Leather boots and brutal deaths – how football used to be

Today top footballers are highly paid athletes, but this is a recent phenomena.

In the past the ‘beautiful game’ consisted of leather boots, leather ball and brutal deaths. So let’s take a look at the development of our national game.

Origins of football

chinese leather boots

The origins of football?


No one is entirely sure, when or where football was first played. Although credited as an English invention of the upper classes, the Chinese may have been playing a ‘football like’ game some 5,000 years ago.

Here in England, during the middle ages, young men from one village would take on those from another in a rudimentary game of football. The winning team was the one that managed to wrestle a ball through a goal, usually in the vicinity of a pub in opposition territory. Such games could be played out through several miles of countryside.

Rough, drunken and taking all day to play, the early game sounds highly entertaining but dangerous. In 1280 the first written account of the kicking ball game tells us that a player was killed when he apparently ran into an opponent’s dagger.

The leather boots

leather boots

Old leather boots for football


The world’s first football league was formed here in 1888. The teams that played, sported football kits that resembled pyjamas. A long sleeved jumper and knee breeches were the order of the day, and were worn with long socks and a cap or wooly hat. Boots were made of thick leather.

A single shoe could weigh as much as a kilogram when sodden. The former Manchester United manager, Tommy Docherty, is reported to have said that during the 1950s, six weeks was the period of time required to break in a pair of boots – players used to put them in a bucket of water to soften them.

The leather ball

leather ball

Traditional leather football


As the football itself took shape, it became standardised. Originally made from eighteen strips of leather, stitched together and with an inflatable latex bladder inside, footballs were fine to kick and to throw, but heading was a different matter. The ball was waterproofed by applying dubbin but quickly became saturated with water when it rained.

Head and neck injuries were a risk factor for anyone prepared to stick their neck out to head the ball home. When Jeff Astler, the West Bromwich Albion legend died in 2002 at the age of 59, the coroner’s verdict was ‘death by industrial injury’. Astler was a renowned header of the ball. The exercise of his skill during his peak playing years of the late 1960s and 70s caused brain injury similar to that suffered by ‘punch drunk’ boxers.

The beautiful game

goalkeeper

A not so beautiful game for goalkeepers


Simply put, the game was rough and injuries common but perhaps the worst position on the pitch was that of the goalkeeper. A keeper in possession of the ball could be charged by a player or players from the opposing team, and barged over the line for a goal. This rule was changed in 1894 so that rushing the keeper was only allowed if he was playing the ball or obstructing a player from the opposing team.

In the 1957 FA Cup final, Manchester United’s Ray Wood was left lying on the turf, out cold and with a broken cheekbone after he was shoulder-charged – legally – by Aston Villa’s Peter McParland.

Time for a handmade shoe moment?

These days the world seems to spin faster. Everything needs doing yesterday.

It’s cyberspace this and ASAP that as we fiddle with our super fast gadgets and everything everywhere is just a little bit HECTIC! Except … if you’re wearing handmade shoes.

The embodiment of culture and calm, those lucky enough to wear mens handmade shoes have all the time in the world to savour life’s magic moments.

Drink coffee in a Parisian cafe

paris cafe girl

Take time to enjoy coffee the Parisian way
Photo by Ilolab

Think sepia, think sophistication, drink fresh ground coffee in your handmade shoes and beret.

Sit en plien air in a cafe right out of 1950’s Paris, soak up the sounds and smells in the historic home of Bohemian lifestyle.

Play chess in the park

chess in the park

Play chess with strangers
Photo by Malias

Wearing favourite leather shoes and old school scarf, stroll to the park and enjoy a game of chess with an intriguing stranger.

In between long pensive pauses, quote Tolstoy and Nietzsche before decisively toppling the king. Checkmate.

Hang out in a classy jazz joint

jazz club sign

Mingle with the jazz crowd
Photo by Fabio Venni

Mingle with the jazz crowd and bathe in the sounds of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, as you tap the fine leather soles below your feet.

Escape from the outside world, settle with a stiff drink and bathe in the improvised sounds of musical free expression.

Enjoy a date on a boating lake

boating lake

Serenade a beauty on a boating lake
Photo by Steve Webster

Serenade a beauty whilst bobbing gently on the ripples of a boating lake.

A sturdy pair of handmade shoes will help avoid any slip ups on this love lead adventure.

Watch a black and white film

old cinema

Enjoy a classic black and white film
Photo by Bo Nielsen

Find a charming old cinema where you can hear the flicker of the projector and watch a black and white film.

The nostalgic motion pictures will remind you that good things are made to last.

Play guitar as the sun sets

play guitar

Play guitar to the setting sun
Photo by Edward Murray

Whether you can play guitar or not, the last hour of sunlight is the perfect time to strum away.

With spectacular colours enhancing the horizon, the musical motions will ease the passage from day to night. Lovingly wrapped in handmade shoes, toes will tap in time.

Brown brogues are back

brown brogues

Brown brogues back in vogue

Brown brogues are making a considerable comeback in men’s fashion, with High Street sales soaring for the once taboo shoe.

Wearing brown in town may have been a sartorial faux-pas for the City gent of yesteryear, but a new generation of suited and booted gentlemen are wearing the brown brogue to stamp their distinction.

Brogues walk the line between smart and casual, and they are catching on. Celebrities have praised the brogues versatility, and brown shoe sales have soared across. What started as a cutting-edge look of brogues worn with jeans or a suit, has become a staple of the high street.

Ian Chumbley, men’s shoe buyer at John Lewis, recently told the Independent newspaper: “Sales of brown shoes are 15 per cent up on last year. Brogues are everywhere and utilising all fabrics and multiple colours. But the key, really, is the earthy tones that are coming through.”

Central to the brown brogues charm is the adaptability to both smart and casual ensembles. As Jason Broderick, the menswear manager at Harrods told the newspaper: “Men’s work wardrobe has much more crossover than ever before with casual dressing.

A more preppy look has impacted on their choice of shoe. Boring is not acceptable. Brown shoes enhance a man’s style because they stand out.”

Celebrity endorsed brogues

But this isn’t the first time that brown shoes have been championed. Back in the 1950s, Hollywood icons Cary Grant and Fred Astaire often wore brown shoes with grey trousers.

A decade later the Mad Men era of managerial types boasted the black shoe as king instead for its simplicity and smartness, leaving the brown show behind them, where it stayed for many years.

Today, celebrities such as Jude Law and Robbie Williams have been seen to pick up where Grant and Astaire left off, by hot-stepping about town in a pair of brown brogues. The choice of brown is a stand of defiance against the conservative black.

This distinction has permeated high fashion too. Stephanie Cairns, a fashion writer at Esquire magazine, said: “Almost every photo shoot we do now includes brown brogues.

The younger generation are using them as a means to distinguish themselves from the older and more conservatively dressed businessmen. The trend is ongoing and shows no sign of stopping.”