While traditional Native American clothing varied widely between tribes, moccasins were worn by all. They are sturdy slippers shaped like shoes and sewn from tanned leather. Some were softer and made from deerskin, while others were hardened to give the foot more protection. The concept was the same between the various tribes, but the shoe itself was completely different. Even the cut of the shoe was so distinctive that they could often tell the name of the tribe from only a footprint.
Moccasins are traditionally made from tanned leather, but some tribes harden the leather for more durability. The hard soles would protect the person's feet from hard rocks or other roughage. The Apache Indians included a toe that was slightly turned up to prevent things from entering the seam of the shoe and stabbing the foot. In some tribes women wore ones that resembled boots. They would simply sew women's thigh length leggings to their boot for a more one-piece look. These proved to provide more coverage during harsh weather and the concept was picked up by Eskimos.
Decorations also varied from tribe to tribe. While one pair may be adorned with elaborate beadwork, others may be decorated with shells and some even had tassels that would hang from the back wiping away footprints as they walked. Some Native Americans also decorated their moccasins according to what they were doing when they wore them. If they were hunting they would be completely unadorned. Most tribes had special pairs for marriage that would be beaded all the way to the top and most also had spiritual pairs for the afterlife.
The moccasin is a shoe that has meaning. They tell a story from tribe to tribe. Native Americans frequently still sell pairs to people traveling on vacation, but they can even be purchased online. Many manufacturers have started making similar looking shoes, but the options are still out there for those who prefer to purchase the real thing.