Thursday, January 24, 2019
The Heel and the Sneaker The Forum BBC. The History of Footwear. Rajan Datar follows the history of footwear with the help of Elizabeth Semmelhack, Senior Curator of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto; Giorgio Riello, Professor of Global History and Culture at the University of Warwick; sports shoe historian Thomas Turner; and footwear researcher at the KASK School of Arts in Gent, Catherine Willems.
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Between the years 1960-63 Tin Pan Alley moguls kept cash registers filled by adhering to the tried and tested sounds of previous decades. Stifling artistic originality a return to tailored suits and patent leather shoes was the stage fashion. Until that is when the beat generation metamorphosed into the new Mersey sound (UK).
Women's hemlines became shorter matching the length of men's jackets. Tight fitting bolero suits (or bum freezers) for men and two piece outfits for women were accompanied with trendy pointed slip on shoes. Better off kids wore loafers which were the fashion of the US, Ivy Leaguers.
Court style shoes took on in the sixties when Jacky Kennedy made them “The shoe“. She bought her shoes from Rene Mancini in Paris. Her monthly order was 12 pairs every three months although this dropped to 8 pairs after her marriage to Onasis.
By the time the Beatles had emerged the ankle boot (or Beatle Boot) was the style and incorporated cuban heels which were a style preferred by the Beatles on their return from Hamburg. Needless to say the fashion became ubiquitous before the toes began to widen and the Chelsea boot or chisel toe became vogue. A point of interest the Beatle Boot was less macho and resembled the style of boot favoured by Victorian ladies. Whilst not effeminate it was distinctly a softer less aggressive style than brothel creepers and winkle pickers. The boots often incorporated a French seem or central stitch running from ankle to toe on the upper. In the convention of symbols this referred to female invagination which was a radical change from the overt connotations of the phallic, long toes or winklepicker shoes. Once the first flush of beat music passed many male groups like Herman’s Hermits were being groomed for the cabaret circuit, during this time girl groups came on with a vengeance.
Tights and mini skirts meant legs became the focus of attention and the longer the better. Although definitely not the first girl group the Shangri-Las captured the sultry look by wearing slacks and high heeled ankle boots. Until then only solo female artists had the confidence to appear in mini skirts with long high heeled boots. This was the first wave of girl power with an array of glamorous girls taking their rightful place on the hit parade clad in sexy boots.
By the mid-sixties UK youth broke into two rival factions: the nouveaux moderns or mods who were followers of black music and designer clothes; and the macho rockers, or neo Ton Up boys. Both styles had started in the fifties but now there were enough young people around to support a dual culture. Needless to say they did not enjoy each other's company and began to terrorise the English coastal towns by fighting each. As mods and rockers fought over the beaches of south coast England they wore the trademarks of their generation, i.e. two types of boots.
Mods wore light dessert boots on their Italian scooters; greasers continued to wear engineer’s boots.
Ton Up boys wore knee length leather boots, tight jeans, white T shirts and leather jackets. Interesting to note the fashion for boots was driven to protect ankles from hot exhausts forced by riding scooters or motor bikes. As the sixties came to an end and the Love Generation set up an alternative culture bare feet and thongs became vogue.
Anti-fashion preferred aggression and shock and unisex styles were epitomised by Dr Martin Boots. The spirit of Rock’n’Roll was alive and well in the emerging skin head culture which inevitably became the forerunner of Punk in the decade to follow.
Meanwhile Disco brought glamour back to footwear and as Greek actors had worn raised shoes to tower over their audience so too did the height challenged glitzy crew to send their fans into sexual ecstasy. Wooden platform shoes first enjoyed a renaissnace before artists like Paul Gadd (Gary Glitter) used his glitter platforms to put the sheen in queen. His platforms were specially made for his feet and allowed him to achieve quite spectacular choreography during his live shows. The style was very popular among the glam rock crowd including Rod 'The Mod" Stewart, Elton Hercules John, and The Thin White Duke himself, David Bowie. The Swedish group Abba probably did more for drag sartorial than any other.
Friday, November 23, 2018
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
As a theme shoes have proven to be an irresistible temptation for many artists, architects and designers. The late Andy Warhol started his career as a commercial artist shoes. and it is not uncommon today, to find internationally acclaimed industrial designers working on shoes. Andy Warhol once had an ingrown toenail on his left big toe and to ease his pain wore trainers with soft uppers slashed across the toe box to allow his painful big toe to protrude. In the spirit of a true artist, he wore brilliant chartreuse tights under his brown pants to demonstrate to all, his pain and discomfort. Yet suffered in silence. Artist extraordinaire Andy Warhol was throughout his life fascinated with both feet and shoes.
In the late 40s, his early career as a commercial and advertising artist had him draw shoes for Glamour magazine. He then worked as a designer for shoe manufacturer Israel Miller. Warhol gave each of his shoes a temperament of its own, with vamps that got longer and longer making the drawings of women's shoes impossibly sleek and slim. They were often decorated with flowers and birds, and silhouetted pumps, bejewelled buckles and pencil-thin heels appeared in award-winning advertisements for manufacturer and retailer I Miller & Sons in The New York Times, Unlike many of his contemporaries who used pseudonyms, Warhol brazenly added his name at the bottom of his ads in the quirky scrawl of his mother. He was very proud of being a commercial artist, and continued to illustrate ads until 1966. Focused on his developing art work Warhol refused to attend exhibitions of his earlier shoe drawings from 1947 to 1959.
He developed the "blotted line" technique , using a modified printing process with inked tracing paper to repeat a basic image whilst creating endless variations on the same theme. Shoes became for a time not only his livelihood but a passion. The seeds of Warhol's future as a pop artist were sown during this time. His iconic silkscreen paintings of Marilyn and Elvis in the 1960s were pre-empted a decade earlier by his "blotted-line" technique of shoes.
In 1955, while still working as a commercial artist for shoe company I. Miller, he published a portfolio of seventeen shoe drawings with accompanying text written by poet, Ralph Pomeroy (1926-1999). Each of the sixteen images in this portfolio featured a shoe centrally placed on the page accompanied by a simple line of text, a verbal-visual composition mimicking the picture and ad copy of advertisements. The drawings were of flat and brightly hand coloured women’s shoes in cerise, turquoise, shocking pink. Pale green, pale blue and orange. The accompanying aphorisms and quotations were reworded by Mrs Julia Warhola, the artist’s mother, and written in her distinctive, decorative script. Warhol and his friends hand-colored the sheets at coloring parties. The portfolio was titled a la Recherché du shoe perdue, a riff on Marcel Prousts famous novel 'À la recherche du temps perdu' (In Search of Lost Time, or Remembrance of Things Past).
About the same time Warhol started making three-dimensional shoe sculptures They were always shoes of fancy and included shoe lasts with high heels. He decorated them in a similar fashion to his drawings using gold and silver leaf and painting motifs in the manner of the blotted line technique employed in his two-dimensional work. The sculptures were rarely exhibited but he did exhibit at the Golden Slipper Show at the Bodley Gallery in NY in 1956. Exhibits included large blotted-line drawings of shoes painted gold, or decorated with gold metal and foil. The show was followed by a two-page colour spread of the Crazy Golden Slippers in Life magazine.
He gave each shoe a name: Elvis Presley (above), James Dean, Mae West, Truman Capote and Julie Andrews, among others, were given shoes that mirrored their characters. The art critics at the time ignored by the established the exhibition and when Warhol offered galleries his work , they refused.
Andy Warhol also enjoyed drawing feet and encouraged his friends, potential lovers, art dealers, and celebrities, to pose as foot models at his studio in New York City. He filled a complete sketch book (unpublished) with lithe sketches of soles, toes and arches, sometimes perched alongside soup cans, crabs or crumpled dollar bills. He even had a smouldering cigar caught between two toes.
He moved away from commercial art in the early 1960s, as the Pop Art movement emerged as a reaction against the seriousness of Abstract Expressionism. Pop artists used common images to express abstract formal relationships. Warhol like others, attempted to fuse elements of popular and high culture and to erase the boundaries between the two. Shoes became one of its emblems because they represented status and consumerism. In 1969, the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) invited Andy Warhol to curate an exhibition entitled Raid the Icebox with Andy Warhol. it featured works he selected from the museum’s permanent collection and featured an eclectic mix of objects in the archives (and rarely seen). Warhol liked the cabinets of shoes in storage and each of the 193 pairs were catalogued and displayed them exactly as they were stored. He also chose baskets, Navajo blankets, paintings, ceramics and costume accessories. Raid the Icebox opened in Houston at Rice University’s Institute for the Arts, then later in 1970, the show moved to the Isaac Delgado Museum in New Orleans. At the Delgado opening, visitors entered the museum through basement storage, with a hot-dog vendor from off the streets serving refreshments. The Delgado also added a functioning vintage jukebox to its installation and suspended a spinning, mirrored globe from the ceiling. Raid the Icebox I became a landmark exhibition.
He continued to produce shoe pictures sporadically e.g. the diamond dust pictures of 1980. Andy Warhol placed glittering, multi-coloured arrangements of women’s shoes against black backgrounds. The idea came from fellow artist, Rupert Smith, who had been using industrial-grade ground-up stones on some prints of his own. Andy saw the potential when he witnessed a box of shoes being turned upside down and dumped on the floor. The artist implemented his signature style of repetition, arranging the shoes in a seemingly haphazard, yet methodical manner to showcase classic high-heels.
Andy Warhol became a hoarder collector and amassed 400,000 objects from restaurant bills, newspaper clippings, unpaid invoices, pornographic pulp novels, airline tickets, supermarket flyers, postage stamps, to Chubby Checker LPs he was compulsive. Many of the items were stored in 610 cardboard boxes, which he referred to as time capsules. Some boxes contained women's shoes, but the weirdest discovery was in capsule No 36, a white gift box wrapped with tissue paper there was a disembodied human foot of unknown origin, it was badly mummified and almost been reduced to dust.
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Anthropometric studies are used to assess the size, shape and composition of the human body. Major studies are expensive and only carried out sporadically. Often sample populations are taken from low economic urban dwellers, with the majority of subjects non-indigenous, poor and malnourished. This skewed data more than likely mirrored previous studies which allowed designers and manufacturers free range to maintain a status quo of standard sizes.
From the end of the 20th century, new developments in science and technology have given anthropomotrists better opportunity to study body morphology. Data from these studies and from across the globe, suggest our body shape and size is changing and Western feet are getting bigger. However, since anthropometric studies are conducted independently, there is no obligation on manufacturers to change their stock policy to cater for bigger people. Consequently, to the consumer on the fringe there always appears to be a shortage of sizes. In the case of shoes, independent shoe makers (designers) take up the slack and these are traditionally, zealously guarded by their loyal customers.
Research data, from the UK, supports men’s feet are growing bigger. In 2004, the average man's shoe was a UK size eight but now it is size nine. By comparison, forty years ago standard sizes for the male population ranged between seven to size 12. In the US, where army records have been maintained since the War of Independence, recruits then were significantly smaller and weighed much less than today’s recruits. Shoe sizes have almost doubled in 150 years. The rate of change has accelerated from the time of the Second World War to the present and recruits are now 2” taller, 23 pounds heavier, and take shoes two sizes up. Currently there is no Australian data available.
Experts generally agree the change in our size and shape has been due to better nutrition and health care. Research findings suggest eating high-density foods such as pizza and processed foods during puberty can stimulate the growth hormone. This not only makes waists larger, but also other parts of the body including the hands and feet get bigger. Medical experts are concerned recent changes in body morphology, mirror the obesity epidemic many Western Countries are facing.
Our modern preoccupation with small feet has been promulgated by the likes of “Carrie” Bradshaw, "Manolo" Blahnik and celebrity culture, in general. However, this did not start in the 20th century but has a longer linage which takes us back to the Middle Ages and the fear of being possessed by demons. In the days before Enlightenment, disease was thought to be due to evil possession, and if proof for a witch was called for, a common physical deformity to be avoided was a flat foot or evil foot. Anything the shoe maker could do to make sure ladies feet appeared small and dainty, then the more custom they could count upon. Foot binding in Chinese Culture represented and extreme form of the same thing. The fashionable ladies of the 17th and 18th century Europe emulated the style by wearing shoe corsets.
Most people assume standards in foot measurement have been with us since earliest civilization. However, an accurate and reliable measurement has only been available less than 200 years and an organized shoe sizing system, stemming from general measurements, less than one hundred years. When a standard shoe system was introduced in the seventeenth century, fierce competition between shoe makers and the need to ensure customer loyalty meant many ignored it and continued with their own methods. Even today, no agreed International standard size system exists. Depending on the origins of the shoes determines the size and manufacturing system used. The bespoke shoe designer/shoemaker benefits here by offering made to measure footwear on request.
Most shoes today are bought on the net. This has the benefit over the high street retailer of not having a restricted stock. The traditional high street shoe retail outlet is curtailed because of storage space available to them to carry a complete range of fittings. Customers out with average sizes are disadvantaged, and this anecdotally gives the false impression there are no larger shoes available.