From the Vault: Turkmen Riding Shoes

Take a peek into our 14,000+ collection with our blog series, From the Vault! Every other week, we're sharing interesting stories about one of our artefacts.

What is the provenance of this pair? When did they enter the BSM collection?

This pair of riding shoes was collected in 1985 the city Andkhoy in North Central Afghanistan. It was said that they were worn to play polo, the heel securing the foot in the stirrup to increase stability and were identified as part of a buzkachi, or polo player’s outfit.

Are there any features that distinguish this pair from other boots from the same period and geographical location?

This pair of Turkmen riding shoes would have traditionally been worn with soft-soled but sturdy sock called “tent boots” and together these two pieces would have functioned like a one-piece riding boot. The advantage to this two-part system was that the shoes could be left outside the home while the socks could continue to be worn inside.

Can you elaborate more on the materials used to make this pair?

Heeled footwear appears to have been innovated in Western Asia and there were a number of different ways of constructing heels. This pair features heels created by stacking thin layers of leather. The sole leather also extends down the face of the heel creating what is known in the West as a breasted heel. The vamp of the uppers was embellished with a range for materials from silk thread to metal wire.

Who would have worn this pair and where or for what occasion?

This pair of shoes would have been worn by a man for horseback riding and polo playing.

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