Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Women from the Ankle Down

Iconic red soles

This is the title of a book that I stumbled upon while reading the review section of The Wall Street Journal. It was so interesting that I had to download a sample, as the book is not available for purchase until today so I couldn’t read it further. Women from the Ankle Down is a book by Rachelle Bergstein, it delves into the history of shoes and through stories and interviews gives a little insight into women’s obsessions with shoes. Since I am a woman obsessed with shoes, this book was a must read, I have it on pre-order.

I can’t wait to finish reading this book as the sample was extremely interesting. The preface discusses how women justify shoe purchases and even some of the psychology behind our shoe choices, reasoning and consequences. The book talks about the history of shoes and how they’ve been used for “social currency” for centuries. Shoes can represent your position in society and in the courts of Louis XIV it was decreed that only men of high social position and power were allowed to wear loafers with red square heels, kind of like a pair of Christian Louboutin and their distinctive red soles. Most women recognize a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes as representing social and monetary standing. One not only has to have the place to wear a pair but also the budget.

Women wouldn't have spectacular shoes if no one saw their feet

The book delves into the history of shoes and horror of horrors, how women did not have access to the multitude of shoes we see today. Apparently women would own one or two pairs of shoes their entire lives. Shoes were made strictly by hand and were passed down from one child to another when they were outgrown. Shoes also were pretty functional and not very attractive. Shoes were not always made with shapes to fit right or left foot. Although we can blame the lack of fashionable shoes on their lack of visibility, women wore long skirts that covered their feet so no one saw the shoes. Why make a shoe attractive if no one is going to see it anyways?

Today women are blessed or cursed with a wide selection of shoes due to mass manufacturing and the changes in fashion that made women’s feet much more visible. You can’t go to a mall or department store without seeing at least five to six shoe stores and once you go into these stores the selection seems endless. Case in point, the shoe department at Nordstrom is quite vast and the selection is mind boggling. My husband marvels at how many shoes I can cram into my closet but by medieval standards he has more shoes than the average peasant and his family would see in a lifetime. Men just have to understand that women today were born in a time of shoe plenty and we are just taking advantage of it, simple reasoning and justification.

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