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Straw flip-flops from ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian shoes: Straw flip-flops from ancient Egypt

Many Egyptians went barefoot

Many people in ancient Egypt went barefoot their whole lives. It was warm in Egypt even in the winter, and people thought shoes were an unnecessary expense.

The weather in Egypt
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Kids, especially, didn’t usually have any shoes, or they had their parents’ old worn-out shoes. Each family had a lot more kids back then – five or six! – and it was too hard to get them all shoes. And kids grew out of their shoes so quickly!

More about families in ancient Egypt

Children's sandals from New Kingdom Thebes (Vatican Museum, Rome)

Ancient Egyptian shoes: Children’s sandals from New Kingdom Thebes (Vatican Museum, Rome)

Children’s shoes

But we know some children in ancient Egypt did have shoes, because we find straw sandals in baby sizes, as you can see in this picture. Usually we find shoes like this in tombs, where Egyptian people put them so you would be able to use them when you got to the next world.

(Wow! These are cool – click the legs to get your own (less authentic!) Egyptian sandals.)

What kind of shoes did Egyptians wear?

Most people who did have shoes wore shoes made out of straw or reeds. Shoemakers took the straw or reeds and wove it into flip-flops that you could buy at the shoe store. (The ones in the pictures are missing the top cords, which have broken or gotten lost).

Egyptian people wore flip-flops even when it was cold. Then they wore them with socks. They made their socks with the big toe separate, so they could still wear flip-flops even when they were wearing socks!

More about Egyptian socks

Weaving these straw sandals was kind of like making a basket. People made a lot of things out of straw and reeds in ancient Egypt – baskets, hand fans, papyrus, floor mats – and shoes. The video shows someone making straw shoes.

A Japanese man weaving straw sandals

How did they make baskets?
The history of hand fans
Other ways Egyptians used straw
What was papyrus for?

Cinderella and her shoe

The earliest known version of the Cinderella story involves an Egyptian slave girl who loses her straw slipper and ends up with the Pharaoh.

Read the Egyptian Cinderella story

Richer people had sandals made out of leather, which were stronger and lasted longer.

How did Egyptians make leather?

Learn by doing: Dress like an Egyptian
Find out about socks in ancient Egypt
More about Egyptian clothing

Bibliography and further reading about ancient Egyptian clothing:

Eyewitness: Ancient Egypt, by George Hart. Easy reading.

Ancient Egyptian Fashions, by Tom Tierney (1999). Easy reading.

Ancient Egyptian Costumes Paper Dolls, by Tom Tierney (1997).

Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years : Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, by Elizabeth Wayland Barber (1995). Harder going, but an interested high schooler could read it. Fascinating ideas about the way people made cloth in ancient times, and why it was that way.

More about Egyptian clothing
Knitting in ancient Egypt
History of Leather
History of Pearls
More about ancient Egypt home