A shoemaker (known in England as a cordwainer) is a skilled artisan who makes shoes. The profession has nearly been around since the beginning of mankind with the earliest forms of shoes made being fur booties (in the Ice Age) and sandals (which stem back to ancient times in the Mediterranean area and the Far East), followed by the wooden shoes such as clogs and leather shoes such as the pegged construction and English welted styles.
The trade of shoemaking was once a very popular career choice, but the introduction of mass manufacturing of footwear at the end of the 18th century left many cordwainers and shoemakers out of business or having to accept lower paying shoe cobbler (repair) jobs.
Common footwear styles made by shoemakers and cordwainers include shoes, sandals, boots, clogs and moccasins. These are generally made out of material like leather, wood, rubber and plastic. It’s been said that traditional shoemakers made more than 15 styles of shoes, all completely by hand, one shoe at a time.
There are very few traditional shoemakers left today, but shoe cobblers are still in existence and repair millions of mass manufactured shoes each year.
* The term cordwainer stems from the word cordwain (or cordovan), the leather that was used to make shoes from as early as 1100 in England.