Protective Layers of Footwear

The Inuit wear from two to five layers of footwear depending on the temperature, ground conditions, and activities they perform.

"I add more layers of inner and outer stockings, slippers, and boots until my feet are warm enough for whatever I am doing. I use more layers if I’m going ice fishing and fewer layers for inside."
Elva Pigalak, Coppermine, 1986

Here are four possible layers of footwear in the order that they are put on - inner slipper, outer stocking, boot, over slipper.

Protection for Cold and Dry

Annie Nestor from Coral Harbour, also used traditional materials and techniques to make these layered caribou skin kamiks in 1987. A tall caribou fur inner boot and liner goes inside the brown and white caribou fur outer boot:
  • inner boots made of caribou fur
  • liners made of caribou fur
  • boots made of caribou fur uppers
  • white depilated (hair removed) bearded seal bottoms
  • dark depilated seal skin between the bottoms and the legs

Protection for Winter

"These seal skin inner stockings, over slippers, and boots I made are used for really cold winter weather."
Olepa Karpik, Coral Harbour, Northwest Territories

She used traditional materials and techniques to make these layered seal skin kamiks in 1987. Examine the variety of seal skins and the arrangement of layers to appreciate how well these boots suit the environment.

A Variety of Seal Skins

Different types of seal skin serve to provide maximum comfort and warmth for the wearer. Soft skins like baby seal worn close to the skin is thinner and softer than the skins used to make the outer layers of the boots. On the boot, compare the shaved bearded seal skin of the sole to the furred seal skin of the upper boot.

Three Layers of Protection

Look at each layer separately to appreciate how warm the layers could be when assembled.
The Bata Shoe Museum

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