Brogans (Shoes) and Socks
When reenacting, you'll find you are on your feet most of the day, and may do a considerable amount of marching. Good shoes are a must. During the Civil War, many Confederate soldiers would have sold their souls for a good pair of "brogans." In those days, many shoes were "straight last" - meaning the left shoe was identical to the right one. With wear, eventually the shoe would mould to fit the foot. However, this is an area where most reenactors cheat a little. Reproduction brogans are usually available in right and left versions. However, you can also buy them in straight last - just soak them in water and wear them wet a couple of times and they will fit just fine. In the picture above, note that the souls are attached to the uppers with wooden pegs just as they were 135 years ago.
Some of the best brogans are available from Missouri Boot & Shoe and Fugawee. Expect to pay a bit more than at a local sutler, but you can expect these shoes to be the most accurate available. Catalogs are available from both upon request for a small fee.
Missouri Boot & Shoe Co.
951 Burr Crossing Road
Neosho, Missouri 64850
3127 Corrib Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32308
Although you can order brogans by mail, unless you are really good at measuring your feet, this sometimes can be a frustrating experience. More often than not, the first pair won't fit and you'll have to ship them back for another size. For a first pair of brogans, you may find it easier to buy them at an event from a local sutler. Call in advance to find out which events the sutler is attending and to be sure he is bringing brogans in your size range.
Brogans usually come in black (finished or rough exterior) and shades of brown or russet. If you wish to do a Federal impression some day and want to avoid buying two pairs of shoes, get black brogans.
Once you have your brogans, you may find that they don't feel quite like modern shoes. There is very little arch support and no padding under the bottoms of your feet. You may wish to purchase some arch support inserts and/or foam sole liners at your local drug store. Also, most reenactors attach metal heel plates ("horseshoes") to the heels to keep them from wearing down. You can have these added at your local shoe repair shop. Finally, brogans do not grip like tennis shoes or boots with vibram soles. The smooth leather soles slip easily on wet grass or on a slope. You may want to consider hobnails (something like low profile golf shoe cleats) - although these can be slippery on pavement.
You can purchase a pair of wool socks from many sutlers at local events. They are a bit higher than similar looking modern boot socks. Or, you can go with a more authentic, lighter weight cotton reproduction sock, if you prefer. Try Mickey Black's at www.salisburyemporium.com. Get at least a couple of pairs so you are ready for overnight events.
Socks in or socks out? There is a lot of controversy in this area. Research seems to indicate that many soldiers tucked their trouser legs into their socks when they were on a road march and sometimes in battle. It seems they were more likely to wear their trouser legs over their socks in camp. So, it's really up to you!