What’s in a name?

Here we are in our 7th week already, the time seems to be flying by.  I know we’ve accomplished a lot so far, and we’re finally starting on making shoes, but I need to do a blog specifically relating to ‘what is a shoe?’.  I’ve skipped around it a bit and played with the idea, the concept but I need to really focus now, so here we go.

At it’s very simplest: A shoe is a piece of outerwear worn on one’s foot.  Thank you Wikipedia.  From there it’s so many things: protection, decoration, insulation, support.  It can also be a nightmare, a danger to your health, an irritant to your skin.

If you have two matching standard sized feet you are well served by the footwear industry.  But friends of mine with small feet tell me how hard it is to get an adult style shoe, the mainstream market designs smaller sizes for children.  If you have wide or narrow feet, high arches, sensitive feet, need to insert prosthetics, need extra large sizes, have different sized feet, etc. shopping for shoes is a troublesome process that must have been a nightmare without the WWW and with it is still tricky.  You probably need deep pockets in monetary terms as well.

If I think about my shoes I really only have two pairs that have delighted me, and I’m one of the lucky ones in terms of ease of fiding something that fits.  One was a shop bought pair that was a delight to put on, fitted exactly giving support and comfort.  The other pair, I’m delighted to say, was a pair I made under the tutelage of the wonderful Luna Newby. My pair are third down on the right, but they have had a lot of wear since then.  So there’s a lot of mediocre or worse shoes out there, I enjoyed reading this article, Click Here. She has her own site, I’ll be going back to check it out more, Click Here.

Hmmmm, here’s a thought, if you take the meaning given above, about shoes being a protective outer layer, does a shoe remain a shoe if you need to wear a covering to protect it?  If you are wearing galoshes or pattens does your shoe become something else?

Footwear for people who are less confident on their feet becomes practical and rather boring.  Dare I say “sensible shoes”?  With velcro.

And what are shoes if you aren’t able to walk?  There’s some good comments about shoe comfort for wheelchair users on line, Click Here, and this article and comments too, Click Here.

So what is a shoe, or what makes a good shoe?  Wikipedia lists 76 types of shoe, Click Here. Not sure that I’ll make each type but you never know, it would certainly assist me to the total of 100 pairs of shoes.

 

Read the small print

So I’m all set, my text books arrived and I’m here bright and early for the start of week 5 and I walk in the class room and the others who likewise are here bright and early say no, there’s no class today, Lauren is sick.  She sent an email last night.  Hmmmm, not so bright then!

At least I’m in good company.

And it’s an opportunity to write something.

I was thinking about shoes and following on from those rediculously high shoes that couldn’t possibly be worn for walking and how fashions have taken footwear to extremes.  I’m thinking of the Venetians and their chopines in the 15th – 17th centuries.  These are mind boggling – and yet a younger me in that day and age would have probably seized the challenge:

chopine

The image comes from an article in BuzzFeed about high heels, Click Here.

At the other extreme there is the binding of feet in China to create a fashionably small foot that was finally stopped in the 20th century, to read more about it Click Here.  Having grown up in a time when this was condemned it’s hard to imagine anyone doing this to their children, and yet it was practiced for over 1,000 years.  So, if I was born into an environment where this was expected, even deemed desirable, would I have happily submitted?  (Never a strong trait of mine, I hasten to add.)  Would you?

lotus-shoes-1

And to a degree this is carried on in the current desire for high heels, no matter how many articles are written about the damage that is done to your body, Click Here for one of them.  And let me say, I was right there in my younger years, wearing them with the best of them.  My back sincerely regrets it, and I can see that it would have been better not to go to such extremes, and yet I did.  We do.  We’re driven by desire rather than sense.  Why is that?  I know, it seemed like a good idea at the time . . . . .

And now there’s 3D printing and there’s some clever work being done by Neta Soreq, Click Here for more information

neta-soreq_shoe-design_dezeen_936_2

And even a flat pack shoe!!!!  Will they catch on? Click Here for the story.

flat-pack-shoes

I’m not intending to make high heeled shoes, even though I know that by doing so I’m ignoring a large (and lucrative) chunk of the market, but better people than me are filling that demand adequately.  I’d rather that my footwear didn’t cause harm – to the people that wear them, or in the process of making them.  That they assisted good walking habits.  That they were comfortable.  And of course infinitely desirable too.

Variations

I love finding out what others are doing to create shoes that are a bit more interesting, a bit more ‘them’.  Something that takes over the boredom and saminess of the majority of footwear that’s around.  Lets face it, with mass production you are only getting one of many.

I was delighted to see what’s happening here by Brave Strides, how much nicer than dying your shoes, painting them with such lovely detail.  I guess you need to consider how well they will stand up to wear and tear, but what fun.  I like that she isn’t caught up in the super hero and/or movie hero angle that quite a few others are working.

Mules

Today we’re looking at Mules, a specific term for a slip on, backless style of shoes.  I’d tell you all about it except that I had to look it up and found the Womens Shoe Advisory blog and it does it so well I thought I’d leave it to them to explain all, so click on the name above and you will get to have a look at what they say.

We are drawing them.  Although the blog I’ve just mentioned swears and declares that mules shouldn’t have a heel currently that’s the majority of the mule market.  I was going to be stubborn and find a flat mule, but when I encountered this I realised it actually is a mule even though it is stretching the boundaries, what do you think?

black_mule

If you click on the image you will be transported to the photography site that took this great snap.  I was hoping it would be one of those 360 degree shots so I could rotate it and check it out from all angles but it’s a still.  I shall imagine the other angles I need to draw from the information in this shot.  I may well regret this in a minute – how am I meant to depict the crocodile (or similar) skin?  It would be interesting to know if it is a real crocodile or caiman hide or if it is a simulated effect.

Ha!  Found it, and there is a rotating 360 degree image too.  Click Here to check it out.  They are called black caiman but the devil is in the detail, it’s crocodile embossed leather.  I have felt a crocodile hide and that centre section that runs down the back is very thick and would be mighty difficult to work so I can understand not using the real stuff, but I’m still a little disappointed.

Why shoes?

To begin with (I had to correct my typo which had ‘toe begin with’ – very on topic!) we didn’t wear shoes, and there is something lovely about being in touch with the ground when it’s a nice temperature and the surface is pleasing to touch, but anyone who has experienced bindi-eyes or bindis (Soliva sessilis), or extreme temperatures can appreciate the necessity of a protective layer between you and the nasties.

Especially as some of the nasties are very nasty, parasites that embed themselves in your feet can ruin a good walk, and life itself.  I was going to find a link to embellish this point but it’s all very unattractive and I can’t bring myself to inflict this on you.  OK, I don’t want to inflict it on me.  It doesn’t matter as the point is that a foot covering can protect you from this.

So we began to wear shoes a very long time ago.

These are images of shoes made from Sagebrush bark that were found near Fort Rock, Oregon, USA, and believed to be from 10,500 to 9,300 years old, click here for more information.  It’s amazing to have these as usually they would have composted after use and so we don’t know how long this type of shoe had been in use for prior to this time.

The next step, using leather is at least as old as 5,500 years ago, with this wonderful discovery made within the last decade.

old-shoe-moccasin

A single piece of leather that is stitched at the front and the rear.  This shoe is in amazing condition and it’s easy to see the construction – such a treat, click here for the full story.

I love that each of these examples are clearly recognisable as shoes.  There was no problem identifying their function.  There is an upper section and a sole and we usually think of that as what makes up a shoe, but what about shoes without soles?  Is that an oxymoron? Look at these bare bottom shoes (and click on the images for more information):

bb-crossed-feet bf_oceanus

So – are these shoes? To my mind the ones on the right are jewelry while the ones on the left could possibly be classified as shoes.  But then what about these????

cl-shoes

No.

Emphatically no.

Art – yes, shoes – no.

Maybe the description of shoe needs to embrace the functionality of walking.  These Charles Lamboutin shoes ain’t going no where.  Wear them yourself, sir. (Click on the image for more information.)

Designers of the 20th century

We are of course talking shoes here.  Shoe designers.  It’s really hard to find many shoe designers from the early 20th century, as media grew the influence of designers could reach out far wider than their own physical presence.

We covered designers today in class.  They were all men.  And some very fine designers, but what a shame to miss out on the wonderful Beth Levine – husband Herbert got mentioned, and got the credit for the stocking shoe:

bethlevine_stockingshoe

This is an image from the Sydney Power House museum, click here or on the image to go to their site for more information.

Beth Levine worked as Herbert Devine (using her husband’s name) because shoe design was such a male dominated industry it was better to go under a nom de plume, so to speak, I guess that should that be her nom des chaussures.  Some other images of her designs can be seen on Pinterest – click here.

I love her sense of fun.

And Vivienne Westwood, why didn’t she get a mention? click here  Exceptional and audacious.

I’m also going to mention Trippen, because it’s 50% female design.  I love there work and have recently bought a pair of sandals – yay.  Angela Speith and Michael Ohler are doing wonderful things, especially with very thick hides. I love the chunkiness of the seems they create.  And what a great name.  click here

There are so many more.  It’s great to trawl and look, especially when it’s part of your studies and you are meant to, but then I get to that point when it’s all too much.  Like that time in Amsterdam when I was desterately trying to see all the museums and galleries, and found myself racing past a painting muttering to myself, “it’s just another Rembrandt” – Reality Check – time to stop and smell the roses, or sip a cuppa or just breath . . . .