began wearing them in the 30s, 40s, and 50s."


Large numbers of German immigrants came to America in the 19th century. Germans came to America with many trades and crafts. Included among the many immigrants were cobblers. One reader expects that the Germans could have been influential in footwear.


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Created: 10:43 PM 8/28/2005
Last updated: 10:43 PM 8/28/2005