Moccasins are a type of soft animal skin shoe that were worn by Indians in North America.
V alerie Cumming, C. W. Cunnington, and P. E. Cunnington, define the moccasin in The Dictionary of Fashion History, (2010) as:
“A type of shoe originally worn by North American Indians, in which the leather of the uppers is wrapped around the foot from underneath; usually a soft, heel-less, casual shoe.”
A beautiful pair of Huron moccasins (Fig. 1) from the mid-19th century incorporate beaded detail of flowers, feathers, and leaves. An imported silk ribbon seems to keep the moccasin fitted to the wearer’s liking.
In The Berg Companion to Fashion (2010), Jonation Walford explains that moccasin-style footwear is also found elsewhere in the world:
“The moccasin, an Algonquian Native American word for footwear, is essentially a shoe made up of one piece of hide drawn up around the foot and sewn with no seams on the lower part. Moccasin-like foot coverings, gathered on top of the foot with a drawstring were the style of ancient northern Europeans. A descendant of this style survives in folk dress from the Balkans to the Baltic, most often referred to by its Croatian name—the opanke.”
Colorful Muscogee/Creek ankle-high moccasins (Fig. 2) from 1830 are made of tanned leather with metal and glass bead detailing in a floral and abstract design.
In the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion (2010) David Rickman explains where moccasins were worn and how they were made:
“Throughout California, the native peoples almost always went barefoot except in cold weather or for long journeys. As a general rule, moccasins were found in Northwestern, Northeastern, and Central California, while sandals were used in the South. Moccasins were usually made from a single piece of buckskin, with one seam up the front and another up the heel. Separate soles could be added, though some believe that this was a nineteenth-century development. The buckskin formed a cuff around the ankle that was worn up or down; sometimes reaching as high as the calf. In cold weather, moccasins were insulated with grass stuffing.”
A pair of Huron moccasins (Fig. 3) from the late 18th/early 19th century incorporate quillwork as well as metal-capped moosehair tassel trim.
Linda Welters explains the origin of the term moccasins in the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion (2010):
“The moccasin, from the Algonquian word mocússinass, was the main form of footwear. Moccasins were often made from deerskin, but moose hide was preferred, as it was thicker and more durable.”
These late 19th-century glass-beaded moccasins (Fig. 4) were created by the Sioux in the United States. The beadwork is very geometric and the mocassins feature metal cones that likely would have produced a light tinkling sound when worn.
- Cumming, Valerie, C. W. Cunnington, and P. E. Cunnington. “Moccasins.” In The Dictionary of Fashion History,133. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2010. Accessed March 03, 2021. https://www.bloomsburyfashioncentral.com/products/berg-fashion-library/dictionary/the-dictionary-of-fashion-history/moccasins
- Rickman, David W. “California.” In In Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fasion: The United States and Canada, edited by Phyllis G. Tortora, 398–405. Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010. Accessed March 03, 2021. http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/BEWDF/EDch3054
- Walford, Jonathan. “Shoes.” In The Berg Companion to Fashion,edited by Valerie Steele. Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010. Accessed March 03, 2021. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474264716.0013873
- Welters, Linda. “The Northeast.” In Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fasion: The United States and Canada, edited by Phyllis G. Tortora, 447–456. Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010. Accessed March 03, 2021. http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/BEWDF/EDch3072.