Protective clogs, pattens or overshoes, worn by both sexes across the social strata, were essential pieces of footwear. They offered much needed protection against wet weather and the mud and detritus found on the streets.
Wooden or leather-soled pattens mounted with an iron ring and strapped to the shoe elevated the wearer’s foot several inches from the ground. The effective protection that pattens afforded made them universally popular and ubiquitous throughout to society. However, these basic but practical devices were also rather unwieldy and noisy to wear. The iron ring was prone to clog up with mud whilst the constant ‘clinking’ noise they made on any hard surface resulted in many churches and other civic spaces banning them. In Persuasion Jane Austen refers to ‘the ceaseless clink of pattens’ in describing the noise and bustle of daily life in Bath.
Men and women of higher status wore clogs or overshoes, created in fabrics and design to match a specific pair of shoes. These bespoke overshoes included a built-up instep and a long flat sole which extended beyond the shoe end. They were held in place by latchets which tied over the front of the shoe. As pavements in England’s towns and cities gradually improved, the wearing of pattens and clogs reciprocally declined. However, pattens continued to be widely popular until the earlier decades of the nineteenth century, particularly in the country, where improvements to roads took longer to effect.