July 24th, 2009

Men's footwear in 19th century China

So I'm writing about a young Chinese man, born and raised in an unspecified part of the country (I realize China is a big region but this is fanfic and there's no canon for where he's from), most likely in the 1870s. The character lives in England now and is noted for his peculiar habit of always wearing open-toed slippers rather than normal European-style shoes, because, he says, the closed-in shoes are not comfortable. Of course open-toed sandals and the like have been around in China since ancient times, but the few examples/bits of info I've been able to dig up about late-Qing men's shoes suggest that the popular styles of the time would have been closed-toe made with cotton or silk. Given this, I'm trying to figure out the answer to a couple questions:

1) Should I be looking at this as a personal quirk of the character's, or would it be plausible during this period for him to have grown up in an area of China where the sandal/some open-toed shoe was the most common footwear?
2) If it would be at all plausible, what sort of region/class/family profession, etc. would he have to come out of for this to have been the case? (Nearly nothing is known about the character's past, so I can pretty much get away with having him come from any sort of background.)

I looked through little_details's tags and googled the following: Various combinations of the words China, Chinese, traditional, men's, male, shoes, slippers, sandals, footwear, costume, clothes, fashion, 1800s, 19th century, Qing, Qing dynasty. I didn't turn up much besides articles about court clothing and foot binding.
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