Words and Expressions used in the Shoe Industry


The Irthlingborough Historical Society, recently published a book entitled ‘Clicking to Closing’ about the history of the Express shoe factory in Irthlingborough.

As a sequel to this, we have now built up a database of words and expressions used in the shoe industry in Northamptonshire and in particular, those terms that were commonly in use around the factories in Irthlingborough and the surrounding towns. Some of the words may sound positively rude to the unaccustomed ear, for example :-

Bottom Scouring, Bottom filling, Skiving, Clicking, Breasting, Slugging and Studding.


But you may rest assured that none of them are rude and they are all familiar words to those who worked in our local factories for many years!

With grateful thanks to all who contributed to the list !

Albert slipper Slipper, usually men's made in one piece
Ankle boot Type of short boot
Ankle shoe Reaching to ankle bone
Ankle strap Strap fastening round ankle
Ankle strap shoe Type of shoe
Antique spraying Put dark edge on shoe (as in brogues)
Applique Modern synthetic material imprinted with style or pattern
Apron front shoe or boot with shield shaped front covering
Army shoe Type of shoe
Awl Pointed tool for making stitch holes in leather
Back strap Band covering back seam of shoe
Back stripping Quarters joined with back strip
Ballet shoe Type of shoe
Ballroom dance shoe Type of shoe
Balmoral boot Closed front ankle 'Dress' boot
Bar Single double or cross - strap across instep fastening with button or buckle. If strap added along length of foot becomes a T- Bar or a bar under the sole of the shoe to raise it and alter the styep
Bar shoe shoe with instep strap and button or buckle
Barring Levelling and strengthening fronts of Oxfords
Baseball boot From the American game ankle length boot usually canvass with white moulded sole and apron also had white rubber padded discs over ankle bone. Predecessor to training shoe
Beach shoe Type of shoe
Beading Edge turned over neatly
Beeswax Used to lubricate thread
Bellows tongue One joined to shoe on both sides forming waterproof underlayer to laced front
Belly Leather from the area of animal with top of leg on
Bend Leather from back of cow
Blind eyelet Eyelet inserted from the back so it cannot be seen
Blocker Wooden block on which shoe is lasted to make shape of vamp
Boat shoe Casual with lace threaded through collar
Bone and a stone Tool with stone one side and bone other for sharpening clicking knife
Bunking Finishing the sole
Boot Footwear with the leg extending above the ankle
Boottee Infants soft boot
Bottom Underpart of shoe including 1 or more of sole, heel, insole, welt
Bottom filler While on last material used to fill in the bottom of the shoe before the sole
Bottom polishing Wax on brush - polish sole
Bottom rolling 1st explanation When sole attached, shapes it to insole of foot
Bottom rolling 2nd explanation Sole of shoe rolled
Bottom Scouring Bottom finishing on a soft polishing brush (may be sandpaper)
Bottom Spraying Leather buffed and sprayed with wax polish
Bottom Stock Tough durable leather used to cut soles, heels, insoles and welts
Bound foot shoe Type of shoe, often in silk or cotton,once used mainly in China to constrain foot growth
Bow and flat Flat shoe with decorative bow on front
Bowls shoe Type of shoe
Bracing Hemp and bristle used to hold shoe for fitting (temporary)
Brad Type of tack
Bradawl Tool for making marks on leather
Braid A strip of leather to tidy up edges of sole etc 
Breast Front surface of heel
Breast scouring Cone shaped wheel with sandpaper to tidy up heel
Breasting  Trimming front of heel
Bristle Straight hard end attached to end of thread 
Broach Design for front of shoe
Brogue Wing toe design and bold punching on shoe
Broguing Punched patterns forming decorative feature on toe cap, vamp and facings
Buckle shoe Type of shoe
Buff Knife Knife used to clean up the top of the leather
Bunking Pattern on leather sole
Burnishing Turning under edge of toecaps
Button top boot Type of boot
Canvass shoe eg Plimsoll
Carriage boot Foot warmer lined with lambs wool for use in carriages
Casual Shoe without laces and less formal look
Cemented Process Bottom and sole roughed and cemented and compressed together
Centre design a punched design on a toecap
Channel Groove in sole where stitches go
Channel opening Open channel for stitching
Channelling Groove in leather to accommodate stitching
Cheeks Off cut of shoulder
Chelsea or jodhpur boot Ankle high boot with elasticated side
Chopped the angle at which the sole pieces were joined like the skive but straight
Chrome leather Usually a bend treated to be fireproof (most upper leather)
Cleated sole Heavy duty sole unit with good gripping quality
Clicker Leather cutter The name comes from the brass edging on the pattern and the knife clicked against it
Climbing boot Type of boot
Clog 18th century fitted overshoe, usually with wooden soles
Closing Term used for stitching the upper component parts together
Closing room Part of factory where all the parts that make the shoe are stitched together except the sole
Collar Part of top of shoe that wraps around the ankle
Co respondent 2 tone brogue usually brown and white
Colour coding On bottom edge of parts of shoes
Comb Section of last just above the instep
Combinette Combined steel andf rubber tip for heel
Compressing Compressing lifts
Console lasting all round shoe, toe to heel, tackibg to insole
Cordwainer A Wainer was a 'maker' and Cord was short for Cordoba in Spain where leather came from - hence a Cordwainer was a Shoemaker
Corner Ironing Indent of line on heel by hot iron
Counter Section (stiffener) added to heel of shoe covering back seam and coming forward
Court shoe slip on, ladies shoe (not flat) with no adjustable fastening
Cowboy boot Type of boot
Cricket boot Type of boot
Crowing Decorative work on shoe bottom
Crows foot Pattern on breast of heel - dots in a cured pattern
Cubs Open cupboards underneath the skin room shelves
Cutlan Nails Nails used to attach rubber top pieces on heels
Cut out eg An inset piece in a heel
Cutters for cutting off head of tacks
Cycling shoe Type of shoe
Dance clog Type of shoe, worn for dancing - with heavy stamping steps
Dance shoe Type of shoe, worn for dancing 
Dead less curvature at the front of the last
Derby shoe Eyelet tabs stitched on top of vamp
Dexter Paste made from flax
Diamante Ladies Court shoe with diamante finish
Digging iron Iron strapped under boot for digging
Direct Moulded Process Rubber sole made and stuck to upper in one operation
Dividers Used to mark eyelet holes
Dog ear On a 'quarter' the dog ear was leather & is longer on the inside edge of the shoe
Doping Ink or crayon to cover blemishes in leather when finishing the shoe
Drafting Pulling uppers into shape over last
Drags A pair of drags were wide pincers for pulling the waist of the shoe
Driver Tool, usually made from a file, to drive tacks in
Edge setting Wax after ink then hot iron
Edge trimming Smooth welt ready for ink (or cutting sole and welt together)
Elastic sided boot Type of boot
Espadrille Women's casual sandal which ties around the ankle with plaited fibre sole
Eyelets Metal or plastic rings crimped to edges of lace holes
Eyeletting For laces. Done by machine
EVA Ethylene vinyl acetate - an expanded form blended with synthetic rubber becoming lightweight
Facings Area of shoe through which lace holes or eyelets are cut, usually lined with leather or fabric
Fellowed, rounded To cut components 
Fencing shoe Type of shoe
Fetch out Make the shape of a knife with a grindstone (eg Clicking knife)
Fides Putting front and back together
Fine heel scouring and super fining Band like sandpaper on wheel to smooth heel
Finished Insole sanded insole to take off shine
Fitting Derby boots - lining exact to outside with solution
Flying boot Type of boot
Folding Type of skiving - wider and thinner than raw edge skive
Football boot Type of boot
Fore end Off cut from bend the heavy part of the leather 'bend'
French Chalk Like talcum powder
Fudge wheel Wheel used for marking edge of heel
Galosh Overshoe
Geta Japanese stilted or solid clog
Ghillie shoe Lacing through loops instead of eyelets
Gibson (or Derby) Low heeled plain fronted men's shoe with 2 - 3 eyelets
Gimping Edges of section of upper cut with a fine dentate edge (pinking in textiles)
Golf shoe Type of shoe
Gouged shape of heel to fit the slightly convex shape of bottom of sole
Grader and leveller Machine that measure thickness of leather and then thins the leather all to same thickness - could also stamp size etc on sole
Grading Grading leather into thickness
Grain The natural looking pattern on a material
Grecian slipper Men's slipper with sides cut low to the waist
Hand lasting Insole tacked to last by hand or machine
Handstabbed Stitching on heavy footwear at back and tabs
Half moccasin As Grecian but only enveloping the front half of the foot
Half sole Part sole used mainly in repairs
Hand leather When sew welt in. piece of leather to protect hand
Heel Component which lifts back of shoe away from ground
Heel ball wax Used to polish up the heel of a shoe
Heel Breasting The shape of the heel nearest to the toe
Heel lasting row of tacks round heel to insole
Heel Padding Composite material in heels
Heel Pitch Accommodates the addition of the heel
Heel scourer Tidy up the heel
Heel scouring Smoothing the heel
Heel trimming Take excess leather off heel
Heeling Attaching the heel with tacks
Heeling machine Attaches heel to shoe
Hemp Thread for stitching
Hessian Boot Army knee boot
Hockey boot Type of boot
Horse shoe tips Steel tip in shape of horseshoe around heel
House shoe shoe for indoor wear
Ice skate boot Type of boot
Inkboy "Only an inkboy" was said of someone with little experience
Inking Mixture of ink and beeswax or coloured wax around edge of sole and welt
Injection Moulding Molten plastic injected into mould sticking to upper
Inseam Trimming Takes excess leather off, to put welt on
Insert a stiffener Back of heel of shoe
Insole  The inside bottom part of the shoe
Insole Tacking Tacking the insole to the last
Iron  Thickness of leather (48 to 1") measured with a gauge
Jack pin Last fits onto this to hold it in place
Jelly sandal Plastic sports casual sandal
Jodhpur Boot Short ankle boot with strap toe
Jointing Cuts of excess leather where upper jopins sole
Kiltie (or Kittle) Decorative flap on golf shoes to protect the eyelet holes from water
Lace holes Holes in facings so lace can be threaded
Lace shoe Shoe fastened with laces
Lacing upper closed lacing shoe up
Last Wooden block on which shoe is made - roughly shaped to the foot
Last slipping Take last out of shoe
Last stiffener Part of upper that stiffens back of shoe
Last Stiffening The task of inserting a last stiffener
Laster Last goes on stands upper on last
Latchet Straps extending from front of quarters across front of shoe over tongue. Can be short with sewn eyelet to take a ribbon or longer to thread through a buckle
Latchet shoe Type of shoe fastened with a shoestring
Leather bits Off cuts of leather of no further use. John White employees were allowed to take home a bagful to use on the fire under the copper. All well until bulges were spotted in the bag one employee was taking out. Closer exam showed new boots in the bag
Leg boot Type of boot
Levelling See grading
Lifts Thin leather to raise heel to required height
Lining Thin leather or fabric lining. If only at back called half lining
Loafer Casual slip - on style with apron front
Long sole long sole was a complete sole from toe to heel, 
Loop Loop of tape or leather at back of boot or shoe to help pulling on
Louis Heel Shaped heel design
Mackerel Avery cheap type of boot in the 1840'2 (cost 1/- a pair) See also Mackled
Mackled Mackerels (cheap boots) were put together very poorly and hence were 'Mackled up'
Magazine boot Type of boot
Magazine shoe Type of shoe
Mangle Machine used in 'Bottom Scouring'
Micro cellular Resin with cellular structure
Migration Chemicals appearing on the surface of the leather of finished shoes forming 'Spue'
Moccasin  Native North American shoe
Moccasin shoe Fashion shoe using moccasin construction
Monk shoe More formal men's shoe with strap in place of laces (can be slip on with decorative strap)
Motor cycle boot Type of boot
Motor racing shoe Type of shoe
Moulder Machine used to set the leather roughly to the shape of the last
Moorcut Shoe cut all in one with the quarters
Mule Open heel shoe
Mulled Put in mulling cabinet
Mulling Cabinet Cabinet of warm moist air to partly dry wetted soles before rounding
Norm keg tool used to finish inside front of heel
Nubuck Type of leather with soft suede-like feel
Opanke Balkan, Greek or East European construction
Open Toe Shoe with vamp cut away exposing toe
Opening the Channels Task of making wider the channel to receive the stitches in the sole
Overshoe Skates digging irons crampons
Oxford Eyelet tab stitched under vamp
Oxford boot Boot with front stitched under the top part. Usually with 4 or 5 eyelets and a toe cap
Oxford shoes - Barring Joined with a Barrer
Padding padded bottom filling down
Pairage Numbers of pairs of shoes made per day
Painting Ladies Bottoms (or Mens) Dye on bottom of soles
Pampootie Primitive moccasin made from animal skin with hair outwards
Paste Made from flour and water
Part made shoe eg while still on last
Pathfinder A line consisting of several pairs of a new design through a range of sizes
Pattern Fibreboard pattern used as template for cutting of leather
Pattern Cutter The person who cut out the patterns for the shoes
Peep toe Open toe shoe with only one or two toes showing
Perforating Making patterned holes for brougues
Piece sole the piece sole was the remaining bit when a 3/4 sole was used
Pippy Skins with a loose surface
Plaiting Lattice interlacing of the leather
Planet rounding Shape of insole  - on a machine there was a wooden template with a knife that cut the insole to shape
Pleating Design on' boots
Plimsoll Type of shoe
Plump Skins which were softer and looser
Pointe shoe Ballet shoe
Poromeric Synthetic material with leather like appearance
Pounding 1st explanation tacked onto last before insole or sharpen bottom before welt
Pounding 2nd explanation Machine with big drum covered in rings, takes wrinkles out of leather
Pricking up Finishes the welt
Printing Design printed onto smooth leather
Pulled over Upper pulled over after insertion of toe puff and heel stiffener using pincers (important in bespoke and surgical work)
Pullover Design made up in the required materials by the 'Scriber'
Punch (2 and 1) Design on brogue involving 2 small holes and one larger
Punching Punching of holes in leather either decoration or eyelets etc
Quarter Side of shoe upper joining to vamp at front and meeting at back
Quarter rubber Top piece With rubber insert
Quarter steel A steel tip inserted in heel
Rand Strip of leather often white placed between upper and sole visible on outside Feature of shoes from 1650 - 1750
Rand Making Tacking pieces together
Ranger Machine used for cutting leather
Rapstick Knife sharpening board (from rasp)
Rasp File for roughing up leather
Resin rubber Vulcanised rubber based on synthetic
Revolution Press Machine used up to 90's to cut out leather - knives underneath press goes down onto them
Ribbing Flat insole fabric 1/4" high at edge to sew through - a lip
Riding boot Type of boot
Rifle Tool with sandpaper one side and leather other for sharpening knives
Rimforts Thin steel reinforcing for edge of heels
Ring Tip filler When heel has a steel outer, this is the middle bit
Roller skate boot Type of boot
Rough Rounding Taking the sole from full size nearer to final shape
Rough stuff Cut soles and heels by machine
Rugby boot Type of boot
Running shoe Type of shoe
Sabot Wooden clog French
Saddle Design detail up side of foot at waist or quarters
Sample handling A sample is an original made from a new design - handling is done by experienced staff who can perform all of the tasks in shoemaking
Sandal  Footbed. Tbar
Sandal shoe Type of shoe
Screwing 2 ‘through’s on shoe then sole is stitched. Screwing machine had bundles of gold wire that went through up to 1" of leather or steel screws in army boots but brass in miners or navy boots to prevent 'sparking'
Scriber Both the designer and his steel marking tool
Seamed Creating a seam up the back of the shoe
Seaming and taping Linings made up
Seat Back of shoe where heel sits
Seat board Part of shoe that sits beneath the shoe sock
Seat lasting Flattens heel onto insole
Seat Lift After welt, leather that sits on shoe before heeling
Seat lift A strip of leather at bottom of shoe like a welt
Seat Lift and Shanking The shank is a piece of metal between sole and insole to strengthen it
Seat Paring Round heel
Seat Plough Tool used to level the back of the shoe
Seat tack Type of tack
Set on the wood Uppers left on the last to retain shape
Shanking Piece of metal or wood between heel and shoe
Shoe Generic term for any type of footwear including boots
Shooting boot Type of boot
Short cut bend part of bend 
Shoulder Leather from the shoulder of animal
Side stapling staples upper to inseam
Sidelinings Lining sides of vamps and fronts
Slashed elastic Leather stitched on elastic to hide the stretch
Ski boot Type of boot
Skiving the angled cut between the lift joins and at the end of a sole to thin it to fit
Sleak stick used to polish the sole before buffing
Slingback Open heel shoe with single strap around heel
Slip - Middles Section between sole and welt in the forepart of the shoe
Slipper Type of shoe
Slugging or Studding Nailing on Top pieces A slug is a piece of wire cut off into small pieces
Sock Lining inside base of shoe covering up the roughness left from making
Softee Type of split of leather
Sole Part of shoe in contact with ground
Sole laying Put sole on shoe and sticks it
Sole stitching Stitching the sole and the welt together - by hand or machine
Split (bend or belly) thin leather used to make lifts
Splitting Taking the lift down to the required thickness
Sports boot Type of boot
Sports shoe Type of shoe
Sprung Greater curvature at the front of the last
Spue Bloom appearing on finished shoes
Stamping Stamp mark on shoe (eg 'Made in England')
Standfard Pattern Pattern used to make other patterns from
Staple welting and welt sewer Both attach welt, pulls welt to upper
Stiffener Extra layer inside back of quarters to prevent shoe being trodden down
Stilted sandal (shoe or clog) Type of shoe
Stitch down Where the insole is stitched to the sole
Stitch marking Marking of welt at distance apart where stitches were to go
Stitch Separating or Stitch pricking Pricked pattern between stitches on welt
Stitching Stitch sole to shoe
Stocking boot Type of boot
Straights Shoes which have no difference in shape from left or right foot
Strap - cross Leather strap across shoe
Strappy Sandal featuring many thin straps
Strobel Where the insole is stitched to a moulded sole
Tab Decorative extension to front of vamp like a tongue but not covered by facings
Tack lifter or tack knife Tool used to remove temporary tacks
Tack Lifting Removing the temporary tacks used to hold shoe on last
Tag Bing on end of lace to enable threading
Tap dance shoe Type of shoe
Tasselled loafer Slip on with tassel detail
The rinks (DM’s) A group of machines in a circle - all operatives are multi skilled - better than a conveyor system
Thigh boot Type of boot
Thomas heel Heel longer on inside than out
Thonging Stitching with leather thongs
three quarter sole  3/4 joined above heel
Throat Central portion of the vamp resting on the instep of foot
Through Built up leather to make the area you walk on
Tingle type of tack to attach seat of shoe
Toe lasting Shoe placed in machine, copper wire round toe to pull in inseam
Toe peg sandal Type of shoe (see 'toepeg')
Toe puffing Material in spirit between lining and upper 
Toe puller pulling the toes
Toecap Cover applied to toe area of vamp
Toepeg Feature found mainly in ethno graphical shoes where an upstanding peg of wood is used to hold shoe onto foot. Peg gripped between big toe and other toes
Toespring Elevations at each end which allow for the rocking of the foot when walking
Toepuff  Piece of leather lasted over toe as reinforcer
Toestrap Band across front of foot, replacing vamp in some sandals
Toethong Sandal with strap passing between big toe and others then dividing to form 2 straps over foot
Tongue Extension to vamp under facings of laced shoe or boot
Top edge Top layer of upper round ankle opening
Top iron Tool used to finish edge of sole. "He wants top ironing" was an ill wish for an unpopular worker
Top line bead On upper top edge is not turned over but stitched
Top piece Layer of heel in contact with ground (as shoes are made upside down this is the 'top' piece)
Top piece The bottom of the heel
Trainer Type of shoe
Translucent sole Rubber sole that is semi transparent
Under edge Lining made, fitted to quarters, knife to trim surplus leather
Upper Top of shoe covering the foot
Upper spraying Spraying the leather to give shine
Vamp Front of upper covering toes and front of foot
Velt Double welt at side of shoe
Waist Part of sole between forepart and heel
Waist Burnisher Tool used to give burnished effect to waist of shoe
Waist drag Upper pulled over last in waist with this tool
Walking boot Type of boot
Wax end Odd bits of waxed thread left over when stitching complete
Wedge Refers to the heavy one piece sole that does not feature a separate heel
Wellington boot Type of boot
Welt Narrow strip of leather sewn to upper and insole. Sole is sewn to welt and line of stitching is visible on outside
Welt beater Tool to level the welt after sewing
Welt butting Process of skiving ends of welt to meet the seat
Welt sewer Person who stitches the welt to the shoe
Welt Sewing See welt sewer
Welt wheeling machine Put striation pattern marks on welts
Weight Thickness of skin
Whipping Joining 2 pieces of quarters together
Whole cut Upper cut in one piece
Wing cap Design detail over the toe/ forepart of shoe that trails back to the quarters
Winklepicker The pointed toe shape sole unit
York shoe Formal men's shoe with strap instead of laces. May be slip on with decorative strap
Zig zag When stitching the back linings together with a lining over the join
Zip Mock Stitching to look like a zip