Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Shoes

Do you ever look at what shoes people are wearing? I have found myself staring at people's shoes recently, and have become fascinated at what I have seen. Only the other day I watched a young girl wearing a pair of very narrow tipped high heels, and  the concentration that she needed for staying upright created one of the most amusing walks I have ever seen. (eat your heart out John Cleese). I had the perfect seat in a cafe to observe all of this whilst waiting for a friend to arrive.

It was the click clack click followed by a scraping noise that drew my attention at first, on first look I thought she had been drinking and then realised that the swaying was part of her strategy to remain upright and at the same time trying to advance forward. It was one of the funniest things truly I have seen in awhile, and so because shoes are much more than simply an item of clothing - they can be objects of fantasy and desire, they can make us feel good or they can be instruments of torture and abuse. Let's just have a look at some.  Never even knew that there was such a thing as shoes for crushing walnuts!  Ouch to the nails below. And as for the binding of feet can only say I am glad that that era is over.
Did you know! Edward II originated shoe sizes in 1324. He decreed that 3 barley corns, placed end to end, equaled one inch. 36 barleycorns, end to end, were the actual length of his own foot. Each barleycorn was one third on an inch, which added up to 12 inches or one "foot." The longest normal foot measured 39 barleycorns, or 13 inches, and was called size 13. Smaller sizes were graded down from this number, each by a third of an inch.

Thanks to a stray comment by Confucius, mothers in 10th century China bound their daughters’ feet, hoping to achieve a “golden lotus,” a foot measuring just 3 inches. The "lotus" feet looked like tiny hooves and almost immobilized a woman. A symbol of high status, they were also considered powerfully erotic. In 1911 the practice was banned, and in 1949 Mao made it apenal offense to bind girls' feet, which was out of favor by then anyway. (The two paragraphs above are from

Image credits: Bata Shoe Museum Photos' by David Stevenson and Eva Tkaczuk, South Shields Museum, The Stockholmtown Blog, urbanupdater.wordpress.
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