Link to online exhibition The Perfect Pair: Wedding Traditions from Around the World


The Saami are reindeer herding peoples who inhabit the northern part of the Scandinavian countries of Finland, Norway and Sweden, and western Russia north of the Arctic Circle.

The culture and Finno–Urgic language of the Saami is unique, as is their traditional costume and footwear, the design of which is dictated by the harsh environment, nomadic lifestyle, and spiritual and aesthetic preferences.

The Saami dress is distinctive in its use of red and blue wool cloth embellished with multicoloured bands of braid, buttons, and metal plaques. Footwear invariably consists of ankle-length reindeer skin boots with pointed upturned toes, which help diffuse snow, and aid attachment to skis. Boots are worn tied around the ankle with woven wool garters, to keep the heat in and the snow out. Soles are made with the fur facing different directions, which helps prevent slipping on ice and snow. Hay, or 'shoe grass', is worn inside boots for insulation instead of socks.

For conservation reasons, and in order to show more variety over time, only a selection of footwear from the permanent collection is displayed in our exhibitions at any one time. This means there's always something new to see.

image of Saami footwear