Jean-Louis François Pinet began a career as shoemaker almost from birth. He was born to a shoemaker in Chateau la Vallière on 19 July 1817, the same year that the English novelist Jane Austen died. Pinet’s father taught him shoemaking and when he died in 1830, Pinet went to live in the home of a master shoemaker. By age sixteen, he was working in Tours earning five francs a week and a few years later, in 1836, he was a declared an accredited journeyman shoemaker (compagnon cordonnier bottier du devoir).
During these early years, Jean-Louis François Pinet worked hard. He also saved his money and purchased his own tools so that he could become an independent shoemaker with his own atelier. He then left Tours for Bordeaux and then moved from Bordeaux to Marseilles, where he was appointed head of the Société des Compagnons Cordonniers (Workers’Association of Shoemaker Companions). However, in 1844, a year or so after Madame Tussaud established her Chamber of Horrors in London, Pinet had settled in Paris.
Jean-Louis François Pinet then concentrated on how to improve his shoes. He eventually hit up on the idea of creating a new heel that came to be known as the “Pinet” heel, and he patented it in 1854. His new heel was based on the “Louise” heel, which was a heel with a concave curve that tapered at the base whereas the “Pinet” heel was less splayed, thinner, and more solid.
Pinet was also an observant person and intrigued by industrialization. He realized that owning his own factory could enable him to increase his output and create higher and better quality products. This dream of owning his own factory came to fruition in 1855 when he opened a factory at 23 rue de Petit Lion Saint Sauvent and began producing women’s shoes.
Pinet married Antoinette “Euphrasie” Rouget on 19 May 1858, and his wife became a collaborative partner in helping him achieve further success as a luxury shoe manufacturer. When his shoe factory boomed, he expanded, and moved to number 40 on rue de Petit Lion Saint Sauvent. Another change occurred in 1863 when he constructed new buildings and offices at 44 rue Paradis Poissonnière. Pinet also continued to be leader in the shoe industry because in 1864, he established the first employer’s association of federated shoe manufacturers and served as its head.
Another important event happened in 1867. World Fairs became an important part of the Victorian Era with the first one, “The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations” or “The Great Exhibition,” being hosted in London in 1855. Paris decided to host their own World Fair, known as the “Exposition Universelle,” which also occurred in 1855. It was also at this exposition in 1867 that Pinet was lauded and honored by a publication titled “L’Exposition universelle de 1867 illustree”:
“Pinet, who has dedicated himself to women’s footwear, has made a great deal of progress worthy of attention. … [he] understood that the true center of the heel … and by a mathematical calculation, he fixed it proportionally … at the most convenient place for the ease of walking.”
His entries also resulted in him receiving a superb medal for his talent. He was so proud of this accomplishment that thereafter he noted this achievement with an engraving placed on the soles of his shoes. The year 1867 was big in another way. That same year Pinet created and patented a machine that made a one-piece Louis heel.
Jean-Louis François Pinet was one of the first to think about the fit and comfort of his footwear. Moreover, after about 1870, it became commonplace for shoemakers to use forms that corresponded with the proper anatomy of a left or right foot. Pinet adopted this idea of producing footwear designed specifically for the left and right foot, so that by the late 1800s, Pinet’s footwear was considered high quality with one ad for Pinet’s products in 1884 claiming his footwear was top quality and warranted. He also produced a variety of boots and shoes such as button or lace boots that were single or double soled, as well as walking shoes and boots with cork soles. In addition, he also guaranteed his footwear against defects.
Pinet was forward-thinking in other ways. Beyond fit, comfort, and quality, he also created footwear that could be found in vivid colors, created from shimmering fabrics, or enhanced with extravagant and sumptuous hand embroidering on the uppers. In fact, his lavishly embroidered footwear was achieved by seven-hundred of his eight-hundred workers. These seven-hundred workers were women who produced decorative embroidered uppers from their homes rather than from Pinet’s factory.
Pinet was also frequently found on the forefront when it came to footwear design and so it was also sold in the most elegant stores. His fashionable designs harmonized with the latest haute couture gowns being creating by Parisian fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth or the British designer John Redfern. Pinet also designed and created the first ankle boot for women in the late 1800s and was responsible for the creation of the hourglass heel in 1885. In addition, because of his elegant designs, innovative ideas, and top-quality footwear, his brand became global.
One advertisement of 1888 (shown below) claimed Pinet’s shoes were “celebrated for elegance, comfort, and perfect fitting.” Moreover, he trademarked his footwear as shown, and besides the engravings on the soles and heels, he imprinted the name, size, and fit inside the lining. His shoes and boots were so popular, advertisements also warned purchasers to “beware of fraudulent imitations.”
Jean-Louis François Pinet died in 1897 and that same year his name became linked with a case of fraud. A man by the name of Louis Lesser St. Leger Forbes Gower adopted the name of Louis Marius Pinet (hereafter referred to as L.M. Pinet). He then opened a footwear business under his new name in 1893. The new business was to manufacture “‘elevators,’ a contrivance for increasing the apparent height of short persons, and special boots and shoes for this purpose, and that of concealing the defect of a persons whose legs were of unequal length.”
In 1897, L.M. Pinet sold the business under the name of Maison Pinet Limited and agreed to allow the new purchaser to carry on a general boot and shoemaking business. The real Pinet, whose business was known as F. Pinet and Cie, had worked hard to establish a world-wide reputation and were unhappy about the Maison Pinet Limited. Thus, F. Pinet and Cie., brought action against Maison Pinet Limited on 26 October 1897 asking for an injunction to “clearly distinguishing their boots and shoes from those made by [Maison Pinet Limited].”
At the time, F. Pinet and Cie believed that Maison Pinet Limited was based on L.M. Pinet’s real name. However, they soon discovered that Gower had adopted the name for “fraudulent purposes.” That discovery resulted in F. Pinet and Cie demanding and receiving an absolute injunction to restrain Maison Pinet Limited from “using the name Pinet, or any description including the name, in connection with boots or shoes, and from completing the sale or doing anything purporting to confer upon any other the right to use the name.”
Today F. Pinet’s still exists and you can see some of their latest footwear styles by clicking here.
-  L’Exposition universelle de 1867 illustree: Publication internationale autorisee par la commission imperiale v. 2 (Administration de l’exposition, 1867), p. 223.
-  Illustrated London News, “F. Pinet,” April 14, 1888, p. 22.
-  Ibid.
-  Law Times, the Journal and Record of the Law and Lawyers, Volume 104, 1898, p. 128-129.
-  Ibid., p. 129.
-  Ibid.