Friday, August 14, 2020

Rock Shoes Part I (1956-1962)

If there was ever an item of clothing which epitomized the style and fashion of an era, then it would have to be shoes (or their absence). Visit any cd store and you can pick up a dozen covers of compilation hits and three quarters of them will depict the age with fashionable shoes of the time. What's more these are instantly recognisable.

The most famous shoes of the rock and roll era were Carl Perkins's Blue Suede shoes. Although, Elvis Presley had the big hit, credit was always given to Perkins for writing the song. The idea came from his early days (1955) when he and Johnny Cash (1932 – 2003) were in a food queue. Someone in front cried a warning to another not to trod on his foot. 'Hey don't step on my blue suede shoes". Cash was moved to say to his companion that would be a good title for a song. Blue Suede shoes were regulation airmen's shoes.

Later, when Perkins (1932 – 1998) was playing in a dance hall he noticed one of the dancers gesticulating to his partner not to stand on his feet. The following morning, or so the story goes, he woke up with the song lyrics in his head and cleverly wrote them down. He recorded the song (b side Honey Don’t) before Elvis (1935 – 1977) but a road accident prevented him from performing the hit on national television (the The Perry Como Show). Presley meantime was in desperate need of a successful follow-up to Heartbreak Hotel and took his version of 'Shoes' the top of the US charts. The rest, as they say is history.

In American, Blue Suede Shoes came to represent quality brogues or ‘penny’ loafers. These were slip on shoes which had been around since 1930s. The name probably came from “landloafer” meaning “loafing around”, as one may do in casual shoes. These were worn by middle class university students. Loafers were essentially a two-piece moccasin with a hard sole and a strap or saddle, made of leather, over the instep.

Worn by "Preppies", the style was popular with both sexes. Suede was a shoe cover preferred by effeminate men so the kids took to them, to flaunt convention. The Penny Loafer was also known as Kerrybrooke Teenright Smoothies and had a good luck penny stuck in the leather saddle.

Meantime the rebellious youths in the UK (Teddy boys); Halbstarke in Germany; the Stilyagi Russia,and Blousons Noir in France wore crepe soled shoes which were like dessert boots on speed. These were cheap and crude shoes made specifically for the emerging youth market with soles more like platforms.

The nature of a sub culture is the desire to be different and will often flaunt the conventions of the time. The teenagers of the 50s were no different and picked up on suede (the skin side of leather), prior to this time, suede was regarded as an effeminate medium previously worn only by lounge lizards and homosexuals. The appeal of brothel creepers lay in their deliberate crudeness. Leather or suede was sown into crepe soles, sometimes two inches thick. The name spells out the sexuality of the shoe. They were a celebration of unsubtle masculinity and were the working-class equivalent of the desert boot.

The shoe was a hybrid of the desert shoe which were made for officers during the desert campaign in North Africa. The suede bootees were made by native craftsmen with lightweight and hardwearing crepe soles. The fashion was developed by Clarke's of England and when treated suede became available (i.e. Hush Puppies) then desert boots became popular with middle class smoothies. Many were single men who frequented nite spots of Soho and Kings Cross. Hence the name brothel creeper.

Baby boomers had money to burn but clothing manufacturers were slow to waken up to the potential of kids clothing, In the UK styles filtered down from Belgravia and young people were expected to become young ladies and gentlemen with any reference to sex in dress completely played down. Similarly, the North American youth followed conservative fashion but rock’n’roll changed all that.

European Teddy boys wore drapes and drainpipe trousers with brothel creepers. As a token of respect to rock-a-billy a bootlace tie was part of the uniform of the street wise ned. The style was reminiscent of Melbourne larrikins of the 19th century.

In Australia, Bodgies combined US & UK fashion, adding a hint of Italian, so adolescents appeared in Spiv suits worn with pointy, white shoes. Later with crossover rockabilly, crocodile skin shoes became the business, especially worn with black satin shirts. The sartorial style was the right image for angry young men and women and made for the post war generation.

Little Richard combined the flash with the brash and spearheaded the glamorous sartorial style we now associate with early Rock 'n Roll.

During the fifties Chicago jug band music made a come back with the skiffle craze. In keeping with their off the wall music, skiffle bands wore non-conventional clothing including thongs. The fashion was made popular at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics when the Japanese swimming team, wore getas as sports sandals. The new hip generation or Bohemian Beatniks were cool daddio in their open toed sandals or bare feet. By 1957, Sydney's bogies & wedgies (Teddyboys and Teddygirls) abandoned their restrictive "St Louis Blues" (rhyming slang for shoes), and came to rumble bare footed.

Chuck Berry’s famous 'duckwalk ' was a rouse to distract the audiences' attention from his poor quality, wrinkled suits. It would become his trademark.

By the time Jailhouse Rock (1957) was shown, adoring fans caught 'The Pelvis' sporting sneakers and saddle shoes (a close relative to the penny loafer).

The fashion was officially sanctioned when James Dean was photographed wearing Levi jeans and white Converse Jack Purcell's. Later when West Side Story came to a cinema near you, the Jets and Sharks rumbled, choreographed in sneakers.

Overnight sneakers became cool and were perfect for energetic dancing. As fast as you could sing "High Heeled Sneakers" canvas topped shoes replaced "Blue Suede Shoes" as the symbol of youthful rebellion.

Originally sneakers in the US were called Peds, but because of copyright the name was changed to changed to Keds. Young men wore chucks. Chuck Taylor was a baseball player (Buffalo Germans and Akron Firestones) and sold "Converse All Stars" (1921). Whilst parents and authorities condemned every new fad vehemently, this only endorsed, in the minds of the youth, the way to go.

Bikies or 'Ton-Up Boys' were considered outlaws and tougher than the Bogies (or Teds). Their main obsession was their motor bikes and they wore leather jackets (with or without gang colours), white Ts, blue jeans, studded belts, and engineer's boots. The significance of the above the ankle boot was very sensible as it protected the lower leg from the damaging heat of the bike's exhaust. The heavy boots also, by coincidence provided a useful offensive weapon to use in the ubiquitous rumble with sworn enemies.

The fashion was crystallised in every would-be rebel, by the film 'The Wild One" starring Marlon Brando. So powerful was censorship at the time, this film was not screened in some counties until the 1970s. Later cowboy boots replaced the dull engineer's boots as the fad for Rodeo swept US & Australia. Based on the design of Mexican riding boots (or vaquero) these sat well on the bike but the shoe portion was made tight making walking very difficult and often painful. Two distinctive physical characteristics of the new breed of juvenile delinquent became apparent. Their walking style and their language. Every country had their own "Wild man of Rock", the original was Jerry Lee Lewis, and all others paled into insignificance. No self-respecting rocker went without their distinctive pompadour quaff and Duck's Arse (DA). This required the ubiquitous hair comb as an accessory and emphasis on the macho meant, 'Flickcombs' were essential. This was eminently better than the flick knives favoured by the bad boys or juvenile delinquents.

By the late fifties the anger was taken out of the first wave of the rock generation and conservative Tin Pan Alley again prevailed with novelty records. "Tan shoes with pink shoe laces" was one such effort and many early rockers became enveloped into the silly season of pop.

Suede shoes (i.e. Hush Puppies) become the preferred fashion of the university students with their duffle coats, commitment to the Campaign of Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and love for Trad Jazz. This thinking generation was the new moderns and forerunners of the Mods.

In the States the emergence of the "Preppy Cool Set", (over 25s) and their continental influenced Peppermint Lounge meant the venue for listening and dancing to music changed. Smaller venues with movement restriction necessitated popular dance took place standing in one spot. The deeply sexual coupling of rock'n roll changed to one where there was now no body contact whatsoever.

The Twist required shoes to be twisted, circular fashion, against the floor in a left and right manner, as if flattening a cigarette butt. This was combined with swinging the arms and hips as if an imaginary towel was drying the back. These gyrations were best viewed when the dancers wore tighter clothing showing off their long legs.

Winkle pickers or needlepoint shoes replaced the cumbersome crepe soled shoes for men. The pointed toes were a reworking of the scandalous poulaines of the Middle Ages. These were outrageously phallic and distinctly male only to be worn during permissive times. The stiletto heel, which had been around since the early fifties, was given a new lease of life with the introduction of pantyhose and mini skirts. Courtship took place on the dance floor and ability 'swing right' was caught in many of the contemporary lyrics e.g. "Let's dance" by Chris Montez and "Twisting the Night Away" by Sam Cooke.

By the time "Lets Twist Again" was released, Chubby Checker shot to popularity. Chubby wore two tone basket weave styled boots on stage and this became his show business trademark. The significance of the basket weave design was to keep the singer's feet cool, whilst demonstration the new dance.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Footsie, chocolate and champagne: All things in moderation

(person reading playing cards Image via Pinterest)

A few years ago the University of Virginia undertook some interesting research when they paired 48 subjects into male and female couples. The volunteers were unknown to each other and everyone was shown how to play a game of cards before being divided into three groups. Group one could talk to each other but were not allowed to have any physical contact. The couples in the second group could communicate non-verbally by secretly playing footsie under the table but were not able to speak to each other. The last group could communicate by touching feet openly.

(Playing footsie Image via Pinterest)
The groups were then asked to play cards and during this time were observed. The results supported those who talked and touched feet openly were much less attracted to each other than those instructed to play secret footsie. Apparently the attraction related to the risk of detection which heightened participant’s erotic feelings for each other.

(Phenylethylamine - the love molecule Image via Pinterest)
Secrecy releases phenylethylamine (PEA) or the love drug, which is the same chemical released during the early stages of infatuation. PEA also keeps us up all night and suppresses our appetites. According to scientists, phenylethylamine raises blood pressure, increases heart rate and `is evidenced in thrill seekers.

(Chocolate Image via

By chance the same buzz comes from chocolate although care is required not to consume too much as this may depress normal libido as the levels of testosterone drop in males when they consume high fatty foods.

(Emperor, Montezuma Image via Pinterest)

All of which did not stop Montezuma the Mexican emperor from drinking 50 cups of chocolate every day before visiting his harem of 600 women.


( Lenoble Champagne & Chocolates Image via Pinterest)

Just a small amount of alcohol gives a rush of testosterone to females boosting their sexual desire and energy levels.

Reviewed 14/08/2020

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

What becomes of the broken hearted? : Love hurts according to our neurones

(Broken hearts Image via Pinterest)

Who among us has not experienced a broken heart? I well recall my feelings the day my childhood sweetheart (dear Sandra McKenzie) told me there was no place in her heart for me. Aged 14, the anguish experienced was only matched when Marilyn McLean gave me a dizzie (Scots vernacular for No way Jose) both indescribable. According to scientists however, there is more to a "broken heart", than meets the eye and when the body's neurochemistry has been activated by falling in love it physically 'hurts' when we lose a loved one.

(Female Mad Scientist Image via Clipart)

Confirmation love hurts, the mantra of tortured romantics across the world, has now been scientifically confirmed and the heartache equates to the physical discomfort associated with stubbing your toe against a hard surface. According to scientists at the University of California in Los Angeles, they have discovered two neural zones in the brain, which respond to physical pain, and social exclusion.

(Coloured sagittal magnetic resonance imaging Image via Pinterest)

An experiment was devised to monitor subjects' reaction to rejection, using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) it was discovered same part of the brain normally reserved for physical pain, was also activated by social pain. Researchers concluded their findings suggested social pain was analogous to physical pain due to neuro-cognitive function.


(Bette Davis Image via Pinterest)

Bette Davis was no stranger love and heartbreak but possibly unbeknown to most she was also the first person to recognise the association between the big toe and a broken heart. Was it not the Hollywood siren who coined the immortal words when defining the great toe, as "a delicate instrument for finding hard things in the dark!” after she she banged her big toe against the bed post.

(Video Courtesy: ALDO VAX2 by Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 12/08/2020

Monday, August 10, 2020

The art of shoes and symbolism

Something that is enjoying a great popularity just now is shoes which incorporate works of art on their uppers. A company in the US called Icon Shoessell these delicate artifacts to the rich and famous as if there were no tomorrow and at price tags which are quite staggering. Most of their sales come via their website. The fancy footwear is designed by artists, designers and stylists and incorporates many novel features which are not always seen in high street fashion.

For several years now Sneaker Freakers have been decorating their sneakers with colourful artworks. Canvas topped shoes provide a perfect medium for painting and colour fast paints mean the shoe painter is only limited by their imagination. Truly personalised shoes are the ultimate desire of all shoe enthusiasts.

(A pair of boots Vincent van Gogh Images via Pinterest)

Shoes in art have long held a fascination for artists from Van Goch to Alan Jones, the shoe holds its own as an icon and inspiration. The obscure French painter, Arthur Chaplin assembled a personal collection of vintage shoes in his apartment on the IIe Saint-Louis and used them to inspire his works. Another artist and painter, Jannis Kounellis always wore multi-soled shoes but no-one was ever sure, why. Vittore Carpaccio (1450-1522) was a Venetian painter and depicted shoes as turreted instruments of torture, designed to seduce. He probably was not all that far wrong for long toed poulaines were a contemporary shoe style that was eventually banned because of their sexual overtones. As a painter Carpaccio was influenced by Giovanni Bellini and painted with rich colour and a wealth of detail.

(WatteauPierrot Images via Pinterest)

Jean-Antoine Watteau, (1684–1721 - Rococco style) was another Flemish painter who studied in the studio of Claude Gillot. Some of Watteau's finest paintings, were based on theatrical life e.g. Love in the French Theatre. A great colourist, he executed sensuous scenes in shimmering pastel tones which influenced both fashion and garden design in the 18th cent. In his painting Indifference, he paints little satin slippers.

(Olympia, by Manet, 1863 Images via Pinterest)

Edouard Manet (1832–83), is often credited as being the father of modern art. His influences were Velázquez (pronounced, Valaskiss) and Goya, then later by Japanese, printmakers. In 1863 he painted Luncheon on the Grass, which when it was displayed was violently attacked. The painting depicts a nude woman enjoying a picnic in the woods with two fully clothed men. Subsequently the picnic became a common theme in modern painting. Manet's true masterpiece was entitled Olympia (1863), and was an arresting portrait of a naked courtesan reclining on a chaise longue. The theme by itself, reclining nude, had been popular for centuries but what Manet did, which subsequently outraged the critics and public, was to introduce the shoe to its role of erotic synecdoche (pronounced syn ekto key) or symbol.

(Sigmund Freud Images via Wikipedia)

Eventual acceptance of the shoe as a representation of the female vulva was considered by many experts to be pivotal to the development of western modern art. Contemporary development of psychoanalysis (Freud) made the eventual connection between contents and container to the point of singling out the specific sexual and fetishistic aspects of the foot and shoe. The deductive logic or syllogism was if the foot represented the phallus then the shoe must be the vagina.

(Le Modele Rouge, Rene Magritte Images via Pinterest)

René Magritte (1898–1967) was a Belgian surrealist painter who developed a style of surrealism in which misleading realism was combined with mocking irony. Based on Freudianism, the artist in his works the Red Model (Le Modele Rouge) elaborated fantasies constructed around common situations and metamorphosed the shoe into the foot. This unisex image many argue was destined to trouble our dreams, ever since.

(Andy Warhol, 1955 Images via Pinterest)

The Pop Art movement emerged at the end of the 1950s as a reaction against the seriousness of Abstract Expressionism. Pop artists used common images to express abstract formal relationships. Artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol attempted to fuse elements of popular and high culture and to erase the boundaries between the two. Shoes became one of the emblems of the movement because they represented status and consumerism. It is probably no accident Andy Warhol started off as a commercial artist drawing shoes. Today’s artistic work painted on shoes is a commercial extension of the same abstract movement.

Mark Schwartz launched a collection of whimsical scarves featuring his original footwear artwork under Schwartz’s High Heeled Art label.

(High heeled Art , Paintings Images via Pinterest)

Schwartz is best known for his heels and intends to release a new footwear collection. His career includes starting with Roger Vivier, before moving on to work with Ralph Lauren, Balenciaga and Gucci. Over the decades, he’s designed and custom-made shoes for high-profile clients that include Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga. The designer is recognized in footwear circles for his shoe-inspired artwork. Early on, Schwartz had the opportunity to work with Andy Warhol, who taught him how to make paintings of his shoe designs.

(Video Courtesy: by Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 11/08/20

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Get down to brass tacks : Origins of the cowboy boot

(The American System (Early 1800s)- A Changing America Images via Pinterest)

Shoe historians believe the foundation of the cowboy boot trade in the frontier was based on a simple necessity, defective military footwear post Civil War (1861-1865) needed to be replaced. Civilian bookmakers mostly from Europe were thought responsible for forging more hard wearing boots called "kips" from the shoddy military issue.

(Boots and saddles Images via

During the Indian wars in the west (circa 1865) the US Government issued new boots to the soldiers that used brass tacks to hold the leather soles of the boots on. As the soles were worn down the tracks would protrude through the bottom into the soldier’s feet. The Government put together a committee to study the problem and suggested a solution. Their solution was to issue each soldier with a metal file to file down the points of the tacks as they pushed through the boot sole. This may, some say be the origin of the phrase 'Get down to brass tacks.'

(The American System (Early 1800s)- A Changing America Images via Pinterest)

High heeled boots (4"), called saddle dandies, were popular by 1860s. The back of the heel sloped gently until the sole was no bigger than a quarter. Drover, Stovepipe and cattleman models were popular the leg of the boots were at least 14 inches and many boots were thigh high. By the 1880's the cowboy boot was beginning to emerge as a distinctive style.

(Packer Cowboy Western Work Boots, Images via Pinterest)

Starting life as a dress Wellington or full Wellington, the fashion merged with the hard wearing lace up boot (or packer), worn by drovers. Other influences included the Mexican riding boot called vaquero. Early cowboy boots had no ornamentation and for control in the saddle, the shoe portion was made so tight that walking was difficult and painful. Originally both boots were made on the same last which necessitated the wearer having to break them in.

(“Broncho Billy” Anderson 1910 Images via Encyclopedia of Arkansas)

Later the three piece military boot was incorporated and worn by Hollywood's Cowboys. In 1903 the first embroidered toe wrinkles started to appear cut out leather designs often in a star pattern were sometimes overlaid around the collars of the boot tops. At first films were made in the Eastern States and the costumes were based on exaggerated clothing illustrated in cheap novels and comics. By the time the industry moved to California in 1914 and employed real cowboys, their clothes were dull compared to the illusion.

(Tom Mix Images via Pinterest)

To glamorise these popular celluloid heroes actors wore highly decorated boots outside their trousers. Tejas (or Napoleon style boots) with their peacock flair and ostentatious inlays were worn by Hollywood megastars like Tex Ritter and Tom Mix during the 20's and 30's. By the 1930s cowboy boots were available with leather inlays depicting steer heads, stars, half moons, dice diamonds, initials, ranch brands, hearts and butterflies.

(Vintage 1940s - 1950s Olsen-Stelzer Boots Images via Pinterest)

Boot makers vied to outdo each other with coloured leathers, stitching and exotic materials, including kangaroo skins from 1923. Bootmakers decorated their boots with decks of cards, oil derricks, spider's webs, prickly pear cacti, and bucking broncos. The exotic cowboy boot remained popular and peaked in the mid-fifties.

(Bill Pickett Images via Pinterest)

By the mid 19th century and after the Texas Revolution (1835 – 1836) and the Mexican American War (1846 – 1848) ranchers began competing against each other to demonstrate their rope and animal handling skills. William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) saw the potential and created the first Wild West show in North Platte, Nebraska in 1882. Rodeos and Wild West shows enjoyed a parallel existence and the popularity extended well beyond North America. Bill Pickett was an African American cowboy from Texas and devised his own unique method of bulldogging steers . Pickett aka the Dusky Demon, performed at local county fairs and rodeos and the spectacle soon became popular. In 1904, he and his brothers toured the West with their bulldogging exhibition. In 1929, attempts were made to standardise these sporting events and eventually the term rodeo was officially adopted by professional cowboys in 1945. In 1954, the design of cowboy boots changed to accommodate the growing sport of Roping. At rodeos competitors were required to bale off their mounts, then chase and tackle a strong calf. A lower heel and rounded toe was preferred. This style soon caught on with the audience and became the new vogue.

(Sylvia Miles' Midnight Cowboy script Images via

The 60s brought an oil boom to the oil states which led to a subsequent economic upswing. Conservative Texans were more likely to drive a Cadillac than ride mustangs and so therefore influenced the fashion for lower heeled boots. By the 70's when urban cowboys took to the dance floor the common work boot all but vanished. The new boots were less hard wearing and more high fashion.

(Roper Boots Images via

Today's styles cater for both with the traditional high heel and pointed toes for the posers and a lower heel, rounder toed boot with comfortable soles and laces for the real cowboy. The appeal of the fashion cowboy boot in not hard to fathom and it is an excuse for men to share the thrill of standing on elevated footwear. The change in body mass this has makes for a more attractively shaped derriere and hence the natural development of the jeans. Standing taller helps to give the impression of power and dominance and presence and presentation were all in the Hollywood that made the style fashionable. The footwear can be secreted into everyday wear and therefore undetected to the les discerning eye. On average a handmade fashion boot will take 45 hours of loving labour and be every bit as a creation as a designer cocktail dress.

Rossi W A 1993 The sexlife of the foot and shoe Krieger Press

Reviewed 9/08/2020