In 1390, the Diocese of York forbade clergy from wearing pattens and clogs in both church and in processions, considering them to be indecorous "contra honestatem ecclesiae. Conversely, the famous Spanish rabbi Solomon ben Abraham Ibn Adret, "the Rashba", (ca. 1233-ca.1310) was asked if it was permissible to wear "patines" on Shabbat, to which he replied that it was the custom of "all the wise in the land" to wear them, and certainly permitted. Since shoes of the period had thin soles, pattens were commonly used mainly because of unpaved roads and also the fact that indoor stone floors were very cold in winter. Furthermore, refuse in cities – including the contents of chamber pots – was usually thrown into the street. Unlike clogs, which are usually flat-bottomed, pattens tend to only make contact with the ground through two or three strips of wood. They raised the wearer up considerably, sometimes by four inches or more.
A later pattern of patten which seems to date from the 17th century, and then became the most common, had a flat metal circle touching the ground, a metal plate nailed into the wooden sole and metal bars between the two, often separating them by several inches. By this time men's shoes had thicker soles, and gentlemen often wore high boots, and pattens seem only to have been worn by women and working-class men in outdoor occupations. Since dresses came down to the feet for most of this period, it was necessary to raise the hem above the ground to keep the bottom of the dress clean even in well-swept and paved streets. The motto of the London Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers, the former guild of the trade, is Recipiunt Fœminæ Sustentacula Nobis, Latin for Women Receive Support From Us. The 19th century invention of rubber galoshes gradually displaced the patten, as well as the increase in paving city pavements (sidewalks).
The wearing of pattens inside church was discouraged, perhaps because of the noise they make, which is often commented on, "clink" being the consensus term for the sound; the "ceaseless clink of pattens" as Jane Austen calls it, referring to Bath. To talk excessively and too loudly was to have your "tongue run (or go) on pattens", used by Shakespeare and others. In houses they were taken off with hats (for men) and overcoats on entering. The aunt of the Brontë Sisters, Miss Branwell, seems to have been considered eccentric for wearing hers indoors:
...she disliked many of the customs of the place, and particularly dreaded the cold damp arising from the flag floors in the passages and parlours of Haworth Parsonage. The stairs, too, I believe, are made of stone; and no wonder, when stone quarries are near, and trees are far to seek. I have heard that Miss Branwell always went about the house in pattens, clicking up and down the stairs, from her dread of catching cold.
They were not always easy to walk in, and despite their practical intention, the literary evidence suggests that they appeared, at least to men, as a further aspect of feminine frailty and dependency. Samuel Pepys recorded in his Diary for January 24th, 1660:
Called on my wife and took her to Mrs Pierce's, she in the way being exceedingly troubled with a pair of new pattens, and I vexed to go so slow.
From the Middle Period Poems of John Clare (1820s):
She lost her pattens in the muck
...he saw before him the trim figure of a young woman in pattens, journeying with that steadfast concentration which means purpose and not pleasure. He was soon near enough to see that she was Marty South. Click, click, click went the pattens; and she did not turn her head.
She had, however, become aware before this that the driver of the approaching gig was Giles. She had shrunk from being overtaken by him thus; but as it was inevitable, she had braced herself up for his inspection by closing her lips so as to make her mouth quite unemotional, and by throwing an additional firmness into her tread.
"Why do you wear pattens, Marty? The turnpike is clean enough, although the lanes are muddy."
"They save my boots."
"But twelve miles in pattens--'twill twist your feet off. Come, get up and ride with me."
She hesitated, removed her pattens, knocked the gravel out of them against the wheel, and mounted in front of the nodding specimen apple-tree.