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Walking Sticks

walking sticks

Historically speaking, walking sticks were symbols of strength and riches. We’ve all seen the movies where the big important man stalks around the fancy looking house with a majestic stick in his hands. They were often very decorative and seen as a fashion accessory in the upper classes. In regards to the stick being a symbol of authority, it generally followed the rule that the bigger/stronger/more influential the man, the bigger and fancier the stick. It would be a way for others to judge how important and/or rich a man was just by looking at his fashion accessories. In the case of very prominent men, like kings or monarchs, the walking sticks would be covered in jewels and intricate drawings, ensuring that the public would know that they were of great importance.

These beautiful walking sticks were often seen in the portraits that were commissioned. Some famous examples of “bedazzled” walkings sticks are the King Tut Cobra Head Sword Cane, a black stick with a silver or bronze detailed carving of a cobra. This one is famous in movies, such as the character of Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series, though it is a variation. Another example is the King Solomon Walking Cane, a wide knobbed stick that is full of celtic-like patterns etched in silver or brass, all centering around the Star of David. Lastly, there are the many variations on the King Solomon Walking Cane, a narrow cane with a detailed etching in silver or brass of a wolf’s face and neck. All different, these walking sticks represented famous and influential people throughout history.

As sticks became more popular, they would be turned into weapons, by adding small blades or sharpened rocks to the ends in case of an attack. In tribes, these would also be useful in hunting if a weapon was lost, or in cutting a way through the forest. The walking sticks used by various tribes tended to be more simple in their materials, but just as exquisite and fancy in their appearance. Made of wood, artfully decorated in bold paints and every inch full of detailed carvings, these sticks were impressive on all levels. Only the leaders and high-ranked members of the tribes and clans had these decorated walking sticks and they were carefully crafted with much symbolism and reverence. It was clear that those who owned the sticks not only deserved them, but that they held a very important standing in the tribe and they could share that information with others by carrying the stick around.

In modern day, walking sticks have become perceived as something that only invalids use to get around. They no longer have the prominent decorations or carvings, or even paint. Instead, they are metallic, have a rubber foot on the bottom for practicality and the colours are muted: greys, blacks, silvers, occasionally a few tints of blue. Gone is the connection with royalty, importance and power. Instead, they have become something to be ashamed of and hide. Walking sticks have become new symbols, ones of weakness and ridicule. Thus, the need or want to decorate them has disappeared, and now they are seen practical, used only when necessary.

Though their original purpose was for getting around and ensuring the sick and injured had the literal help they needed, the decoration and symbolization of them became a fad, one that lasted amongst many civilizations for many generations. In the recent stigma that has started with walking sticks, the once popular and a fashion accessory to be proud of has faded: They are now obsolete and are more like a ball and chain than a fashion accessory. Oh, how the world has shifted.

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walking stick – wood walking sticks – hiking stick

What do You Need in a Walking Stick?

walking stick

In the past, walking sticks were not just used by elderly people for mobility problems, but also used as a status symbol. Nowadays canes are generally used more to assist in balance when someone is unsteady due to age or injury. While they are very helpful in this application, walking sticks are also a common tool among adventurers who use them to assist in strenuous hikes to allow for longer treks with less exercion.

With fasion ever changing, the world abounds with those who would choose another era for inspiration. And if one knows where to look, it is still possible to find anything to suit ones tastes. With the ever expanding dimension of the internet, it’s even easier. For those who love the look and feel of a proper walking stick or cane; antique, unique or even custom items are readily available here (hiking stick).

wood walking sticks

Some key point to Consider when choosing a Walking Stick are:

  • STYLE is often overlooked. One is not required to buy the first adjustable cae they find at a drugstore just because they need assistance walking. Many canes are made not only with functionality in mind but also with style. Materials can vary from a vaiety of metals to wood, fiberglass or plastic; each has a different flexibility, strength, look and feel. Some are carved, others plain. Natural grain accentuated or designs painted on. Hikers will often mark their walking sticks with a pin or symbol to designate a particular trek.

 

  • SIZE is not universal. Walking canes are not one size fits all. A person using a cane of the wrong size can cause themselves pain. The perfect fit for a cane is one that allows the user to keep their elbow just slightly bent. Bending at the waist, continually walking with poor posture to compensate will just add back problems.

 

  • STRENGTH The user should also keep in mind how sturdy they need their cane to be. A man will generally need a more sturdy cane than a woman. Canes, especially hand carved wooden canes, are made in varying thicknesses, allowing a person to find one that feels right.

 

  • GET A GRIP The varieties of can handles are unlimited. From plastic handles, and wooden crooks to ornate hand carved ivory, the possibilities are limitless. Traditionaly simple canes have a C shaped grip or a “shepherd’s crook.“ These are still most common in hand carved walking canes. The Victorian Era saw ornately carves walking sticks and canes as an accessory to tophats and coattails, the likes of which would be topped with carved ivory, enameled brass or even precious metals inset with gems. Today, made primarily to assist the elderly or otherwise less mobile canes are made simply with the hooked style of old or a T-grip or for those who would support a larger percentage of their weight, even ergonomically designed plastic grips some of which are specifically right or left- handed.

 

  • STABILITY For one who’s balance is impared, added stability is a selling point. Pehaps a quad cane, this type has one shaft but at the base, four feet. They are more stable because the wobble factor is eliminated. Set down and let go, the cane stands alone.

The standard walking stick has provided support for immobility sufferers over countless decades, yet it hasn’t really changed much during that time – until recently. The latest innovations, materials and designs are giving people back their independence, and that is a priceless commodity.

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