Until the mid 1800s, shoes were handmade in small shoe-making shops by cobblers. Since shoes were either made to order or in limited quantities, cobblers had no need for significant storage space or adequate housing for shoes. As innovations in the shoe industry advanced–the invention of the sewing machine in 1846 and automated shoe-making machinery, like Jan Ernst Matzeliger’s shoe-lasting machine in 1883–so too did the need for a storage utility for the newly mass-produced product. Shoe boxes began as a way to store shoes sold at retail, but fashionable women who spent thousands of dollars on expensive designer shoes helped give birth to the shoe box used for storing and preserving shoes at home.



Significance

Shoes tell a history, and shoe boxes preserve this history. Shoes can preserve the story of a period, society and the economic conditions from whence they came.

Some of the oldest and most celebrated shoes of all time are now kept on display at museums around the world. The most expensive shoes in the world, a $1.6 million pair of shoes inspired by Dorothy’s slippers in “The Wizard of Oz,” are woven of platinum thread and house 642 rubies. They are currently stored in the creme de la creme of all shoe boxes–a bulletproof case with a full-time guard at Harrods in London. The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Ontario, stores shoes dating back 4,500 years. That’s more than 10,000 shoes exhibiting the highlights of shoe history.

Shoes are an artifact like any other and the information and insight they hold within their soles is an invaluable part of history. Modern shoe boxes allow these artifacts to be preserved for centuries.

Types

Shoe boxes come an array of shapes and sizes and are made from an even wider array of materials, from cardboard and plastic to fabric and fiberboard. Shoe boxes come in a variety of stacking and storage options as well. Top-open boxes are a more rudimentary system for shoe storage and require you to unstack several boxes if you’re trying to get to something on the bottom. Newer, drop-front boxes, allow you to reach something without unstacking, while the more modern pod systems, which run on tracks, can be designed to fit any storage space.

Benefits

Storing shoes in shoe boxes has many benefits. Not only do shoe boxes protect your shoes from the weathering caused by changing temperatures and humidity, dust and bugs–therefore elongating the life of your shoes–they also maximize storage space. Shoes are awkwardly shaped accessories that can be hard to store in small spaces, and cramming them in corners and sliding them under beds can be harmful to the material and function of the shoe. Shoe boxes allow you to create easily stackable storage units that can be hidden away in closets, slide under beds or even be stacked neatly in an open room.

Function

There is a difference between shoe boxes used for retail and those used for storage. All shoes are sold in some type of shoe box, usually made out of heavy-duty cardboard. While these types of shoe boxes can be, and often are, used for storing shoes after they leave the sales floor, they aren’t as strong or long-lasting as plastic shoe boxes that are specifically designed for lifetime shoe maintenance. Storage shoe boxes help to prolong the life of your shoes by protecting them from moisture, dust and bugs. Shoe boxes that are used to store shoes in retail stores have another purpose as well. The outside of the box is marked with the size, color, design and name of the shoe being sold. This allows the shoes to be kept organized and clean while they are waiting to be sold.

Purpose

Shoe boxes are a storage utility that help manipulate space and increase organization. They can be used under beds, in closets or in any available space in open rooms. While the primary function of a shoe box is to store and care for shoes for retail and over long periods of time, there are many other fundamental uses for shoe boxes as well.

Over the years, shoe boxes have been used for a variety of purposes–not just the storage of shoes. People have used these small rectangular boxes as organizational tools for storing letters and notes, photos and piecemeal tax items. If you’re crafty, they can be used to store your art supplies or be transformed into craft tools, like ribbon dispensers. Shoe boxes are also used to store other accessories like purses, gloves and hats.

References and Resources

Profile of Jan Matzeliger