Autobiographical note: So today, I’m just chilling in the garden with a beer, a book, the sun and Urban Planner Housemate. He’s reading the paper and having a coffee, I’m reading my book, drinking my beer and listening to my mp3 player with one earphone in. In the span of 30 seconds, I come across a passage in my book about the Romans’ hobnail sandals,* think to myself that the only time I’ve ever heard the word hobnail is in the Beatles song “Happiness is a Warm Gun”, wonder what exactly a hobnail boot is and have my mp3 player, which is on shuffle, magically decide to play “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” which set Urban Planner Housemate and me into a conversation about footwear that ended up as description of every job we’ve ever had.** And lest you think that was a freakish turn of events, later today we were watching an episode of Scrubs and randomly talking about failed TV shows (specifically Joey) and the cast of Friends and 30 seconds later discovered the episode of Scrubs we were watching had a Friends cast member in it.***
So given that the universe clearly wants me to know what a hobnail boot is, today’s lesson is on hobnail boots.
A hobnail is a short tack with a thick head meant to increase the durability of footwear.
Hobnail boots are just a pair of boots that have been reinforced with these spikes at regular intervals. They’re often used by militaries and workmen. The German Army used them during the Second World War, which is what gave their marching the sound it had. Think the military equivalent of tap shoes.
As for the Roman soldiers, those who were on long treks wore shoes called caligae,**** which were reinforced with hobnails. At the time of the Romans, iron nails, which dulled over time, were driven through the soles of the shoes.
And lest you think hobnails are just some noisemaking, sole saving bit of metal, the Germans and the Romans both used them to do serious damage as regards stamping on people. Because empires tend to be like that. Not only that, but the Germans had the added benefit (?) of steel toes in their boots.*****
*Lest you think I was geek reading again, I was not. I’m reading Christopher Moore’s Lamb, which is awesomely sacrilegious.
**Urban Planner Housemate and I are very alike. We are both well traveled, are easily bored and have done a wide variety of jobs in our lives.
***My friend in the city in Texas I’ve never been in and I have this happen to us all the time. We’ll talk about something totally random and two days later, it will appear in one of our lives from an outside source. We actually have a term for this.
****Bringing back my Latin, caliga is the singular, caligae is plural (which means the word is feminine).