What Does Barley Have To Do with Shoe Sizes?

Supposing you wear a size 6 shoe. Did you ever wonder what that number means? No, it’s not six inches.

In 1324, the king of England decreed that an inch was equal to three barleycorns, or grains of barley. At the time, an average man’s foot was said to be 39 barleycorns, or 13 inches long.

This was called size 13. A shoe that was one barleycorn longer was called size 14, a shoe two barleycorns longer was called 15, and so on. So a size 12 shoe is 38 barleycorns long, and a size six is 32 barleycorns long!

Up until 1818, shoes were made exactly alike for the right and left feet!

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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