Picture Credit: “Walking stick handle” by Henry Rado, American, 1859–1921 is licensed under CC0 1.0

Sources: Various, including Encylopedia.com, Classy Walking Canes, Just Walkers, and Fashionable Canes.

Whilst first used as a weapon, the walking stick or walking cane has long been a symbol of strength and power, authority and social prestige, and used mainly by men. Rulers of many cultures carried some form of walking stick or staff. Egyptian rulers were believed to have carried staffs varying from three to six feet in length. These were often topped by an ornamental knob in the shape of a lotus, a symbol of long life. Ancient Greek gods were often depicted with a staff in hand. But even gorillas have been known to use sticks or branches as a walking aid.

Walking sticks date back to ancient times. The Bible refers to the walking staff as a symbol of office and dignity.

During the eighteenth century the walking stick gained wider acceptance. Modest canes were used among ordinary people, while those who could afford it opted for walking sticks of great elegance and style. Etiquette rules were greatly relaxed and owners could now safely lean on their canes in casual poses.

The end of the nineteenth century marked a decline in cane styles.

The actual phrase “walking cane” was not in existence until the sixteenth century. During the period when they became a fashionable item, walking sticks began to be constructed out of the jointed stems of tropical grasses such as bamboo, cane and rattan – hence, the word “cane!”  They are now used interchangeably among some people, but the walking stick is associated more with active pursuits as hiking, whereas the cane is usually for the elderly or for anyone with a leg injury. While they often seem to be interchangeable words, walking sticks and walking canes are actually two very different types of product with different uses. Many people get them mixed up, but if you read on, you will be one of the elite few who know the difference between walking sticks and canes.

The main difference, of course, is function. Walking canes are designed to take weight on a regular basis. If you need support while walking, and you want to be able to lean your full weight on a walking aid, it is important that you use a walking cane. Canes are most often made of wood, aluminium, or steel. They are meant to take constant weight and are designed to be comfortable and practical for daily use.

Martin Pollins
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