I opened my closet this morning and stared in awe at all the shoes. Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnic, Jimmy Choo….How on earth did I amass such a HUGE collection of shoes….and better yet….WHY, since I walk around barefoot 3/4 of the time?
I have often wondered why we women, who are often touted as strong, independent and intelligent, put up with shoes that are dangerous to our health, extremely uncomfortable for most of us? I am as guilty as the next woman. I adore shoes!
Most shoes on the market today were invented by men with no regard, whatsoever, to comfort. In fact, virtually every aspect of clothing design is male dominated— the big names like Karl Lagerfeld, Alexander McQueen, and Jean Paul Gaultier, and all that, they’re all men, and even though I love what they create and own many of their designs, I have to wonder about the whole male aspect of designing women’s wear. I think historically speaking in terms of shoe making, it was originally a man’s line of work that was passed on from father to son. And it’s working the leather — it’s difficult work with the hammer, the nails, et al, so I can understand the historical tradition. I give pause to the fact, however, that many of these shoes are modern day torture devices.
My bestie doesn’t care for today’s popular shoe styles…especially those worn by young women. “They have no shape,” he says….”They have no style. They just look like pairs of clunkers!” Well…sort of….but these new shoes have real women in mind, and they are built for comfort. While I love my Jimmy Choo kitten heels, my tastes lie somewhere in the middle. I love elegant shoe design….but I enjoy comfort as well, and am happy that these “clunkers” are in high fashion these days. (John Fluevog and El Naturalista are my favorite “clunker” brands.)
I once attended an art exhibit called, Shoe Obsession, at The Museum of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology where 150 contemporary shoes by 50 different international designer were showcased in such a way as to inspire the same feeling of awe and reverence that one might experience in a house of prayer. The shoes were spotlighted in showcases that resembled the artifacts that I saw at the Vatican. They went from wearable to wild — spikes, glass, feathers, studs, lace. Every material available in the world seemed to be represented somewhere on some shoe.
Most women will tell you that they love their shoes because of the way they make them feel. And many women are willing to play with shoes in a way they don’t play with other parts of their wardrobe.
According to the exhibit’s co-curator Dr. Valerie Steele, “Shoes are an intimate extension of the body and seem to say so much about our attitudes, aesthetics, sexuality and social status.” Sculptural quality, she added, is another part of the appeal. “Maybe it’s because shoes are sculptural. Clothing, when not worn, just lies there flat, lifeless. But shoes seem to have an autonomous quality, which may explain why our obsession with shoes seems to have reached new heights.” That’s why *I* love them. Shoes are art!
Shoes are as much a part of everyday fantasies as sex might be, though they are more Cinderella than erotic. That’s because buying shoes taps into our most primitive instincts akin to what our earliest ancestors felt; the hunt, the chase, the kill. By simply even thinking about shoe shopping, adrenaline starts to course through my body. When I browse my favorite online shoe stores, my system begins to release dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin, and serotonin. That’s powerful stuff. But, unlike alcohol or other substances or processes that do the same, there are few consequences; maybe slight guilt, an argument with a spouse, or a reduced bank account – all of which seem minor in comparison with the joy you feel from finding an awesome pair of shoes and knowing they are yours to keep forever.
Shoes provide the foundation for the image that we want to broadcast to the world. We wear them as a way to play with aspects of our identity in a less committed way than any other visible marker such as a haircut or color. We can change that message every day or more if we choose. A “clunky” pair of Berkenstocks shows our groundedness, Those beautiful Manolo Blahnic pumps tell the world we are all business and my many pairs of high leather cowboy boots tie me back to Texas and declare toughness.
Shoes. I just can’t get enough….but for now, I really need to clean my closet.