What Are Moccasins?

What exactly are Moccasins? Are they shoes or boots? And who used to wear them?

Moccasin is a type of footwear worn by Native Americans. They are usually made from soft leather and are traditionally worn during the winter months. The name comes from the language Algonquian language Powhatan. 

What Are Moccasins

Moccasins are comfortable and versatile footwear that can be worn for both casual and formal occasions. Moccasins have a complicated history which we are going to walk you through. 

So if you are interested in finding out about what moccasins are and more about their history, then you’ve come to the right place. We are going to walk you through what moccasins are and their part in Native American history. 

What Are Moccasins? 

Moccasins are a type of traditional Native American shoe. They are usually low-tailored shoes. They are made from soft leather. Traditionally, moccasins were created as a way to protect the feet of Native Americans during the winter. 

Protective footwear was necessary for the winter months so that people’s feet wouldn’t freeze. Footwear during the warmer months was as necessary as most of them were capable of walking around barefoot. 

There are different types of moccasins as they were crafted to fit the environment the Native Americans were living in. There are hard sole moccasins and soft sole moccasins. 

Hard sole moccasins are made with two pieces of leather instead of one. Hard sole shoes were usually worn in desert areas. Hard sole moccasins needed more tailoring than other types of moccasins.

The reason that hard sole moccasins were made to be worn in deserts or areas similar, is because they were hard enough to protect their feet from cacti, rocks, and sharp shards of grass. 

Soft sole moccasins were only made with one piece of leather instead of two. They were usually worn in forests as they provided the feet with enough protection to walk on leaves, sticks, and pine needles. 

Some moccasins had a turned-up toe, this meant that nothing was able to get through the seam of the moccasin and hurt the person wearing them. 

So essentially, moccasins are protective footwear that Native Americans wore and they were usually made out of leather. 

Reasons Moccasins Were Important

Native Americans used moccasins for many reasons. One of these reasons was to keep warm. In order to keep their toes warm, they would put their feet inside of moccasins while they slept at night. This kept their toes warm all night long. 

Another reason why Native Americans wore moccasins was to protect their feet from blisters. If a Native American walked too far without putting any kind of shoe on his or her foot, it could cause a blister. 

Blisters weren’t just painful; they also caused infections. Blisters could lead to severe infections. Some infections were so dangerous for Native Americans and it often led to death. 

Whilst moccasins were about protecting Native Americans’ feet, they did have an element of fashion behind them. The shoes were styled in various ways, each one unique to their tribe. In fact, moccasins were so unique that those of different tribes were able to see a footprint and identify which tribe left that footprint. Moccasins were also decorated with dyed and flattened porcupine quills.

Differently decorated moccasins were also worn for specific events. When it came to marriage the moccasins that were worn were usually completely covered in beads. When it came to burials, moccasins were often worn by those who had passed. They would also be completely covered in beads, even on the bottom of the sole. 

The History Of Moccasins

The History Of Moccasins

As mentioned before, the word moccasin is originally part of the Algonquian language Powhatan. The moccasin has been generalized so that most consider it to mean or refer to any Native American footwear.

Interestingly, the Algonquian group was one of the first to come into contact with European settlers which is why the word ‘moccasin’ is the name that stayed for footwear. 

Moccasins are believed to be one of the oldest pieces of footwear known. There is speculation that those migrating from North-East Asia are the ones that brought moccasins with them.

Moccasins were not popular with European settlers at first, however, once their own supplies from Europe ran short, it meant that these European settlers opted to wear shoes made by Native Americans. 

What Are Moccasins Made Of?

We looked at the difference in a few types of moccasins, but other differences come from the material they were made from. The most common material to make moccasins out of was deer leather.

However, moccasins were also made out of elk, moose, and buffalo. The most popular style of moccasins were soft-soled ones but these weren’t popular in places that had more extreme weather conditions. 

Moccasins were developed to have different styles to suit the environment. This may have been adding a fur collar or fur on the shoe in cooler climates.

Others had flaps of leather added to them. Some moccasins had a fringe collar. These collars would be around the ankles. There were even times when moccasins were made into boots by sewing them onto the leggings that Native Americans wore.

Nowadays, moccasins are available to the public but they often resemble a loafer.

How Were Moccasins Made? 

Moccasins were handmade. They were made with either one to three pieces of leather. They were then hand sewn together.

They were usually made inside-out so the stitching from being handsewn was hidden. However, for the sake of comfort, all of the knots were on the outside of the shoe. 

Final Thoughts

So moccasins are footwear that Native Americans wore to protect their feet. However, moccasins are so much more than just footwear. They were unique to each tribe.

They showed the incredible skills that Native Americans had. They were also important in rituals and celebrations. Moccasins are a shoe that shows incredible craftsmanship but also the individual style of the tribes. 

We hope that you enjoyed this article about what moccasins are and the history of moccasins. Hopefully, we have answered all of your questions and you have a better understanding of moccasins.

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