These children’s Finnish boots were made by village cobbler Fredrik Sutinen in the early 1900s. He lived in Leppävirta in Mustinmäki, but went from home to home, making shoes. The itinerant shoemaker was often picked up on a horse along with his tools. The shoemaker’s visit was the highlight of their everyday life – apart from new shoes, they got news about other households. The sole leather for the boots was commissioned from the Eloranta shop in Kuopio. In Leppävirta village, we used in tanning leather shafts. The Finnish boots are curvy-toed, long-shafted and semi-flat. The soles are fastened with wooden nails. The upper is embellished with strips of black leather.
These Finnish boots have been commissioned by Kalle Hänninen from a skilled shoemaker at the battlefront during the war. The Finnish boots are long-shafted and curvy-toed. The outsole is fastened with metal- and wooden nails, the heel with metal nails. The shoe section is emblazoned with embellishments. The use of the boots as military footwear dates back to the beginning of independence and the creation of the White Army in 1918. According to the code of conduct, boots or Finnish boots were used as footwear by the Finnish White Guards. Also in the Winter War, the conscript’s gear included leather boots or Finnish boots. In reality, the footwear sufficed for only one third of them. The War employed individual tanners, shoe factories, central prisons as well as shoemakers at the battlefront.
These children’s boots have been made by the Master Shoemaker Ananias Koponen for his granddaughter Annikki Koponen. They are leather ankle boots with eyelets on both sides of the front for shoelaces. At the bottom are the heels and the soles that were cut from thick leather. The heels have been fixed with metal nails, while the soles with wooden nails. There are leather reinforcements in the toes of the boots.
Can you find a photo of Master Shoemaker Ananias Koponen from the wall of the shoemaker’s hut?
From the gentlemen’s beak shoes to Finnish boots for all the people
There are a number of traditional handmade footwear in Finland, such as birch-bark shoe, Finnish boots (lapikas) and loafers/Finnish folk dancing shoes (supikas). The terms beak shoe (pieksu), loafer/Finnish folk dancing shoe (supikas) and Finnish boot (lapikas) have previously been used interchangeably. Because of the same type of model, they can all be considered to belong to the Poot Shoe family family. The beak shoe (pieksu) differs from the Finnish boot in that it has only one sole leather, which also forms the flanks of the boot. The current concept is that they are considered as Finnish boots when the bottoms are sewn underneath. Low shoes are called loafers/Finnish folk dancing shoes (supikas) or slides.
The single-soled beak shoes were used as winter boots by both the intelligentsia and the general public from the 19th century to the 20th century. The production of bottomed Finnish boots began in the late 19th century after the birth of the shoe industry. At that time, shoe needs evolved and domestic and imported sole leathers were available. At the same time skiing became fashionable and the single-beaked Finnish boot (Eastern Finnish model) was accompanied by a double-beaked (Western Finnish model) one. The new model was perfect as ski footwear. The Finnish boots were widely used in everyday life and at parties.
After the wars, the manufacture of beak shoes and Finnish boots declined and went out of fashion. In the 1960s, the beak shoes and Finnish boots gained the status of traditional footwear. The Finnish folk dancing hobby employed shoemakers to make national costume footwear, i.e. loafers/Finnish folk dancing shoes. At the same time, the ability to make Finnish boots and other beak shoes remained. Traditional footwear is still used because of their personality and eco-friendliness. You can also learn how to make shoes by yourself with hobby courses.
Finnish boots in use:
Skön, Anu. 2018. Lapikasta lattiaan – Kansanomaisten kenkien aineellinen ja aineeton perintö [Lappish Boots on the Dance Floor/Bringing Lappish Boots to the Dance Floor – The tangible and intangible heritage of popular shoes]. Master’s thesis. Department of Cultures, Ethnology. University of Helsinki.
Vuoristo, Osmo. 1954. Pehmeäpohjaisten nahkajalkineiden valmistus ja käyttö Suomessa [Manufacture and Use of Soft-Soled Leather Footwear in Finland]. Summa Cum Laude examination, spring semester. Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies. Topelia, Archive Room. University of Helsinki. HY.