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This essay is about shoes.

What we wear, why we wear them and how they went from primitive tool to flamboyant show of fashion sense. The essay discusses shoes in the context of feminism, history and social status as well as through the eyes of the author during different stages of her life and development. Shoe Shine

Stiletto, I look at it more as an attitude as opposed to a high-heeled shoe.


Lita Ford
Guitarist of The Runaways

I had a class in high school where we didnt do anything, we would be assigned readings for the day, but no one ever took much interest. We, a group of four sheltered adolescent girls, sat in the last row, where the back wall allowed us to maintain the allusion of privacy while our voices remained completely audible to the entire classroom. Naturally conversation would erupt on topics of great consequence: who did what at the party last Friday, appropriate attire for prom, strapless, or one shoulder? and the latest UN Security Council vote. One day I revealed a deep, personal truth: I want to be the type of person who can wear high heels everyday. There were general assertions of agreement, headshakes of understanding from all-around. I wasnt alone.

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Shoes. Shoe. Plural or singular? Hollywood stylist and maven of all things over-accessorized Rachel Zoe would cry we need a great shoe with this 50,000$ couture ball gown [that will only be worn once by a model who demonstrates she isnt anorexic because she eats a slice of gluten free bread every other day]!. Brainwashing, thats what this is. Yes fashion can be an art, shoes can be an art. But when academic studies are being conducted on the sexual ramifications of wearing heels (apparently they are great, heels work the [pelvic] works the pleasure muscles linked to orgasm) and six-inch platforms are being recommended to tighten your leg muscles, and lift your butt there is more to the story than pure cobbler appreciation12.

I like high heels, It means girls can't run away from me. - David Bailey
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Urban Girl Fitness Admin. "Heel-tastic: The Slimming Power of High Heels." Urban Girl Fitness. N.p., 17 Mar. 2009. Web. 07 July 2013. <http://www.urbangirlfitness.com/heel-tastic-the-slimming-power-of-highheels/>. 2 Courier Mail News. "Heels Boost Sex Life." Courier Mail, 03 Feb. 2008. Web. 07 July 2013. <http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/heels-boost-sex-life/story-e6freon61111115472273>.

British Fashion Photographer

As a child I was panicked by the idea of Chinese foot binding. Dreams of foggy candlelit huts decorated with lavender silk where young girls put their feet up to be bound. My image of Asia may have been childishly ignorant, but my cries of human rights violation were not. Women having their movement restricted in order to look dainty, the inability to walk freely considered a status symbol, ladies with natural feet would not be married? These were ideas my young mind rejected as horror stories3. Today I am no longer in denial, but remain disturbed by the use of shoes as women restrictors. New stories, like those of upper class Venetian ladies of the 15 and 16th centuries wearing chopines, decorated heels so high servants were required to support them like crutches as they walked- all in the name of status and fashion4.

But isn't a shoe really a corset for the foot? "Yes. But a corset you adore." The mood shifts.
-Cathy Newman interviewing Manolo Blahnik I acknowledge all this; understand this; confront the idea that shoes have been tools of female repression and high heels impose irrational standards of beauty on women. Yet, I still aspire to wear heels, everyday.
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I used to be scared of femininity; particularly its representation in the color pink. I had overdosed on pink in middle school. It was a hard time for me; my elementary school had 40 students, I could see it from my front door. To get to my new school I had to take a bus. Grade 6 was the first time I had a teacher I hadnt known all my life. There were also new kids, kids I didnt know, kids who didnt know me. I was trying to make an impression. I had an all pink winter outfit: hat, scarf, jacket, and boots. I Lim, Louisa. "Painful Memories for China's Footbinding Survivors." NPR. NPR, Mar. 2007. Web. 08 July 2013. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=8966942>. 4 Newman, Cathy. "Platform Heels - Shoes, Culture, and History - National Geographic Magazine." Shoes, Culture, and History - National Geographic Magazine. National Geographic, Sept. 2006. Web. June 2013.<http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0609/feature2/online_extra05.ht ml>.
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think back and see myself as a puffy, pink Michelin Man. The boots were the most important; they were thick, rubber and hit my 12-year-old legs mid-calf. Id convinced my mother to buy them from the LandsEnd catalog under the veil of superior insulation and stability, but what was most important to me was the special feature, they changed color with the temperature. Inside sitting under my locker in the warmth of a heated school the boots would be a light pink, but when exposed to the cold temperatures of a Canadian winter they would change into a dark fuchsia-cool, right?

You have dancing shoes With nimble soles. I have a soul of lead So stakes me to the ground I cannot move
Romeo and Juliet Act 1 Scene 4 The boots became a tool, a conversation starter, a buffer. Like the tail feathers of a male peacock, these boots were an instrument of attraction. We would spend recess outside, a perfect time to socialize and share my shoes. It wasnt a failure; I was able to fill lulls in conversation by awkwardly lifting my foot in hand, leg bent at the knee for all to see, proclaiming, these boots are cool because they change color. But middle school wasnt the happiest of times for me, I never really found a good group of friends, the boots didnt impress as much as Id hoped. I moved away from wearing pink. Its an outlandish color, anyways.
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My father has a pair of black dress shoes that are falling apart at the seams. The sole of the left shoe visibly detaches from the heel as he walks, making a goofy slapping sound when it hits a hard surface. The interior liner has disintegrated, looking in from the foot-hole you can see the innards of the shoe structure, a metal base overlapped by thick lines of blue rubber. They dont smell, thank goodness. Hes had these shoes for more than 10 years, since his big court case in the Cayman Islands, a case so big it ended up in the Guinness Book of World Records. He may be nostalgic for his time as a highflying lawyer wizing around the small Caribbean island in a wig and court robes (as a British Overseas Territory, the Cayman courts follow the Crown procedure, including those on dress code) protecting under capable bank executives, fighting the overbearing hand of MI65. Yes, the British intelligence agency was involved, so wistfulness is understandable.

Lashmar, Paul. "MI6 Role in Cayman Investigation Exposed as Austin Powers Farce." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 17 Jan. 2003. Web. July 2013. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2003/jan/18/military1>.
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I dont think he keeps the shoes out of a need to reminisce or relive the glory days. He is a man of habit, set in his ways; he has shoes, and wears them. We live in an isolated town of a thousand people, there is nowhere to buy a dress shoes equal in quality to his current pair. I may find embarrassment at the state of his disheveled footwear as we slap, slap, slap down the harshly lit grocery store aisles but my father does not. "Athletic shoes show how tolerant of ugliness we've become, says June Swann a woman who holds the title of Keeper of the Boot and Shoe Collection at the Northampton Museum in England6. I disagree, and think distain for the inconsequential fashion choices of others shows how tolerant of ugliness weve become. Though gilded by fashion of 21st century luxury, the shoe began and remains as a utilitarian instrument used protect the foot from discomfort or cold and make movement easier. The earliest specimen of human footwear sits in the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History, a 10,500 year old woven bark scandal worn by an American who likely lived in caves during the winter months and hunted in marshes in summer7. This one shoe (no, its not a pair) recalls the ego of beauty, fashion and even gender roles. This one shoe has a presence, reminds us of the earnest beginnings of not only the superfluous footwear we sport, but of our humanity.

Newman, Cathy. "Mans Lace-ups - Shoes, Culture, and History - National Geographic Magazine." Shoes, Culture, and History - National Geographic Magazine. National Geographic, Sept. 2006. Web. June 2013. <http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0609/feature2/online_extra06.html>.
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Newman, Cathy. "Sandal - Shoes, Culture, and History - National Geographic Magazine." Shoes, Culture, and History - National Geographic Magazine. National Geographic, Sept. 2006. Web. June 2013. <http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0609/feature2/online_extra02.html>.
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