Which shoe profile fits you?
Nikita Khrushchev shoe. Former Soviet Union president who boldly and daringly took off his shoe and pounded it on his delegate desk protesting a 1960, during a United Nations General Assembly. This shoe banging came as a result of the Philippines delegate’s speech pointing the finger at The Soviet Union for swallowing Eastern Europe, and expunging political rights.
Nicolae Ceausescu shoe. Former president of Romania and prominent dictator and authoritarian who ruled the country with an iron hand and suppressed his people. Ceausescu was executed by a firing squad in front of cameras. He had a shoe obsession and wore his for one day only, by day’s end ordering his butler to burn them so they could never be reused.
Hunain Shoe. This is a historically legendary tome in eastern culture. A man found a shoe, but did not pick it up. He continued along his way to find a pair of shoes, and not finding another option experienced deep regret and total lack of wearable footwear. The moral of this story: Always aim to achieve something even if it seems excessively difficult at the outset. The story became a proverb applicable to life: if someone fails in anything, it is said…he came back with a Hunain shoe.
If the 3 profiles above do not exactly evoke your shoe philosophy, read on…
Excerpts from my favorite shoe story,“Women From the Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us,” by Rachelle Bergstein…
“…In Europe in the 14th through 17th centuries, the trend went in the other direction. In Italy, prominent women wore 20-inch-tall chopines, while in France and England, the fad was for long pointy-toed shoes called poulaines.
Elizabethian Sumptuary laws decreed that peasants’ shoe tips could stick out only a half-foot beyond their toes, whereas wealthy bourgeois were permitted 12 inches of ostentation, “one and a half feet for knights, two feet for nobles, and two and a half feet for princes, who had to hold the tips of their shoes up with gold or silver chains attached to their knees.
Once, shoes were a rarity in the ordinary person’s closet. Men and women owned a pair or two at the most, and relied on cobblers to make them. And back when women’s skirts swept the ground, a pricey shoe was wasted effort.”
Sometimes, shoes were less than rare, case in point, Imelda Marcos, former Philippine first lady. One corridor in her villa was lined floor to ceiling with her shoe collection, neatly arranged on shelves and wrapped in plastic. Imelda insisted she was expected to change her shoes seven times a day. She couldn’t possibly receive one “VIP” wearing the same outfit in which she’d met another. “It was a sign of respect,” said Imelda.
The sad, sad story updated, “More than 150 cartons of clothes, dress accessories and shoes of the Marcoses were transferred to the National Museum for safekeeping two years ago after termites, humidity and mold threatened the apparel at the riverside palace. They deteriorated further at the museum after the fragile boxes were abandoned in a padlocked hall that had no facilities to protect such relics and was inundated by tropical rains last month due to a gushing leak in the ceiling, museum officials said.
Museum staffers, who were not aware the boxes contained precious mementos from the Marcoses, opened the hall on the fourth floor of the building after noticing water pouring out from under the door. They were shocked to see Marcos’ shoes and gowns when they opened the wet boxes, officials said.”
More from Bergstein, “…as the age of mass production made more shoe styles available cheaply to more people and as the rise of the flapper brought shorter hemlines, the craze for conspicuous shoe consumption clicked.
At the same time, the very fact that something hard to get had become plentiful produced a desire for scarcity — in the form of handmade, expensive shoes (out of the reach of most budgets in the pre-credit era) made by craftsmen who regarded the trade as an art.”
“Enter Salvatore Ferragamo, a boy from an Italian village who cobbled together his first creations as a precocious 9-year-old in 1907, and at 16 moved to California, where he began making shoes for Hollywood stars.
When fans saw his inventions in luscious close-up, they raced (as fast as they could in kitten heels) to snatch them up.
…Fast-forward to the present, and you can see how this obsessive heritage lurches on among the women who line up outside Manolo Blahnik’s boutique before dawn on sample-sale days, who squander their rent money on Jimmy Choo, and who, this moment, can be seen slipping on the escalators at an H & M near you, in their towering wedge-heeled Kork-Ease knockoffs.”
So here’s what the shoe skirmishes gracing all the major newspapers are all about…
The New York Times recently reported: “The great designer shoe wars of Manhattan retailing have escalated at an astonishing pace since 2007, back when Saks Fifth Avenue, in a clever marketing gambit, announced that its expanded footwear department was so large that it deserved its own vanity ZIP code, 10022-SHOE. Rivals have responded with incremental upgrades and exclusives to their shoe departments, setting the stage for a Battle of the Blahniks that could carry on well into the next decade. In 2018, Nordstrom, well known for the breadth of its footwear offerings, is set to open an attack on the Western Front, or at least on West 57th Street.
Down in Herald Square, meanwhile, Macy’s is fortifying its flagship during a $400 million overhaul with a shoe department that will reportedly hold more than 300,000 pairs…”
The NYT continues “…But the latest salvo came this week from Barneys New York, which opened a shoe department that sprawls across an adjoining floor of its men’s and women’s store on Madison Avenue. A civilian might have thought that the new look was designed to equate shoe shopping with entering heaven, as the elevators open onto a gleamingly bright and white space, covering 22,000 square feet on the fifth floor. (It was created with the interior design firm Yabu Pushelberg.)” A classic 2009 article from the venerable NYT by Cintra Wilson is a fabulous favorite of mine, Choose a Shoe, Any Shoe, and Hold On. “…But the shoe department of Barneys New York is devoted, to an intoxicating degree, to party shoes: feathery, mile-high spangle-y things made of sex and Christmas trees, that transform the wearer into someone with legs and buttocks rivaling those of Rachel Alexandra at the Preakness.”
The classics reign, current iterations pale next to the icons of shoedom.
There are 1,626 retails shoe selling options in Manhattan.
Here’s a visual history of famous & fabulous shoe places and people…
I’m no shoe salesman or even a shoe shopper, and I have less pairs of shoes in my closet than many men have in their closets. I think I would bypass the options above, I’ve never been an it’s ok for my shoes to hurt girl…you’ll find me cozied up in front of the fire in the green crocodile chair, wearing some oh-so-comfortable crocodile classic tennies.