Thursday, July 23, 2015

Shoe fashion :The English Look

Shoe designer, Donald J. Pliner thinks men are increasingly aware of footwear fashion. Men prefer comfort in their footwear and have shown greater interest in shoes that combine fashion and comfort . Men tend to wear day time shoes that suit their occupation but not necessarily up to date styles. These include lacing classics such as Oxfords and Wingtips (aka brogues). Males are now choosing slip-on shoes to be fashionable and convenient to pass through security systems at business premises and airports. Socially men’s shoes have also become more colourful with white and blue two popular colours.

This season loafers are worn with jeans , sandals for summer and boots for autumn and winter. Topsiders (deckshoes) are still popular but trainers less so than previously. Celebrity culture today prefers media types many of which are as transient as the fickle fads of fashion are, here today and gone tomorrow.

In Victorian times the celebrity culture was predominantly military types who encapsulated the machismo of the time. Both men and women adopted a shoe styles similar to their heroes and wore them as a mark of respect. Four predominant styles were the Wellington boot (worn by Lord Wellington); and the Blutcher boot, known as the Derby shoe in the UK; the Balmoral boot and the brogue shoe.

Wellingtons were worn below the knee and provided protection to the shin for horse riders. They allowed cavalry to dismount and walk on terra firma. The style had been taken to the US early and became the preferred boot design for the military. Much later these evolved into modern cowboy boots. The introduction of vulcanization (of rubber) meant wellingtons were made from rubber (gum and hence gum boots).

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (1742 -1819) was a Prussian general who led his army against Napoleon I at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He became a favourite general and wore a modification on oxfords where the laces were part of two pieces of leather independently attached to the vamp. The shoes were called open lacing or Derby in the UK and provided easy access for the broader foot.

The Balmoral boot was reputedly designed by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria and consummate inventor. He quickly realised the potential of elastic and had boots made for his beloved with elastic gussets. The boots had soft kid leather uppers and resembled modern wrestling boots. The Queen loved to walk across her Balmoral estates in Scotland. The fashion for women to go country walking became vogue and more robust boots and shoes for women resulted. In the US ankle boots became popular with both genders, men wore Congress boots and women preferred intricate lacing like corsets.

Country gently in England had adopted traditional ghillie shoes (Scotland and Ireland) to walk across moors. Originally these were bags of leather worn over the feet with holes in the upper to allow water to pass from the foot through to the outside of the shoe. From antiquity country people had incorporated intricate patterns of holes which included sacred signs worn for good luck. By Victorian times these shoes had evolved into Oxfords with intricate designs on the toe cap and sides of the shoes, called brogues.

When the English Look was accepted into mainstream US fashion the shoes became known as Balmorals or wingtips. Today the English Look still prevails in men's shoes.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

Wet look, patent leather and nude shoes

Patent leather nude coloured shoes with 3 inch stacked heels are all the rage and the ‘Nudies’ retail at approx $300 (US) per pair. Obviously wardrobe malfunctions and shoe damage need to be avoided as all fashionista know and care is necessary negotiating uneven sidewalks and steps. This aside nude has become a trendy colour for shoes.

In fashion-speak, "nude" refers to a kind of pink-beige-coffee blend but in the interests of political correctness (PC) the nude range covers pale ivory to deep chocolate. Shoes matching skin tone gives the leg the appearance of extra length and where the perfect match is not possible, spray tan is recommended.

Nude shoe aside it is patent leather which history has shown is very risqué and was much cause for concern when conservative groups discovered the mirror like surface allowed boys to see up girls’ skirts when they wore patent leather shoes. The up-skirter shoes predate electronic cameras by at least a century and only go to prove nothing changes when it comes to sex. Such concern was expressed in the early 20th century patent leather shoes were banned in some States of the US.

In the sixties when “The Wet Look” prevailed so called experts feared a plague of undinism (sexual arousal from urine) was abroad.

Patent leather which describes the gloss finish on the leather as opposed to a type of hide was developed in 1818. The leather protection ensured dressier looking footwear which could easily be kept clean with a cloth. It was invented in Newark, New Jersey by Seth Boyden and involved coating the leather with linseed oil. Now the process involves plastic coating which makes the mass production of patent leather cheaper.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Shoes and Sex : The expose

The foot and shoe are inexorably linked to sex. In ancient Greece for example sex workers would write 'Follow me' backwards on their sandals so clients could recognise and discreetly engage their services out of public view. A common practice in Spain in the past was to finish a letter with “Que besa su peis" or may she (he) kiss your feet.

In more recent times the advent of seamless stockings without a heel reinforcement brought the sling back to fashion and coupled with the stiletto heel gave the world its sexiest fetishist icon since the Victorian corset.

Fetishism may be defined as a form of behaviour wherein sexual activity or sexual fantasy focuses to an unusual extent upon a body part or an inanimate object rather than a person as a whole. The fetish object as in this case the foot or shoe does not have to give gratification in any genital sense but may merely provide the means to appreciate an attractive object with all the senses. Fetishist behaviours lie on a continuum and most would pass for normal, if not, for slightly unusual behaviour. To that extent we are all fetishist.

High level fetishism is where specific stimuli take the place of a sex partner and pathological fetishism arises where the person suffers excessive guilt feelings from their behaviour. More common in males than females many experts believe foot fetishism is not the result of conditioning alone but may be found in individuals with a predilection in their left brain. Society preconditions us into accepting normal (usually heterosexual) sexual behaviour, alienating all other others. Hence much of what passes as deviant behaviours such as fetishism and cross dressing (although commonly practiced) is seldom spoken off.

Performance anxiety is a male fear that is hard to conceal, one theory about fetishism is that it allows the male to concentrate on an inanimate object rather than their feared partner. The Roman poet Ovid was devoted to the charms of the foot and in Norse mythology Kormak when he saw Steinberg’s ankles became infatuated with that part of the female anatomy. The choice of fetish objects are far from random however and although they may like feet, legs or buttocks. Many favour toes, arches, heels, ankles, calves, knees or thighs. Large or small feet, shapely well formed feet or rough peculiar ones as well as ones in shoes or bare feet, all have their attractions.

To understand fetishism requires the analysis of the object into three elements i.e. the sensory attributes; association elements; and symbolism. High heeled boots may for example present visually a strong female image imprinted from early childhood. The infant crawling across the carpet will see and judge people by their feet and shoes. In some with the appropriate predilection this may have sexual connotations in later life. High heeled footwear may have strong associations with adult women or sophisticated and sexually aware individuals. To men with certain communication difficulties, especially relating to sexual relations, the sight of high heels may allow them to relax and ease tensions. The shoes may also have strong symbolic meaning such as representing an authority ready to meet out discipline. Any one or all three may prove stimulating to the foot/shoe fetishist.

Many authorities consider fetishism and transvestism as having similar characteristics but distinctly are two separate sets of behaviour. Dressing for pleasure does make some people feel different and although most foot fetishists participate in normal relations their arousal is often contingent upon fantasies of feet or the actual wearing of the shoes. Informed commentators consider men with foot fetishism are sometimes unable to deal with the complete women. Understanding partners once aware of the harmless fetish will oblige by displaying or wearing the object of desire. Some well known men of letters have privately been foot fetishists: Restif de La Bretonne (1734-1806) in his diaries revels himself as a shoe voyeur, stealer and collector. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was a German poet, dramatist, novelist, and scientist. Affectionately known as "Mr Bigfoot" by his lover, Christine Vulpius, it was documented he wrote her begging for her dancing shoes, so that he could have them to press against his heart. Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French poet, dramatist, novelist enjoyed foot fetishism as did Feodor Mikkhailovich Dostoyevski (1821-1881) Russian novelist. Author of Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov his works were often preoccupied with guilt and religious faith.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) the Anglo-Irish poet and critic was reputed to be a celebrated foot fetishist and lived for sometime in a London Square overlooking the London Foot Hospital. He coined the immortal words 'If you rebel against high heeled shoes, take care to do so in a very smart hat'. US novelist F Scott Fitzgerald (1896- 1940) was also a fellow foot fetishist and very attracted to female feet. He did however hate the sight of his own feet and tried never to let anyone see them naked. Some men have fantasies about being crushed and view women as huge giants crushing insignificant men underfoot. Shoes provide tactile stimuli for women but although many women are retifists (collect shoes) seldom does their obsession parallel male fetishists.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Cordwainer or Cobbler ?: What's the difference

The term cordwainer comes from the French word for shoe-maker, cordonnier and is derived from the old French form cordouanier, referring to the cordovan leather. Cordovan leather was supple and brightly coloured (red) produced in Cordoba (Spain) from the 9th century onwards. Cordwainer appeared in the English language after the Norman invasion of England in 1066. By the late 13th century Cordwainers were divided between alutari, who used only alum "tawed" cordwain, and basanarii, who used an inferior "tanned" sheepskin which was only used for long boots.

The first English guild of shoemakers called themselves "Cordwainers" and was founded 1131 in Oxford. London shoemakers organized a guild before 1160, and the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers received their first Ordinances in 1272. The Cordwainer only works with new leather whereas a Cobbler works with old leather. At first Cobblers were frequently prohibited by law from making shoes although they would collect worn-out shoes cut them up and remanufacture cheap shoes. By the 16th century Cordwainers and cobblers merged.

Cordoba, in the south of Spain, was a stronghold of the mighty Omeyyad Kalifs until its fall in the 12th century. Moorish Cordoba produced cordouan (cordovan) leather, called "cordwain" in England. Originally made from the skin of the Musoli goat from Corsica, Sardinia, the leather was "tawed" with alum after a method known only to the Moors. English Crusaders introduced the English shoemakers to the finest leather. Finest Cordovan leather was prized for bright red colours and elegant shoes made from this material. Nowadays cordouan, or cordovan leather, has been applied to several varieties of leather.

Cordovan leather today is a "vegetable tanned" horse "shell," and like the Medieval cordwain is used only for the highest quality shoes.

Tastiania were boots and shoes made from goat skin. They were Greek in origin and date from late Antiquity onwards. Tastianuia are thought by many experts to have influenced European footwear in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and may well have been taken to Cordoban. By the 15th century cordovan leather remained high in demand during the height of the Burgundian dominance over Northern European. The Burgundian party was a political allegiance in France that formed during the reign of Charles VI (1368-1422) during the latter half of the Hundred Years War. According to Gay (1887) The King of France owned 131 pairs of chausses seamless (hose with soles) with long whalebone-stiffened poulaines; 189 pairs of slippers in white, black, and red; 109 bottines (ankle boots); two pairs of high boots; and six pairs of soft high boots to wear at night.

Interesting Sites
What Is A Cordwainer And What Is Their Background?
The Corporation of London
Ward of Cordwainer Club

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Shoes: Rossi's eight we appreciate

According to Rossi (1993) shoes can be isolated into eight basic styles i.e. the sandal, the monk, the moccasin, the mule, the clog, the pump, the boot and the lacing shoe.

Sandals are certainly one of the oldest and simplest forms of foot covering which date back many thousands of years. Stone Age sandals were a spontaneous invention, which helped protect vulnerable feet from alien environments. Later the spread of trade among Mediterranean countries accounts why sandals became associated with affluence but it took until the Romans before they became robust footwear, worn by the army. The trade of sandal making was almost lost after the Fall of the Roman Empire and only rediscovered in the early twentieth century when the heeled sandal was associated with Hollywood’s sirens. Now considered the sexiest shoe women can wear, the 'venez y voir' or come hither look is further enhanced with backless or slings back designs. All in an endeavour to catch 'back interest', that is admiring glances from suitable suitors whose eyes are transfixed on the beauty even after she has passed by. Sexy sandals are subtly erotic whereas bitchy sandals are flagrantly sexual (Jayne Mansfield). Women wearing the former are trying to convey a message, which says they want to be noticed and admired as feminine and sensuous women. According to Eisman (2002), today's male thong wearers may appear crude but beneath this veneer lurks a gentle, wounded soul. Dreamers and hopeless romantics choose Jesus sandals to represent their soulful and gentle personalities. Rough and ready types wear sport sandals similar in the way suburban dwellers drive four wheel vehicles. New Age self assured types exude their inner comfort by choosing reflexology sandals.

The monk refers to the wide strap across the instep, which is attached to a buckle. The shoe was worn originally by Alpine monks in the 15th century and later caught a fashion following when ornate buckles took on the guise of shoe jewelry. Wearing them was a mark of prosperity and once again the prerogative of men. After the French Revolution, highly decorated shoes indicated social status and buckles soon became passé as the fashion for boots took over. Buckles meantime became popular with women's shoes. Today they survive in the most mundane form as fastenings for sandals and casual shoes worn by men and children. The monk style of shoe remains a male preserve and is worn by non conventional types assured in their mind their alternative retaining medium is an able match to the more predicable lacing persona. Men who wear peacock buckles are less sexually aggressive, more flamboyant, brazen, and ostentatious. Insecure types with a driving need for personality identity. However don't be fooled the flash exterior is superficial and under the surface lies a soft caring side to their nature, according to Eisman (2002).

The senior statesman of shoes is the moccasin, dating back 15,000 years. Migrating Mongol tribes who crossed the Bearing Straight 9 (circa 30,000 BCE) probably wore a simple wrap around hide held on with rawhide thongs. More associated with tribes of North American Indians who lived on the Ottawa River near the northern tributaries of the St. Lawrence River moccasins were stylised with fringes and coloured beads. Each tribe had their own distinctive style and decoration, much of which would depict rank and occupation. Today moccasin shoes usually describe imitation moccasins, which had their origins in Norway. The Norwegian Peasant Slip-on (or weejun) was first imported to the US by tourists in the 1930s. When Gucci made leather loafers in refined calfskin with a metal snaffle across the instep this had instant appeal. Slick, successful sophisticates flocked to wear them. The Rolls Royce of shoes celebrated craftsmanship, grooming and conformity but with just a hint of excitement. This was often expressed latently in the snaffle design. A two tassel ornamentation was common and is thought the represent symbolic testicles found in many native customs. A gold chain had obvious sado masochistic association and would be worn by domineering types. Soon loafers were available in spectator style (two colours) and by the 50s, Penny Loafers became all the rage with the campus based Ivy Leaguers of the US. Here the testicles were replaced with a lucky penny, which was incorporated in the snaffle. Popular with Hooray Henries of the time, the shoes were full of potential and excitement, in truth of course the shoe style represented no change and security rather than adventure, hence the lucky penny. When low vamp loafers were designed for females and made in soft kid leather they guaranteed successful cross over. College kids wore suede loafers, which was the source of inspiration for blue suede shoes. Imitation moccasins are sensuous shoes, typified by the stylised flair, slightly feminine but overtly masculine, these shoes are preferred by the lounge lizard who is both vain and domineering. Charmers with intoxicating personality the shoe's exaggerated proportions and adornments give a clue to the wearer's true persona. On the positive side moccasin wearers value quality over trends and exude a relaxed elegance that is timeless and very alluring. These people are confident and comfortable to be with. They enjoy looking cool and revel in the good life. Beware bad lots who are attracted to square toed loafers these fellows suffer illusions of grandeur are often brash and certainly preoccupied with cash. Loafers for women are conservative or neuter shoes i.e. neither sex-attractive nor sex-distractive. Neuter shoes reflect a quiescent or semi-active libido preferred by middle aged married women.

Mules or slip shoes started as heel less, quarterless slippers worn in Elizabethan times. Later they became associated with the boudoir and are the ancestors of bedroom slippers, and worn by women of distinction. Richly endowed with silk and velvet these were often heavily bejeweled or highly decorated. During the nineteenth century when Manet's painting of Olympia was revealed to the public it caused a riot. The reclining courtesan was seen playfully holding her foot half in and out of her mules. The implications were obvious to all. The shoe has enjoyed a recent renaissance with Ath Leisure and has become more popular in the US, post '11/09'. Realisation the shoe could be a weapon, combined with widely broadcast images of discarded shoes left behind as people tried to escape falling masonry had a major impact. Increased security associated with travel, especially by air, has given the mule a new lease of life. The shoe is worn by pragmatists, people who enjoy comfort as well as fashion. Sensible shoes are considered sexless, stripped of illusion and sexual promise. Neither do they seek sexual communication, nor do they receive any. They are shoes without personality and often worn through necessity. Typically seen in service personnel and orthopaedic footwear.

Clogs describe wooden soled shoes traditionally worn by peasants and more recently associated with Scandanavia. Two basic types are the sabot (or wooden shoe) and the more fashionable clog (wooden soled shoe with a leather upper). Clog wearers are considered complex and intriguing characters usually cool types with a strange and difficult past that will leave you better for knowing him. One clog devotee is Brian May of Queen. Once a cloggie then always a cloggie, or so it seems. Many men are turned onto clogs by seeing well turned ladies wearing them. Some are even attracted to the noise the clog makes. Hence there are a lot of closet clog wearers out there.

Originally boots were shoes with wrap around leggings and date back approximately 4.5 thousand years. Later when the leather leggings resembled a bucket, the French called then 'butt' meaning water bucket. These evolved in boute and finally boot. Over the centuries boots have undergone many changes and been gendered for their troubles. Boots as a fashion invariably follow war and represent coping with threat. Certainly the most contrived style is cowboy boots which have little to do with real Wild West and more to do with urban macho wannabes. The cowboy boot invokes heroic myth of the west, which promulgates rugged individualism, independence, quiet strength, and alienation from civilisation. They are a sign of authority and suggest strength by adding stature and stability. A boot's snug contact with pressure sensitive Pacinian corpuscles of the lower leg provides tactile reassurance while supporting the long tendons that run to the feet. Boots stabilise the ankle. Research has shown women find men in cowboy boots more attractive. Highly decorated boots express the gentler feminine side of the narcissistic wearer who may be rather superficial but always entertaining, if only for a short time. Boots with pointed toes indicate intense ambition. Whilst the suave and sophisticated sharpie may give out assured confidence and good humour that is as much as you are likely to get from them. The fashion for sharp toes can be traced to the resurgence of paganism and in particular a celebration of Pryapus. Men challenged by the absence of height prefer high heels. Wearers of biker's boots appear control freaks. No surprise there. This who sport elasticised boots may be free spirits who enjoy the simple comforts in life. Modern guys prefer the Yellow Suede, Hiking Boots, suppressed machismo, emaciated by modern day domesticity. Most will lack adventure in their lives but have four wheel boots to show they are ready (if not always willing). Doc Martens lacing boots are the mark of natural loners who may not seek close relationships. Many have leadership qualities with total commitment to passionate causes. The physiological benefits of boots may give the feeling of security on the street. According to Australian journalist, Jane Fraser, Ugg boot (sheepskin boot) is to the foot what Vegemite is to the tongue, what maroon is to a Queenslander, what 'haitch' is to a Catholic. What she might be surprised to learn is elsewhere in the global village creative souls designed for success but tired of convention, wear Ugg Boots. This makes them a personality, which is both unpredictable and capable of the unexpected. The fashion boot without doubt has given liberated women freedom style and support. Not to mention a lot of pleasure to men.

The plain seamless pump started life as a heel-less shoe worn indoors. It was a slip on which did not extend beyond or above the vamp and quarter top lines, held onto the foot without a fastening, although later a wrap around strap like a ballet slipper was used. In the UK the pump was known as a court shoe. By the nineteenth century the slip on pump had become sophisticated worn by both men and women. A low front pump deliberately tantalised by exposing suggestive toe cleavage. When dandy Count D'Orsay introduced a pump style which was low cut on the sides to expose the curve of the long arch and the sinuous movements of the foot the shoe took on extra sensual components. The sensual trifecta was completed with the addition of higher heels. By the thirties daytime shoes were neat and feminine-looking with oval toes and straight, high heels. The classic court shoe was an everyday basic but the new look slender heeled sandals with ankle and T straps in reptile skins, soft kid, and suede and satin were very much the desire of most. Shoes were immaculately presented matt fabrics were always well brushed and leather buffed to a high gloss. Strappy designs were more evident in the more elegant evening shoes. The straps were sometimes plaited or made of satin ribbon and crossed over like ballet pumps. Other styles were dotted with glitter and fastened with fancy gold, silver or diamante buckles. The sides and heels of the shoes were sometimes decorated with tiny gold flecks or diamante tips. Gold and silver 'Charleston' sandals were very popular and a ready accessory for eveningwear. Other shoes were covered with fabric to match a particular dress; alternatively dresses in plain velvet satin or chiffon were worn with patterned shoes, making pretty high-heeled sandals covered in eye-catching, glittering brocade. Hollywood loved two types of women's shoes i.e. the high heeled pump which always looked glamorous despite its inappropriateness to the many action scenes the heroines were depicted wearing them; and the thin strappy sandal as worn by Hayworth, Garbo and Davis represented a willing partner to seduction. Screen beauties rarely forsook these stereotypical props and when they did it became a memorable event. Being filmed in anything else could only add further charm to their existing persona. The origins of heeled shoes probably came from shepherds tending their flocks on steep mountainous country in Pre Hellenic Times. As trade spread across the Mediterranean the elevated sandal became a fashion vogue for rich and powerful men. Later elevated shoes were worn by actors and streetwalkers. The fashion heel for women ironically came in the sixteenth century after a short fling with platform shoes. Chopines were worn by Venetian women of substance both to celebrate the leg as well as (and probably more importantly) to display the sumptuous clothing of the times. Reported falls (or miscarriage) in pregnant women meant the platform was banned but cleaver shoemakers cored out the section of the platform corresponding to the ball of the foot. Ironically by stabilising the foot they created the first orthopaedic footwear or high-heeled shoe. Despite this the heeled shoe we know today could not have been made in the past, prior to developed lasting techniques used for mass production at the turn of the 19th century. Once heeled shoes became passé for fashionable women the style was still enjoyed by female sex workers, even after the Revolution. So popular was the style for heels among sex workers the French girls that immigrated to the US continued to wear them much to the delight of full blooded all American Males. Soon after the first US heel factory was opened. With the introduction of Hollywood came the need to depict visually heroes and villains, clothing took on a special meaning especially with improved cinema photography and the full body shot. Clothing stereo types included shoes where the heeled sandal represents the modern-day, Jezebel. This image was forever frozen with the introduction of the stiletto in the early fifties, which happened to correspond for many with the beginnings of a post war permissive age. High heels are seen as a rite of passage from girl to women. Blisters and sprains worn with pride in a similar manner to nickel allergies.

Lacing shoes were introduced in the seventeenth century in England. At first they were thought to be rather effeminate but later took a fashion hold when fops at Oxford University wore them in the eighteenth century. The Oxford shoe became a foot corset designed to highlight the curves of men's feet. Worn tight to the foot the shoes were smaller than the foot and always with a heel. This meant the man minced which became accepted norm for real me. Corn cutting became a popular service during this time. It took until the nineteenth century before the fashion crossed the Atlantic and came with English invasion. This movement would influence adult costume for the next half a century. To accommodate broader feet Bluchers were adopted and lacing shoes become synonymous with conservative dress attire for both men and women. Patent Leather was developed in the thirties as a waterproof material for shoes. Now solid dependable types, stalwarts of community, wore lacing shoes. Not without its irony and despite their origins lacing shoes are classified as eunuch shoe for men and sexless or comfortable footwear for women. The later is a euphemism for lesbianism. According to Rossi people who wear lacing shoes wish to voluntarily withdraw from natural concerns of sexual attraction e.g. funeral directors, paramedics, and nurses. Non conformists may wear brogue patterns or two-tone uppers indicating a psychosexual masquerade with the masculine costume smothering the peacock inside. Jack Kennedy was a man who preferred high fashion in footwear but conformed for his public image. Neuter shoes are neither sexy nor sexless neither fashionable nor non-fashionable. They exhibit a glimmer of promise at first inspection, but on a closer look are found wanting, i.e. a eunuch like quality. A conservative fashion with medium to low heel, semi-rounded toe, closed rather than open toe box. The colour subdued, the materials conventional and the ornamentation, if any, minimal. Passive styles for psychosexually passive people (Rossi, 1993).The sandshoe which is a canvas Oxford was an invention of the 19th century and although had humble beginnings without doubt heralded the beginning of the most popular footwear of existence. Middle class preoccupation with sport and recreation meant sport kits included dedicated sports shoes. BY the middle of the 20th century they became the icons of youth. Lacing shoes with attitude have become inseparable from youthful rebellion. Sport shoes are now perceived an essential part of ritual garb associated with both the best of being human as well as its darker side. From the time Jimmy Dean endorsed coolness, when he was photographed wearing tennis sneakers to MC Hammer rapped praise on his Adidas sneakers, the sporting Oxford has ruled supreme. People who wear sneakers are not too concerned with their looks but do prize comfort and security over anything else. Wearers of designer trainers are probably ambitious, motivated and driven in all their endeavours. Their materialistic outlook and competitive nature however puts them under enormous internal pressures. The carefree casual appearance of those wearing bowling shoes (a leather top hybred) belies a passionate conversationalist who is intensely romantic. These people are often well traveled and strongly opinionated. Traditionalist too self-conscious to be really cool wears running shoes. These people are not part of the 'in crowd' but would dearly love to be. Large size, bold contrasts, and loud colours suggest youth and physical fitness. Often more theoretical than actual. Identification with team sports (especially star players) are preference for informality and comfort.

Before the rebellion of 1745, the Celtic population (of Scotland and Ireland) went barefoot all year round. Either sex, rich or poor prided themselves on going barefoot as if a sense of national pride. Sassenachs were considered less hardy because they wore shoes. Scots and Irish settlers to the colonies continued to go barefoot until the end of the 18th century. It is still very much in living memory that children and adults went barefoot in Australia not because of adversity but because it was second nature. Times are a changing however and intense fear of low socio-economic groups mean going barefoot today is not encouraged by private owners of public spaces. Hence people who continue to do so have made a life style choice which often alienates them from society. Most appear in perfect peace with themselves, refreshingly relaxed and content with the simple pleasures of life.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Cult of the Virgin Mary and the celebration of female form

By the end of the Middle Ages clothes had became important symbols of social status. They supplied a kind of social ritual, acknowledgement of which indicated breeding. France was the capital of fashion and the concept of the sartorial ideal beauty was depicted in art and literature. In Italy much greater attention was paid to the perfection of the female body.

Sometime during the 16th century, after the gothic period, there was a European movement which celebrated the Virgin Mary, known as the Cult of the Virgin Mary. Fashion lines changed from sharp peaks to more rounded and softer lines. The shoe fashion for poulaines (long sharp toed shoes) for men was replaced with Duck's Bills. These shoes were broad enough across the foot to accommodate each toe individually and the uppers were made from softest of leather.

As the fashion spread the breadth got wider and wider until the shoes measured 24’ across the forefoot. Like contemporary sleeves and leggings, shoe uppers were slashed with fine razor cuts to reveal glimpses of fine brightly coloured tights which were worn beneath. Courtiers had soft fur stitched to the side of the slashed leather to give the outward impression of pubic hair. Costume historians believe the fine slashing of clothing was a deliberate attempt to emulate the vagina opening and closing. The common belief is this fashion was originated by followers of the Cult of the Virgin Mary and was an outward celebration of the female form. The style lasted for just under a century until it was stopped by (Bloody) Queen Mary I (1516-1558) who issued sumptuary laws in England to restrict the breadth of a shoe.

The duck’s bill shoe was a style preferred by her father, Henry VIII who broke away from the Catholic Church to marry his second wife and divorce Mary’s mother. Mary subsequently wanted to marry a catholic and encouraged by Rome (keen to destroy the Cult of the Virgin Mary) she legislated against the Bears Paw as she returned England to Catholicism. Around about the same time the first recorded attempt to outlaw publication about sex was introduced. (Obscenity Bill, 1581).

In the affluent city states of sixteenth century Florence and Venice the ladies became infatuated with the exotic bath shoes of the Middle East as well as the Moorish influenced elevated footwear of Spain. The fashion fusion brought into existence the chopine or original platform shoe. Styles for higher and higher platforms up to 24 inches from the ground made walking unaided impossible and so many falls were reported and miscarriages recorded in women wearing chopines, laws were passed to ban them. To attract clients sex workers of the time took to wearing platforms in the street long after they were fashionable.

Clever shoemakers were encouraged by their patrons to device a safer shoe for ladies and hollowed out the chopine at the ball of the foot thus creating the first high heeled shoes for women. The new style gave women of small stature height as well as safely.

Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) is credited with being the first women to make this style fashionable and the style remained in vogue throughout her life time before becoming passé. Catherine married the King of France and took the style with her where Ironically men in the French Court began to wear high heeled shoes and continued to do so for another two centuries until after the French Revolution (1789-1799). By which time heeled shoes were a sign of affluence and a sure fire way to lose your head. Mens' style became conservative and high fashion women wore heelless pumps leaving only prostitutes wearing heeled footwear.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Altocalciphilia :The love of high heels

The allure of high heels to the altocalciphile is overpowering. Subconsciously this may relate to a primal instinct to identify lame prey. Throughout recorded history limping has been seen both as a physical weakness as well as a sexually attractive impediment. Wearing high heeled shoes can accentuate the limping characteristics in a very tantalising way, such as a Trendelenberg gait(i.e. one hip hiked higher than the other). Actress Marilyn Monroe used this to exquisite effect in the 50s with her stiletto heels (reputedly with one shoe heel higher than the other).

Wearing very high heels affects deportment by moving forward the position of the body’s centre of mass. In women the resulting spinal postural curvature pushes the breasts out, pulls in the buttocks, and gives a gluteal swing during walking as the hips move up and down. Wearing heels elongates the legs giving the outward appearance of shapelier calves, ankles and foot arches. High heels are also thought to place the female pelvis in a precoital position.

Whether or not this is true, the idea by itself, may cause arousal. Long legs are thought to give a strong arousal signal (Lloyd-Elliott, 2006). Men may be attracted to women in heels because it appeals to their superior nature seeing a member of the opposite sex vulnerable. This may present them with the driving need to act as a protector or predator.

High heeled shoes for women are however a comparatively recent costume innovation and prior to these men wore heeled shoes and dressed as peacocks. In European courts during the Middle Ages it was normal for only the high aristocracy to be fashion doyennes. The King and immediate family were particularly the focus for fashion and hence it may be seeing the male Regent dressed in heels had the same effect.

Today, heeled shoes are very much part of the bondage ritual (Rossi,1997) and sado-masochists maybe attracted to the perceived pain associated with wearing high-heeled shoes.


Standing Tall: A Curious History of Men in Heels Bata Shoe Museum Toronto.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Amazon: Good news for online shoe customers

A problem tormenting online shoe retailers like is how best to serve their customers with comfortable fitting shoes. Seems Amazon may have the answer after they bought up Shoefitr, which uses 3D technology to help people virtually choose the correct shoe size without trying on the footwear. Shoefitr uses 3D technology accurate enough to measure the thickness of human hair. Users are prompted to enter the size and model of their current shoe and Shoefitr compares this with its database of scanned shoes to recommend which size that user will need for any particular shoe. It takes into account lots of different variables such as shape, sole thickness, weight etc. The company are aware their system is not yet perfect, but Shoefitr claim the technology is helping reduce the number of shoe returns by 25 percent. This could be a huge help to Zappos, which has an average return rate of 35 percent and a rate which rises to almost 50 percent for loyal customers. Shoefitr already works with some of the biggest names in both sports and fashion footwear, including Brooks, Cole Hahn, Ecco, New Balance, Puma and Toms, among others. It's unclear how the Amazon acquisition will affect the relationship between Shoefitr and these existing customers .

Friday, April 10, 2015

New Book : Shoes: An Illustrated History by Rebecca Shawcross

Shoes: An Illustrated History by Rebecca Shawcross gives a historical perspective of footwear illustrated throughout with 300 full-color pictures of shoes. Rebecca Shawcross is the Shoe Resources Officer at The Shoe Collection, Northampton Museum, UK.