In 1908, shops on Bay Street, had the monopoly on retail fashion. That’s where you went to buy everything from your fine Sunday go to meeting clothes, to your delicates silks and lace underpants.
But that’s only if you had money.
Shoes were definitely a luxury. If you were rich enough to afford something on your feet, in 1908, you went to Armbrister’s on Market and Bay Streets. George W. Armbrister, Proprietor.
Most people, no matter what island you lived on, only had one good pair of shoes. These were saved for church on Sunday, and to be buried in, if necessary.
Then they had everyday old shoes. These shoes were hand me down and down, and down, and down objects. They had holes in them and people’s toes stuck out, but at least, it kept the hot, rocky, dusty earth off your feet.
The poor went barefoot. In fact, just about everyone went barefoot. Those were the days of Bahamians with worms in their feet, suffering from tetanus and dying from lockjaw, because of walking barefoot, in all manner of disease carrying and injury inflicting objects, found lying on the ground.
The hottest selling shoes in 1908 Bahamas, was the Knox Gun Metal Shoe.
If you didn’t have a pair of gun metal shoes, and not just any gun metal shoe, you needed Knox Gun Metal Shoes, you wasn’t “ready.”
When you are “ready” in Bahamianese, that means you look hot! You’re ready to go out on the town, go to church, go anywhere fancy because everything, from shoes to hat, matches!
(The Nassau Guardian and Bahama Islands’ Advocate and Intelligencer, Nassau, January 11, 1908)
So what in the world was Gun Metal?
Gun metal was the name given to a dull finish calf skin. The skin was treated to make it soft and pliable enough to stretch over shoe forms. Gun metal was the fashion rage for shoes for men and women, all over England and America in the early 1900s.
“Gun-metal Shoes are deservedly popular for street service.”