History of Shoemaking in Britain – the 20th Century

20th century decline


Lotus catalogue, 1928

Lotus Ltd catalogue, 1928


After the First World War, a steady decline began. Stafford’s tradition of making high quality women’s shoes helped it through the 1929 slump, but gradually the number of manufacturers and the volume of shoes made declined. An innovation for women’s fashion soles was the use of adhesives to attach the sole to the upper. This new method was exploited in Britain from 1949 by Clarks of Street in Somerset. The first direct moulding machine was introduced in 1950. This has become the common way of producing shoes, moulding the sole on to the upper.

By 1967 leather soled-footwear constituted only 9% of boots and shoes worn. British shoe manufacturers have found it more and more difficult to compete ith more cheaply produced foreign goods, with first Italy, and more recently the Far East, producing the vast bulk of footwear worn in Britain today.

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