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The Great Start Up debate

Posted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 2:10 pm
by Tod
For years people in both the SK and ECWS have been wearing start ups (also known as high lows). The vaste majority of these were made by Cordwainer Crafts when it was owned by the Oxeleys.
The theory is that these were farmers boots and that when men joined the army they wore what ever footwear they had.
Now I know that the modern start up was based on boots made by Mark Beeby (sorry if the spelling is wrong) who used to be up at the Royal Armouries, now in Scandanavia I think. I also know that the start ups worn by most civil war re-enactors look more like 18th century hunting/riding boots.

So the questions are:
Were boots of this type ever issued to soldiers (I think not)?
Are there any records of soldiers wearing these boots (not civilians)?
Are there any pictures of soldiers wearing this type of boot?
Other than wood cuts (like in the Stuart Peachy books) are there any decent pictures of any one wearing these boots.

My C/O in the SK has just banned start ups and told every one to get shoes, this makes total sense to me as we are a Highland Scots Regt. and I can't believe Highlanders had start ups. This may lead to other regts doing the same and no doubt there will be all sorts of arguements. I'm not totally in the know as regards what was issued to C17 soldiers so I would be grateful for any references.
There is a logic that says boots are better than shoes. However as they tend to wear the same the cost of boots is much higher, also note than 17th century shoes were much higher than modern shoes.
Please don't turn this into a desert boot debate as every one knows they are rubbish and should be burnt.

Posted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 3:28 pm
by steve stanley
I think you've summed up the problems, put my bit in,I think one of the problems is that EVERYONE has started to wear them..including Urban raised regiments & New Model ones,but this is part of the fact most Civil War units are "Generic" in their kit....when you consider that for most,we don't even know the coat colour,it's not too surprising. As a personal educated guess I would say that newly raised units from a rural background would have used them to some degree,but they were never issued & if the unit lasted long enough for replacement kit to be issued,they would have been replaced with shoes...As far as I know there are no contemporary illustrations of Early ECW soldiers..there are some of troops in Ireland,but they had been centrally supplied. I think this is one for individual regiments to consider exactly who/when they are portraying and adjust their impression accordingly.

Posted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 4:25 pm
by m300572
Ah, the Start Up as a Re-enactment Fashion trend - discuss!

I reckon they will come and go like a number of other trends in re-enactor fashion.

The chances are that contemporary troops would have, generally, worn latchets, this being what most of the ilustrations show (these may be idealised but there are a fair number of them about). From memory the armies bought large amounts of footwear, but soldiers would also have worn what they could get hold of if their shoes wore out so after a short while a unit would be likely to wear a mix of original issue/stolen/ looted/bought/re-issue footwear. This might include startups, after a resupply or a battle (where the winners were likely to have a range of footwear to select from, after washing the blood and bits off) more latchets would likely have been in evidence.

As with a lot of these discussions this is based on a number of ifs buts and maybes, I think, on balance it fits the evidence.

Posted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 5:02 pm
by John Waller
I think it's a re-enactment fashion that has become over-representative. We have records of purchase of shoes in large numbers but I can not recall even one of purchases of cavalry boots let alone boots/startups for infantry.

There is apparently one ref from Mercurius Britannicus (1646 iirc) of parliamentarian troops wearing clogs.

Posted: Tue Jan 24, 2006 4:13 pm
by Tod
I was talking to another SK musketeer last night about this. The biggest opposition to wearing shoes is generally by Pikeman. This lead to the pike v push debate - please put on another thread if you want to debate that.
If pike didn't push they wouldn't need so much ankle support so shoes would be OK, cross country runners don't wear boots - follow the logic.
Back to history. OK so some boots may have come from the dead or been stolen etc, but there is still no evidence for large numbers being worn(?).
Another surprise is that none have ever been found. I've seen all sorts of hidden shoes, from very new looking to totally worn out, but never a start up, I wonder why? Maybe it was considered not to be personal enough?

Posted: Tue Jan 24, 2006 4:18 pm
by m300572
I have worn latchets for pike pushes for years (until giving it all up and pncing about waving a big flag instead) - I have never felt them to be any worse than the old desert boot in the days when this was acceptable footwear and with tackets in they give a damn site better grip.

I think latchets would have been the standard shoe - the comment about dead men's shoes would be appropriate as replacements for worn out footwear, and if latchets were the standard issue there would have been more of them to loot (or recycle).

Posted: Wed Jan 25, 2006 2:02 pm
by Nigel
Now as I said I bought the first pair from mark

in 1993 and everbody laughed when I paid 120 quid for them

They were based on pics of extant at the time (the pics were from a museum in Dresden pre RAF visit) and woodcuts from occupationa l costume.

I used em loads and they are still going strong.

BUT I now wince at the numbers worn especiually the short startup ????

So I have mostly wormn shoes sice becoming a musketeer.

Hopefully its a fashion which will die


Start ups

Posted: Wed Jan 25, 2006 3:08 pm
by Dathi
Lets add a few points. In the main, organised and supported armies, the Earl of Essex's, the Earl of Manchester's and Sir Thomas Fairfax's New Modelled Army shoes were bought and issued to soldiers. Sir William Waller's army was a mess of Western Association Regiments, London Trained Band regiments and others. Then you have at least 5 or 6 different groupings under Lord Fairfax in the north, Sir William Brereton in Cheshire, Francis, Lord Willoughby(?) in the Lincolnshire area, the various midlands clusters including Sir John Gell, Col.John Hutchinson and more.

These groupings tend to much less support and organisation and hand to mouth logistics. these grouping there will be much more chance of soldiers wearing their own clothing and footwear and having to replace their own footwear.

Which to My mind suggests that the main armies should tend to issued latchett shoes enmass and the grouping to much more variety of shoes and startups

Posted: Wed Jan 25, 2006 6:32 pm
by Alan_F
Could someone show me a pic of what you mean by start ups? :?:

Posted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 11:30 am
by Nigel
Its a pretty well understood definition

Posted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 1:32 pm
by Tod
they are boots that lace up (8 - 12 holes) look like a cross between a boxing boot and a work boot.
You MUST have seen them when you were in the SK.

Posted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 2:49 am
by Alan_F
Tod wrote:Alan,
they are boots that lace up (8 - 12 holes) look like a cross between a boxing boot and a work boot.
You MUST have seen them when you were in the SK.

Can't say I did - I saw plenty of bucket tops and lots of desert boots, but not these types.

Posted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 5:39 pm
by Tod
Never saw a DB :shock:

Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 1:31 pm
by Tuppence
AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!! It's spreading!!!!!

Has this row not died yet????

No there aren't any records of start ups being issued to soldiers, but we know that a type of boot similar to them existed (though I'd suspect not in anything like the quantities you'd think from looking at re-enactors). And in my opinion, the cordwainers - ends folded in, rather than properly blocked are just wrong (they look nothing like *any* contemporary pictures I've ever seen.

We have no idea whether they were worn as anything other than work boots, or by soldiers. We also have no idea what people writing in the 17th century meant by "shoe" - it may well have been a generic term covering all footwear.

My view is that it's better to have people in proper footwear (*any* proper footwear) than desert boots (or, ye gods, desert boots cut up in a half arsed attempt to make them look like latchets).

And of course the other problem is that if you're going to rely on clothing issues, and pictures of soldiers specfically, that means you have to apply it to everything - that includes buff coats / armour liners (which are still around in huge quantities). There is an armour liner in the armouries, but it bears no resemlance to the ones by re-enactors.

And as for caps - well we know they were issued some sort of headgear - how do you propose to decide what? For example, we don't even know what a for sure what a montero looked like (personally I think they looked nothing like most of the ones around today).

Anyway, as I said, like all fashions it'll go in and out, but better something that looks in period, than those crepe soled monstrosities that I'd like to collect in a big pile and burn!!!!


Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 2:51 pm
by Tod
I couldn't agree more, burn all dessie boots!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Cordwainer turned in ends are completely wrong, and all they does is make a fold where mud, wet and muck can get in causing the leather to rot. That "ear" style was more for very posh shoes.
If you have to go for start ups at least go for a round toe, not completely right but better than the fold in types.
I am yet still to see or hear any evidence for soldiers wearing start ups.

Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 4:25 pm
by Foxe
The evidence for above-ankle length boots is there; Robert Morris's "Clothes of the Common Man 1580-1660", for example, contains numerous illustrations of the period showing them. There are some important points to make though:

They seem to be associated exclusively with rural types, they are almost a stock item used by illustrators to show that their subject is rural, maybe even semi-caricature. Isaac Fuller's painting of Charles II disguising himself as a woodman shows them, illustrating the difference between fine dress and rustic peasants' clothing.

None of the pictures show much in the way of fastening, though one woodcut from Mercurius Rusticus seems to indicate buttons, rather than laces. Some may have been laced, probably were, but laces were not the only fastening it would seem. Can you imagine though what people would say if you turned up at an ECW period event with a pair of buttoned ankle-boots?!

I wonder if some of the boots shown were actually similar to this boot, recovered from the Vasa.

So, it seems probable that many ECW period soldiers were wearing start ups, or similar boots, depending on their background. OK, we don't know of any boots issued to soldiers, but for how many regiemtns do we actually have details of footwear being issued at all? In the absence of issued footwear the soldiers would naturally be wearing their normal shoes, which for a large number of men raised from rural areas would probably have been boots. Obviously, this does not apply to all regiments: the London Trained Bands, for example, were probably overwhelmingly dressed in shoes.

However, the uniformity of start ups from Cordwainer and their emulators is probably waaaay off the mark, and if boots are going to be worn by regiments with a rural background they should probably be of a much greater variety of styles. Personally, I've never much liked the Cordwainer boots (principally because of that ridiculous fold) anyway.

The common pattern of montero cap prevalent in ECW re-enactment is also shown in numerous illustrations, so I don't think that can really be argued with too much. Not having studied the relevant supply documents I can't speak for its widespread use, but if monteroes were issued then the chances are pretty high they looked like the ones worn now. The famous windows of Farndon church are a good example of a good period illustration of our "modern" style of montero.

I feel compelled to add though, that one of the reasons I gave up on ECW re-enactment in the late 90s was the dogmatic route that it seemed to be taking with regard to clothing. When I was told that I shouldn't be wearing a civilian doublet under my soldier's coat in January because it wasn't an "issue" garment I pretty much quit straight away. Bring on diversity!

Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 5:11 pm
by Tod
Ok so maybe they might have worn them at the start of CVI, but I think they would have disappered fairly quickly.
Seems we all agree the Cordwainer style with folded in toes is wrong. Foxe I tend to agree with you about kit and attitude, I won't say more here as I know the grief I'll get when I'm in the SK ranks.
The boot in the pic seems to have a turned over top, much like an 18th century riding boot (the brown top as some call them). Is that a button or lace on the side? Also no heel.
Interesting picture.

Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 8:15 pm
by Foxe
C'mon Tod, say what you're thinking! What's the worst they can do? stick a breast plate under your back and shout "bundle" to a pike blo.. oh, yeah, OK.

The point about them disappearing raises some interesting questions:

-How long would they reasonably last? Being sturdy agricultural shoes should could be expected to last a damn site longer than town shoes.

-How many soldiers served for prolonged periods during the war (ie., long enough to wear their boots out)? The people who joined up late 1642 might have worn out their boots by, say early 1644 (let's say an 18 month life-span, seems not-unreasonable). But the people who joined up in, say, late 1643 might still have been wearing boots until 1645. If there was a turn over of troops, one can reasonably infer a fresh influx of start ups into each new batch of rurally recruited soldiers.

-Once start ups were worn out, what were they replaced with? In the cases of regiments with known shoe issues the obvious answer is shoes, but what about in those other regiments? More boots, new shoes, foot-rags?


I wouldn't like to say for certain that the Cordwainer style is definitely wrong, but it's certainly like no original piece of footwear I've ever seen!

I've been puzzling over that Vasa boot for ages (being a seaman, I want to get a pair made). It looks like its got a turned over top, but that might be something to do with the way it's decayed or something, difficult to tell. The knob on the side is interesting too, it certainly looks like some kind of fastening, but I can't see any sign of a opening. There's nothing for it, I'm just going to have to go to Sweden and have a look at it.

Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 9:45 pm
by John Waller
Foxe wrote: but for how many regiemtns do we actually have details of footwear being issued at all? !

Actually quite a few :- warrants were issued for the following

Essexs 1500 pairs
400 sets
60 for the Earls own company
760 shoes

Denzil Holles 1200
Hugh Chomlies 1200
John Merricks 1200
Hampdens 1000
Stamfords 1200
Lord Robartes 800 sets
35 sets for Andrew Smith Coy

I could go on and list the other 20 or so parliamentarian regiments in Essex's army for which clothing warrants mention shoes.

Jan 5th 1645 'Contracted with Jenkin Ellis ... for 4,500 payres of shooes'

Thomas Bushell also provided shoes for 4 of the King's regiments at Oxford.

The above extrated from Old Robin's Foot by Peachy & Turton. Check out also Dealing in Death by Peter Edwards to see the scale of the orders for footware in the period - one partnership supplied parliament with over 57,000 pairs of shoes and nearly 15,000 pairs of boots in an 18 month period in 1650-51.

Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 9:53 pm
by Foxe
Perhaps a more pertinent question would be: For what proportion of the protagonists in the ECW do we have footwear issue records?

This isn't an argument, I genuinely don't know and would like to.

Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 10:24 pm
by John Waller
Wouldn't we all like to know Foxe. I guess we never will, many records do not survive( if they ever existed?)but there is a lot of research still to be done. I don't disagree that early in the war and in the more regional forces there would likely be a lack of uniformity but in the main field armies great efforts were made to regularly supply them with shoes. Thats not to say that supply did not fail at times viz the complaint in Mercurius Brittanicus that a parliamentarian unit was reduce to wearing clogs!
I think that the records that do exist do not support that issue of boots to infantry of any significant scale - unless we are misinterpreting what a 'shoe' is.
For example a napoleonic brunel shoe is what I would call an ankle boot!
However I don't think in the ECW that is the case.


Posted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 12:22 am
by Foxe
I'm inclined to agree that they called a shoe a shoe (isn't that some kind of euphemism?), but there is an interesting point again:

Most of the written evidence I've seen for stertups, startups, or startops seems to be referring not to footwear, but to a legging, similar to a gaiter, which covers part of the shoe/boot beneath. In effect, "startup" itself is one of those re-enactorisms which pervade the hobby, like short swords being called "tucks" after 2Js introduced their "pikeman's tuck".

With that in mind, I do seriously wonder whether we might be a bit hasty in determining that a "shoe" in period documents always refers to a latchett, and not a short boot. In support of the "shoe's a shoe" argument I have seen numerous references to "boots" in non-military sources.

Personally I'd like to see more diversity in general - not that it affects me these days. Doubtless some regiments had better supplies than others, and for re-enactors to present an authentic "bigger picture" different regiments should reflect that. Even as late as 1649 the New Model Army was still issuing breeches "of grey or other good colour". Plus, so far as I know, there was no regulation requiring a soldier to actually wear the clothes he was issued. The majority I'm sure would have done so in order to preserve their own civilian clothes, but I'm sure the quartermastery was not so good in the field of the ECW as to be able to replace every man's breeches the moment they wore out, nor so zealous as to insist on a man drawing a new pair from stores if he preferred his own.

Posted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 10:59 am
by Dathi

Join Col.Valentine Walton's if you miss ECW reenactment. We love you wearing civi doublets under your coat. In fact we encourge you to go and buy one!

Good old Monk refers to good, stiff, tucks in his Drill book, published post Restoration but written during his time in the Stalag, thro he did advise isssuing hatchets(I think it was him!). The problem is....What's a tuck. It may very well be a follow on from the WoTR Estoc or tuck. I've heard Rapiers instructors (Mark Donnally)describe a tuck as if it were a hanger or hunting sword. Stiff would suggest that it's a thrusting blade but beyond that.......

Posted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 12:39 pm
by Foxe
Thanks for the offer, if I ever think about retaking-up ECW re-enactment I'll consider it. Trouble is, I'm a seaman, and when we get put under the command of redcoat-landsmen we tend to mutiny and go off to join the Royalists.

Actually, the reason I mentioned the tuck in my last message was because just before I typed it out I happened to have been reading a reference to "good long tucks"... so it was in my mind. The word itself sounds like it should mean a short sword, but every pre-ECWS book I've found it in describes it as rapier-like.

Posted: Mon Feb 20, 2006 1:46 pm
by Dathi
Well....All the definations I've seen tend to run along the lines of a straight sword with 2 edges on a narrow blade and give various german or french roots....

boots for Civilians

Posted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 10:15 am
by Wiblick
would start-up boots be okay for civilians or farm workers, surely everyone wasn't wearing shoes???

Posted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 12:17 pm
by Tod
If you were portraying a civilian with either a manual trade or from a rural enviroment then start ups would be ideal. However (sorry) I have been looking at some pictures and am beginning to think they are like the photo above and not laced up a at all. Just like modern wellies that farmers wear!

Posted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 12:21 pm
by Wiblick
wellies!!! oh no! vile! I was just thinking of something a little less precious than my timber heels to wear around camp. We're going to Belgium for a 3 day event and I fear they will get destroyed.


Posted: Wed Mar 25, 2009 12:52 pm
by Brand
Photo might be more like these- 3 toggle boots in appearance?

Posted: Wed Mar 25, 2009 1:42 pm
by Tod
Wow that was 2 years that I last posted on this thread. Since then I've done a lot of research. There is no evidence for laced start up style boots or the low laced boot that has appeared in the last few years.
All the pictorial evidence shows a pull on boot, at present I'm in the process of doing the patterns for these. As I put some where on this thread, think leather wellies.