Not just any old shoes. Well, some old shoes, yes.... shoes that were centuries old... others which looked like cars (complete with tail-lights, the Pradas worn by Kylie), fairytale slippers (including Cinderella's glass Swarovski one created for the recent Disney film) and tiny, tiny Chinese shoes to fit women's feet that had been bound so as not to exceed the “ideal” length of 7cm. 7 cm!
(I did feel slightly sick at this thought.)
(I still feel slightly sick.)
The lovely V&A, one of my favourite places in London, is hosting a fascinating exhibition – Shoes: Pleasure and Pain. I'm sure I wasn't alone in wanting to visualise the original wearer of the knee-high red leather boots, with 40 pairs of lace holes threaded with gold braid, lined in silk, so curvily shaped to emphasise her slim ankles and sensual calves. She would have been wearing them nearly a hundred years ago.
Other pictures formed in my head on seeing the Christian Louboutin/David Lynch collaboration, the ultimate in fetish shoes. Like ballet pumps with heels which bent round so they were parallel to the base of the shoe, these were made to be...
impossible to walk in, so that
the wearer of them
And they were designed to be viewed from behind too.... their soles are completely transparent.
A picture is forming in your head as well, isn't it? It's difficult for it not to, I know.
Men's shoes too: I wouldn't want anyone to think this was a show that could only interest women. Glorious 1950s winkle-pickers with impossibly pointed toes, biker style boots with straps and buckles (which I noted were from Shelly's... a place much frequented by my friends and me in the '80s). High-heeled and fancily decorated in beads and studs were the boots worn by those most rugged and macho of men: cowboys. Glam rock platform boots and jewel-encrusted mojaris worn by Indian royalty 200 years ago defied gender stereotypes too. If you've any interest in history, design and society, you can learn a huge amount just from looking at shoes through the ages and, like so many things, they're a reminder that much of what we think of as 'modern' has been done before - long before.
I knew I'd be on foot most of the day, and have to jump onto tube trains and walk down busy streets, so I wore some comfortably worn-in zipped ankle boots. The chunky heels are wearing down and the toes are square. But it was obvious from the display I saw that, throughout history, the most significant and desirable footwear is, of course, not actually meant to be walked in.