You wouldn't think there was any link between an obscure Anglo-Saxon unit of measurement and your newest pair of Italian sneakers. But in fact the barleycorn, the humble unit of measurement concerned, is the basis for all American and British shoe sizes.
Standardised, no doubt after some debate, in medieval times, the barleycorn is equivalent to a third of an inch. Things are made a little easier for us these days, since the UK size is always available on sites like OPUMO, without any need to go out and find a corn of barley.
The key remains to choose exactly the right size for you. Common Projects sizing for instance offers different advice for how you like to feel in your shoes. Whether it be snug, relaxed or loose, the advise is there and the choice is yours. OPUMO recommend buying a whole size down to get a snug fit, thus allowing the leather to mould to your feet.
American sizing is always one up from UK sizing, and European measurements use a different system, based on the length of your feet in cm, using what the trade calls Paris Points. Taking a look at the trendier streets of Amsterdam, ETQ sizing is true to size.
As you'd expect high quality shoemakers are obsessive when it comes to sizing. Handmade shoes are still made the old way, with lasts used to shape the leather, before its hand-stitched. It's almost like having a bespoke pair. They believe in the trade-and-trusted methods that give the best fit.
Making sure that the pair you're choosing is giving you the comfort you deserve will be the difference between shoes you'll be wearing every day, and those that lurk at the back of the wardrobe.
American sizing is always one up from UK sizing.
European measurements use the Paris Points system, based on the length of your feet in cm.
Generally a UK size 8 or US size 9 is a European size 42. UK size 9, US size 10 is a European size 43 and so on.
Take a look at the OPUMO size guide to view all the conversions.
Be sure to check out our ultimate guide to men’s trainers.