Men of non-clerical classes had abandoned the gown for divided legs clad in tights. They were generally clean-shaven, although chin beards and mustaches came in and out of fashion. Knights and courtiers had adopted a fashion of excessively long pointed shoes called poulaines-which often had to be tied up around the calf to enable the wearer to walk-and excessively short tunics which, according to one chroniclers complaint, revealed the buttocks and “other parts of the body that should be hidden,” exciting the mockery of the common people. Women used cosmetics, dyed their hair, plucked it to broaden their foreheads, and plucked their eyebrows too, although by these practices they committed the sin of vanity.
Fine dressing could not be suppressed despite ever-renewed sumptuary laws which tried especially and repeatedly to outlaw the pointed shoes. Even when stuffed at the toe to make them curl up or tied at the knee with chains of gold and silver, the poulaines produced a mincing walk that excited ridicule and charges of decadence. Yet the upper class remained wedded to this particular frivolity, which grew ever more elegant, made sometimes of velvet sewn with pearls or gold-stamped leather or worn with a different color on each foot. Ladies’ surcoats for the hunt were ornamented with bells, and bells hung too from belts, which were an important item of clothing because of all the equipment they carried: purse, keys, prayer book, rosary, reliquary, gloves, pomander, scissors, and sewing kit. Undershirts and pants of fine linen were worn; furs for warmth were ubiquitous. In the trousseau of the unfortunate Blanche de Bourbon, who unwisely married Pedro the Cruel, 11,794 squirrel skins were used, most of which were imported from Scandinavia.
Worldly clerics were censured in 1367 for wearing short tight doublets with long fur-or silk-lined sleeves, costly rings and girdles, embroidered purses, knives resembling swords, colored boots, and even that mark of the Devil, slashed and curling pointed shoes.
The nobles’ fashionable clothes and habits of luxury, their private bedrooms where they shut themselves up till noon, their soft beds and perfumed baths and comforts on campaign were cited as evidence that knighthood had gone soft. The ancient Romans, as Jean Gerson, Chancellor of the University, remarked sarcastically some years later, “did not drag after them three or four pack horses and wagons laden with robes, jewels, carpets, boots and hose and double tents. They did not carry with them iron or brass stoves to make little pies.”
Kicked Out of Heaven Vol. I
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Atlas Obscura: Why Were Medieval Europeans So Obsessed With Long, Pointy Shoes?.