During the reign of England’s Edward II (1284-1327), sure dimensions grew to become standardized. Pertinent to this discussion at hand.
In actuality, the earliest known shoe standardization efforts by groups of shoemakers did not occur until long after Edward II had gone the way of the Dodo. Further, this known system didn’t use the 1/3 of inch increments for their sizes, but instead 1/4 of an inch. Genealogist Randle Holme has noticed that within their own 1688 job, The Academy of Armory and Blazon. In it, he cites there was a guild.
The early shoe size standardization
Edward’s sole contribution here was to set three barleycorns. Accurately, Kernel of barleycorn from the middle of the Ear to keep things as consistent as possible as an official benchmark to its inch response to pressure out of merchants. As an example, while the Saxon foot was 39 barleycorn, the foot at the time was thought of as 27 barleycorns. Setting the standard in 36 barleycorns to a foot solved the issue, though there was still some variance depending on the size of their physical barleycorn.
Except that the constant is 23 in the UK, shoe sizes follow a procedure of computation, and it is the same for women and men.
More significantly, in 1880, New Yorker Edwin Simpson also used the barleycorn increment in his standard pair of continues to different full shoe sizes. These incorporated a ball with the length, heel, and instep something of innovation when it came to generic shoe sizing, to the shoe size. Within a decade, this system could be embraced by the Retail Boot & Shoe Dealers’ National Association. Later on, quite an identical approach was adopted by Britain.
It was at this same time that the idea of half dimensions first came into being. However, these were not popular for a few more decades due to the need to stock more inventory to accommodate the fitted shoes that are potentially finer.
While many (perhaps even most) shoemakers had been using barleycorn units as a factor in their sizing systems. It would not be until 1856 when we get the earliest known hard documented instance of a 1/3 inch increments at a shoe sizing system, said in The Illustrated Handbook of the Foot by Londoner Robert Gardiner.
For European sizes, the calculation is much more straightforward in 1.5 times the length in centimeters, plus an extra 2 centimeters for comfort. Therefore, a foot would wear a size 38 shoe.
Edward did not pull the idea of working with a barleycorn for measuring things from his bonnet, although strange to us now. Seemingly arbitrary, there’s a crazy logic (and a lot of muddy history giving rise to tradition) behind the numbers assigned to various shoe sizes.
Regardless of this standard being accepted from the 20th century on, up until quite recent times, different producers resisted adhering strictly to this, with the variance used as a way to help brand loyalty.