Thomas Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday (1599) is filled with shoes. Every aspect of shoes’ social lives is enacted onstage: they are manufactured before our eyes, bought and sold, given as gifts, displayed as signs of status, and flaunted as objects of fashion. This essay considers how an investigation of the shoes and other crafted objects staged in the play may shed new light on a neglected economy of female artisanal labor in early modern London and its transformative impact on the material culture of the early modern English stage. Examining a range of evidence, including a shoe found in the Museum of London’s archaeological excavation of the Rose theatre where Dekker’s play was first performed, the essay argues that far from putting us in touch with a bygone artisan’s utopia, Dekker’s play stages a native industry transformed by economic expansion, yet unhobbled by the pressures of foreign trade.

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