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Shoes Or Footwear?

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The Shoemaker of yesterday., Digital ID 95061, New York Public LibraryI was so intrigued by the Christian Louboutin exhibition at F.I.T., it led to me rummaging around our catalogue in pursuit of further information. One thing I discovered was an authoritative scholarly work on the shoe industry in Europe, with focus on fashion rivals France and England. Giorgio Riello’s A foot in the past: consumers, producers and footwear in the long eighteenth century offers significant information about the textile and production history of shoes and boots.

In the process of locating this book, however, I began to see how shoe history researchers could become easily confused with their findings. The problem lies in our Library of Congress Subject Headings. The obvious term to use is shoes. Yet there is another term that was adopted at a later date: footwear. To do a thorough search, it helps to search both terms. The tricky part is in the age difference between the terms; shoes will yield more citations because it’s older and been around longer, yet newer, and often more up-to-date works on the subject will only show up under the heading footwear. 

Now, for the even more tricky fact! When one searches shoe industry and footwear industry, more citations show up under the newer footwear industry heading. Again, this is undoubtedly because so much more has been researched and written about this subject, as with all costume history, over the last ten years or so.

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