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Putting on the buckles... The mystery revealed

Colonial shoes are made on straight lasts OR they are made Left/Right.  This makes no difference when you install the buckles.  

When installing buckles on straight shoes, determine which shoe will be used for each foot. After that, never, never change them.  After a few wearings, the shoes will break in to their particular foot's shape. 

The old horse apples about swapping shoes is just that; horse apples.  Of all recovered antique shoes almost none show evidence of having been worn on alternate feet. The old fiction about saving money with "even wear" forgets that the buckles would have to be swapped each time as well.  You couldn't have the ends of your latchets pointing outward on one day and inward on the next.  After a dozen changes,  the latchets would be full of holes that get bigger with each use.  The shoes lose their fit and the latchets soon have to replaced by a cobbled-in bit of scrap leather.  The myth about swapping can supposedly be substantiated by some mythical orders issued by a particularly stupid officer. If such an order was given, very few obeyed them.  

Imagine marching through the Pennsylvania woods and wading streams all day.  That night you camp. By morning your shoes are dry; hard and stiff.  Then you force them onto the opposite feet.  Can you spell "BLISTERS?"

Forget swapping. 

Wear the shoes  with laces or ribbons, a few times. before you punch any holes in the latchets (straps)  To facilitate this,  we include four small pieces of Velcro with your order.  Bend the latchets down and under themselves as in Figure #1 and #3.  This will cause the latchets to form two loops. Place the Velcro  in such a way that it will hold the loops together.  Be sure to form the loops so that you have a good-sized gap between the folded-back latchets. The Velcro will allow you to make adjustments. Now put the shoes on and run a lace or piece of ribbon through the loops and pull them tight before you tie the knot. You may need to adjust the Velcro or you may put a couple of stitches through the folded latchets instead of using the Velcro. 

The shoe buckle consists of three parts:  the face; and two chapes.  The chapes are the bail (or fiddle) because it looks like the handle of a bucket and the fork which looks like a fork. See figure 5. and 7.

Line up the shoes and determine which strap will be on top.  This is the latchet  that comes from the inside of the foot.  It will cross over the top toward the outside of the foot, as in figure #4.  Good idea to mark left and right on the inside of the shoe so it may cut down on confusion.


 The outer latchet will always be beneath the inside (upper) latchet. You will always wear your shoes with the ends of the upper latchet  on top and pointing outward as in Figure #4.  The bail ( fiddle)  has two prongs that point inward. 

 Hold the buckle so that the tips of the fork are on top of the frame. The points of the fork point toward the outside of your foot and the bail (fiddle) hangs beneath the frame, Figure #7.  

Put the bottom latchet through the bail , and see that the two prongs on the bail will engage the leather. Don't make any holes in the leather yet .  Let the lower latchet cross your foot  under the inside( top) latchet Figure #8.   Set the buckle in the center and mark where the holes should be placed. Don't use a hole punch because an awl hole gives better support and grip to the buckle.

Next, weave the upper latchet through the face, then adjust pull until the shoe is quite snug, and mark where the prongs of the fork should be placed. Keep in mind when punching the leather that the prong will set into the leather about 1/4" short of the mark left by the tips of the prong. Make sure that the Buckle is centered and straight, with marked holes 1/4" short of prong tips.  Punch the holes in the bottom latchet, first.using an awl or ice pick.  No leather punches. Check the fit and position of the prongs for the top latchet.  Punch the top latchet holes. Remember that this should be very snug at first as the leather will stretch.   Re-buckle the shoe. 

 I know several people who never unbuckle their Colonial shoes.  A good shoe horn lets you slip them on like a loafer. 

Some people, especially the poorer folk, never had buckles.  If this fits your persona, you may use another method of bending the latchets underneath and holding them with a couple of stitches. Or you may punch  one or two pairs of holes in the latchets and cut off the excess leather. 

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