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All about moccasins

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MOCCASINS


Osage (Native American). Pair of Moccasins, early 20th century. Brooklyn Museum


A soft-soled moccasin

A moccasin is a shoe, made of deerskin or other soft leather, consisting of a sole and sides made of one piece of leather, stitched together at the top, and sometimes with a vamp (additional panel of leather). The sole is soft and flexible and the upper part often is adorned with embroidery or beading. Though sometimes worn inside, it is chiefly intended for outdoor use, as in exploring wildernesses and running. Historically, it is the footwear of many indigenous peoples of North America; moreover, hunters, traders, and European settlers wore them. Etymologically, the moccasin derives from the Algonquian language Powhatan word makasin (cognate to Massachusett mohkisson / mokussin, Ojibwa makizin, Mi'kmaq mksɨn), and from the Proto-Algonquian word *maxkeseni shoe).

DESIGN

In the 1800s, moccasins usually were part of a Canadian regalia, e.g. a powwow suit of clothes.

The most common style is that of the Plains Indians moccasin.

Moccasins protect the foot while allowing the wearer to feel the ground. The Plains Indians wore hard-sole moccasins, given that their territorial geography featured rock and cacti. The eastern Indian tribes wore soft-sole moccasins, for walking in leaf-covered forest ground. Moccasins are usually all brown, the same colour.


Hopi Pueblo (Native American). Dancing Shoes, late 19th century. Brooklyn Museum


Beaded moccasins original to the estate of Chief Washakie, Wind River Reservation (Shoshone), Wyoming, c.1900


Crow moccasins, ca. 1940


Cheyenne moccasins


Kiowa moccasins


Shearers' moccasins on a wool rolling table

CONTEMPORARY USE

In New Zealand and Australia, sheep shearers' moccasins are constructed of a synthetic, cream-colored felt, with a back seam and gathered at the top of the rounded toe. These moccasins are laced in the front, and the lacing is covered with a flap fastened with a buckle at the shoe's outer side. The fastener arrangement prevents the shearer's handpiece comb from catching in the laces. Shearers' moccasins protect the feet, grip wooden floors well, and absorb sweat.

The word moccasin can also denote a shoe of deer leather adorned with laces.

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