Almost as long back as shoes were invented they’ve had shoelaces, the unique set of laces in various materials, shapes, sizes, and colors still adorn our shoes today, and we merrily weave our laces through the eyelets in our shoes without a second through to questions like whats the small plastic bit on the end called? Why is there? Who thought of it? And what alternatives are there? Well, in this quick article, we’re going to discuss this and more!
But first, here’s the quick answer, then we'll go on to add more detail as you’ll find it’s not the best solution.
What are the ends of shoelaces called? At the end of a shoelace or drawstring, is a short, hard plastic or metal sheath, called an Aglet. This is crimped and/or heat sealed around the end of the lace to prevent fraying and provide a better tool for threading through shoe or clothing eyelets. The word aglet stems from Latin for the word ‘needle’.
Also called an Aiglet, the Latin term for this was ‘acus’, which then morphed into the French word ‘aiguillette’ - shortened to ‘aiguille’, meaning ‘needle’. This was due to the threading motion required. Believed to be derived from French due to their prolific culture concerning movements in fashion from a very early time.
What Was Used Before Aglets?
Of course, before Aglets, laces would often fray and be very difficult to put through a hole, especially if trying to secure a girdle in place at the same time. Aglets provided a ‘needle’ like means to ensure smooth movement through the hole.
Laces, along with their aglets (or aiglets) were around before buttons were invented and were used to lace up all manner of garments.
Recent times has seen better inventions, but shoelaces and their companion aglets are still around and used today. But what was used before plastic or metal?
No one knows who invented the Aiglet or indeed laces, although a gentleman called Harvey Kennedy is widely credited as inventing the ‘Modern’ shoelace on 27th March 1790 - reportedly earning him the tidy sum of £2.5m.
Before Shoelaces though, leather thongs or ribbons were often the best form of lacing available and had to be tied together (like you would a shoelace).
Long before modern plastics and mass production, aglets were made from a variety of materials, including glass, metal and even stone or for the wealthy Romans they were made from precious metals like silver or brass. Sometimes they were the subject of changing fashions and would often be elaborate in nature or formed into ornate small figurines.
In modern times, mass production ensures continuity of the shoelace and it’s firm attachment to the aglet which is more often than not made of plastic or metal and attached using machinery, with industrial heat machines to bond the plastics and materials together, or crimping machines that squeeze the aglet around the lace and apply heat or industrial strength glue.
The Future for Aglets and Shoelaces?
Of course, despite other fashions becoming available, the humble shoelace has still been the footwear securing mechanism of choice. A surge of other methods has become available, in particular, the velcro method. But for formal or smart appearance the shoelace - and the aglet are still a mainstay.
Of course, modern shoes are no exception, this includes the indestructible Ryder shoes we provide for use in industrial, harsh and rugged environments where shoes still need to look good but cope with the pressures of industrial life! And yes, they still have laces and aglets because we want them to look good. Be sure to take a look around our store and pick out the color you like!