Back in the day, shoes were intricately made by skilled human hands. Shoemakers would duplicate someone’s feet and turn them into wooden molds called lasts. Through a long and laborious process, shoemakers would then hand stitch shoes to fit each customer’s feet perfectly. This meant that only a small group of craftsmen had great control over the shoe industry for they were the ones who possessed the skills and had the time to make shoes. This monopoly kept shoes prices high disallowing the general public from being able to own decently made shoes.
In the late 1800s, a young black man by the name of Jan Ernst Matzeliger, an apprentice in a shoe factory at that time, sought to solve this issue. Matzeliger focused on trying to override the hardest part of hand making shoes, the assembly of the soles to the upper. After many years of prototyping different mechanisms, Matzeliger eventually invented a machine that was able to assemble 150-700 pairs of shoes a day, cutting the cost of making shoes in half! Needless to say, this was a significant jump from the 50 pairs that hand shoe makers were able to make in a day.
“Now everyone can afford decent shoes.”
So pay your respect to Jan Ernst Matzeliger every time you slide your feet into whatever kind of shoes you are wearing for the day.