Saturday, January 19, 2019
Shoes transcend barriers between art and design more effectively than any other item of clothing because of their unique function and relationship to the body. Depicting shoes in works of art has predominantly been a male preserve over the centuries but there are some modern female artists who buck the trend. Lisa Milroy is a good example with clothes and shoes a dominant Milroy theme. Lisa Milroy was born in Vancouver in 1959, Canada. When she was twenty, she moved to London to study at St Martin’s School of Art and Goldsmiths College (1979–1982). Milroy was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 2005 and is currently Head of Graduate Painting at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL. London. Milroy won First Prize in the John Moores Painting Prize in 1989. She was an Artist Trustee of Tate from 2013–2017, a Liaison Trustee to the National Gallery from 2015–2017, and in 2018 became Artist Trustee, Joanna Drew Travel Award. Milroy exhibits her work widely on the national and international stage, and her paintings are held in many public and private collections.
The Anglo-Canadian artist, is known for her still life paintings of everyday objects usually placed in lines or patterns. She is fascinated with the relation between stillness and movement. To her inanimate objects not only convey a human presence depicted within the image, but also her brush marks highlight the power of paint itself. Shoes are particularly effective subject of the promise of untold stories similar in the same way to abandoned shoes or shoe graffiti.
Milroy presents things in their most characteristic profile, side on or from above, depending on the objects concerned. Often these are placed in series on bland, most frequently white backgrounds to alienate them from any context. This absorbs shadows and contrasts with the objects' three-dimensionality, allowing an ambiguity in the viewer's relation to the object.
The artist first gained recognition in the 1980s for her object paintings, compositionally arranged in grids or randomly scattered and characterised by quick gestural application of paint. These works all completed within a day were not a celebration of wealth or consumerism but instead the nerdy compulsiveness of a collector. Her Shoes series, which started in 1984 with an oil charts her development.
A decade later she had shifted from fast painting to a slower, more modulated approach, and began to paint objects within settings. Working at a slower pace, Milroy spent weeks or months on a painting, building up a depiction gradually through layers of paint. As each layer covered the layer beneath, it simultaneously added to and destroyed a bank of visual information. “Slow painting”, allowed the artist to be more contemplative, creating both creating both depth and space.
In the 2000s, the artist's approach to painting through installation and performance introduced real time and space into the mix.
Lisa Milroy likes to paint shoes in pairs and in collections. This makes her quite unique. The artist also constantly returns to the subject which clearly fascinates her. Shes has over many years painted, sketched and photographed shoes in a portfolio which includes many other subjects.
Here and There: Paintings Parasol Unit London .
Friday, January 18, 2019
This painful condition was first described by Leonard Hymes in 1981. In a survey he found 85% of casino workers complained of painful feet related to their job. The condition he attributed to muscle strain from long periods of standing leading to reduced circulation with eventual strain on the facial bands of the foot. Hymes found gamblers, dealers, security guards and waitresses were all at high risk from Casino Foot. Waitresses were at greatest risk in most part due to high heeled shoes which was often a dress requirement of the job. He estimated waitresses walked 15-20 miles during a shift and this was usually dome in very high heeled shoes which would adversely affect posture and basic foot comfort.
Policeman's (or Posties Heel)
To give this condition its right title we can call it, subcalcaneal bursitis. People who walk for a living and spend most of the working day on their feet are particularly prone to these symptoms. Pain on the heel of the foot, localised swelling with evidence of a local acute inflammatory action. Mainly arises due to overuse and symptoms will quickly respond to rest and treatment.
Flight attendants who suffer swollen feet and dry skin in pressurised aircraft cabins can now claim deductions for shoes and pantyhose worn on board the aircraft. The skin surface is adversely affected in pressured cabins where there is definite lack of humidity. The regular application of moisturizer would be indicated but no tax deductions can be made for makeup.
By the end of the nineteenth century medicos in the military were befuddled by a new disease, which affected servicemen leaving them crippled and unable to march. The condition was called Pied Force. Doctors were taken with a new technology involving X-rays and set to investigate the mysterious foot injury that had been endemic in all infantries. They soon discovered it was a subtle fracture of the second metatarsal bone caused by prolonged marching (March fracture). Once they understood the cause they could treat soldiers already injured as well as prevent new cases. By the end of the Great War however, there was a large surplus of Army portable X-ray units. Keen to sell these off, the surplus industry found the ready to wear shoe sector, eager customers. The shoe-fitting fluoroscope (or Pedoscope) was thought to be developed around 1924 by Clarence Karrer while he worked with his father, selling surgical supplies and x-ray equipment. After building and selling several to shoe manufacturers and retailers, he was asked by the Radiological Society of North America and some radiologists to stop because it "lowered the dignity of the profession of radiology." Karrer complied, but another of his father's employees quit the company and patented the device.
Disco Foot (aka Ravers/Clubbers Foot)
Yes when John Travolta was championing the cause and inviting us to take to the dance floor, a crop of painful foot injuries were reported. Disco foot has similar symptoms to Trench Foot. A condition of flat feet due to complete collapse of the ligaments and tendons. The boom time for dancer’s foot was in the thirties with marathon dancing competitions. It was during this time that arch supports gained popularity.
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Glamour is a specialised form of shoemaking when the customer takes large sizes. Drag queens love exotic shoes and when it comes to heels they are often as large as can be without being impossible to perform on stage and in the business these are known as staggerers.
Platforms re-emerged in the 70s with glitter rock before they became synonymous with Disco. Elton John had hundreds of platforms in his stage wardrobe. Never the shrinking violet he mirrored his hero Liberace with a myriad of ostentatious costume.
Contemporary glitterati like Rod Stewart, Marc Bolan and the New York Dolls, all took to wearing platform shoes to a new aesthetic level. As long as they looked taller and were able to strut their stuff the stage then anything went.
Reggie Dwight had a hidden reason for his platforms he needed the extra height to lurch across his Steinway to reach the microphone. The glamorous fashions of the 70s were a retro style harping back to the zenith of Hollywood. Tantrums and temperamental stars were well matched then.
Jean Harlow completely wrecked her designer boudoir when a pair of lavender shoes with rhinestone heels did not measure up to her expectations.
Gloria Swanson loved her heels and wore shoes made with corkscrew heels studded with imitation pearls.
Crurofile (ankle fetishist) D W Griffiths sponsored a beauty contest for feet and ankles with the first prize a 6 month film contract. The runner up was a pretty girl trying to break into the industry. Her name was Joan Crawford and her prize, a pair of made to measure shoes.
Greta Garbo was reputed to have a large pair of feet and never would buy one pair when she could purchase seventy pairs at a time. Madonna eat your heart out.
"Put on your red shoes and dance the blues." David Bowie
Appears dance clubs around the world are getting wise to their dress code and now allowing punters in with clean trainers. In an attempt to move with the times owners of public spaces such as expensive nightclubs are now accepting designer trainers on the feet of their clientele. A recent survey revealed younger people are more likely to spend money on the latest clothes and trainers to keep up with the ever-changing trends. As a result some club owners have decided to adopt a policy of allowing hot steppers to dance the night away in the latest footwear. All types of trainers are allowed provided they are clean. Now presumably this means no “doggy dos” on the soles and the shoes look fresh. Of course scientific analysis has revealed that the average sports shoe will house more bugs than a domestic toilet, but that may be too much information.
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Sandals appeared in several parts of the world almost at the same time. They were probably a response to overcome practical problems such as crossing rough terrain but as craft evolved then they were worn for decoration. Sandals were certainly a feature of antiquity and had a locus around the Mediterranean. Over the millennia the concept of using straps or thongs to hold a firm sole to foot took practical shape and sandals were made in all manner of materials, some unique to the region.
Wooden sandals were found in the Middle East and India, rice straw sandals in China and Japan, rawhide sandals in Africa and papyrus sandals dating to 1500 B.C in Egypt. In pre Hellenic times shepherds wore elevated sandals as they tended to their flocks on hilly terrain. The heeled shoes were thought to be taken to Assyria and rich merchants wore them as a mark of distinction.
In Persia sandals were crafted from wood and had a toe separator between the first and second toe with no thong. Platform soles were known and the sandals were worn in bath houses and harems. Often the wooden sandals were intricately inlaid with pearl and other semi precious stones.
Sandal construction, in the main, consisted of a simple leather sole held to the foot with a toe thong. By Biblical times sandals were commonly worn throughout much of the known world. In Mathew 3:11. John the Baptist proclaimed the arrival of Jesus with the words,
“I baptize you with[a] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit and fire.
Wooden sandals were worn throughout India (Padukas) and were wooden pallets with a stalk in front that was grasped between the big toe and second toe. This type of shoe is clearly depicted on sculptures, temples and in sanskrit writing, circa 3000 BCE. Wood presumably was longer wearing and readily available and preferred by religious sects e.g. Hindus who would not wear leather. It remains unclear whether these sandals were indigenous to India or taken from Persia (or vice versa). Trade between the civilization was known and it is expected fashion cross over took place.
According to the Encyclopedia of the History of Japanese Manners and Customs (The Nihon fuuzokushi jiten), Japanese people wore zori which were sandals made form woven straw with a thong held between the toes from the Heian period (794-1185). Also geta which were wooden platform sandals held to the feet by a flexible thong which was sometimes rope or a thong covered in a black velveteen kind of fabric. The thong went through the base of the sandal, up between the big toe and the second toe and then the two ends crossed over the arch back toward the middle or back of the foot where the thongs reconnect to the wooden base of the geta. There is no reference as to whether these were indigenous or imported. Zori were worn with tabi (white cotton close fitting sock) which fasten up the back of the heel as far as the ankle. Tabi had a split toe, between the big toe and the other four toes for the sandal thong. Getas were worn barefoot.
Other parts of the Far East also had variation on the thong type of sandal i.e. in Singapore the thong attachment was replaced with a strap across the top of the foot which followed the metatarsal heads (the Singapore Slide), and in Philippines the platform thong had ornate carvings. These regional variations are considered unique to these regions. Colonialisation and trade are two likely reasons why styles merged and so now it is impossible to be clear on their actual origins. Similarities between occidemtial and oriental styles may be due to a ripple effect from the Mediterranean civilisation or more than likely cross fertilisation which arise through early trade routes such from the Spice and Silk trades.
During World War II Japanese soldiers serving abroad wore Zori attached to bicycle-tire soles, the habit was picked up by Chinese and Koreans as well as prisoners of war such as the Changi Boot. US troops posted to the Pacific eagerly took home carved platform sandals as souvenirs for their loved ones. Many believe this was why sandals became popular in the US after the war. That combined with a beach culture and the influence of Hollywood epics brought espadrilles to the attention of the foot fashionista in North America.
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Shoe designer, Donald J. Pliner thinks men are increasingly aware of footwear fashion. Men prefer comfort in their footwear and have shown greater interest in shoes that combine fashion and comfort . Men tend to wear day time shoes that suit their occupation but not necessarily up to date styles. These include lacing classics such as Oxfords and Wingtips (aka brogues). Males are now choosing slip-on shoes to be fashionable and convenient to pass through security systems at business premises and airports. Socially men’s shoes have also become more colourful with white and blue two popular colours.
Fashionable loafers are worn with jeans , sandals for summer and boots for autumn and winter. Topsiders (deckshoes) are still popular but trainers less so than previously. Celebrity culture today prefers media types many of which are as transient as the fickle fads of fashion are, here today and gone tomorrow.
In Victorian times the celebrity culture was predominantly military types who encapsulated the machismo of the time. Both men and women adopted a shoe styles similar to their heroes and wore them as a mark of respect. Four predominant styles were the Wellington boot (worn by Lord Wellington); and the Blutcher boot, known as the Derby shoe in the UK; the Balmoral boot and the brogue shoe.
Wellingtons were worn below the knee and provided protection to the shin for horse riders. They allowed cavalry to dismount and walk on terra firma. The style had been taken to the US early and became the preferred boot design for the military. Much later these evolved into modern cowboy boots. The introduction of vulcanization (of rubber) meant wellingtons were made from rubber (gum and hence gum boots).
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (1742 -1819) was a Prussian general who led his army against Napoleon I at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He became a favourite general and wore a modification on oxfords where the laces were part of two pieces of leather independently attached to the vamp. The shoes were called open lacing or Derby in the UK and provided easy access for the broader foot.
The Balmoral boot was reputedly designed by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria and consummate inventor. He quickly realised the potential of elastic and had boots made for his beloved with elastic gussets. The boots had soft kid leather uppers and resembled modern wrestling boots. The Queen loved to walk across her Balmoral estates in Scotland. The fashion for women to go country walking became vogue and more robust boots and shoes for women resulted. In the US ankle boots became popular with both genders, men wore Congress boots and women preferred intricate lacing like corsets.
Country gently in England had adopted traditional ghillie shoes (Scotland and Ireland) to walk across moors. Originally these were bags of leather worn over the feet with holes in the upper to allow water to pass from the foot through to the outside of the shoe. From antiquity country people had incorporated intricate patterns of holes which included sacred signs worn for good luck. By Victorian times these shoes had evolved into Oxfords with intricate designs on the toe cap and sides of the shoes, called brogues.
When the English Look was accepted into mainstream US fashion the shoes became known as Balmorals or wingtips. Today the English Look still prevails in men's shoes.
Sunday, January 13, 2019
You may be surprised to learn the fastest shoes on earth wer not running shoes, so don't look for them on the running track. They were rail riding shoes (soap shoes) which could cost in excess of $200 per pair. What makes Soap shoes a little special is the adaptation they have on their soles. Each shoe sole is fitted with metal grooves (or runners) for sliding down hand railings and other smooth surfaces. The speeds reached by rail riders are very high and of course this fast growing street sport caused urban mayhem, as well increased attendances at A&E Departments.
Many broken legs and sprained ankles were reported and that is only the rail riders. Great concern has been expressed for the safety of innocent people whose misfortune it is to meet a young adult in full flight. The craze started in the US in the 90s and the shoes were banned from many schools. Needless to say rail riding shoes were for a time the new trend.
Our urban fascination with wheels at our feet goes back to the late 19th century when the wheel was rediscovered with a vengeance. Cycling revolutionised women’s clothing.
After the Second World War, pram wheels were put to good use by children who took to building karts or bogies.
Usually a wooden crate with four pram wheels, the make shift racing cars became a valued part of a kids toy collection.
By the middle of the twentieth century and surfing became established on the West Coast, urban street kids modified their bogies and swapped their pram wheels for smaller ones made from clay. New innovations were made to the trucks or devices which held the wheels to the board and improved maneuverability meant city and town kids could now sidewalk surf.
A decade later the popular pastime gained greater popularity with the introduction of professional boards and new promotions including professional demonstrators. Soon organised competitions were introduced and by the end of the sixties international contests were common place with even a movie and magazines available to the devotees of the wee wheels. Cities began to ban skateboards in response to health and safety concerns and for a while anyway bad press concerning fatal accidents caused the industry to dip in sales. Skateboard became an underground activity contained to only certain areas.
When the polyurethane wheels were discovered skateboarding took on a new life. Further modification meant the new skateboards were easier to use, more reliable and the perfect vehicle for pedestrian maneuverability.
Skateboard parks began to spring up all over the place as the skateboard design was lengthened to give greater stability on vertical forces. Accidents however continued to dog the new recreation and when skateboard insurance escalated many parks had no choice but to close. The BMX craze took over and again skateboarding fell out of favour.
By the 80's exhibition and competition skateboarding still held its attraction for some but it was only when companies started to target street kids did the extreme sport eventually take hold.
In the 90's the popular move from competition to freestyle skateboarding meant boarders (now called slashers) could ride the freeways and did not have to rely on skateboard parks again. Clever marketing paid off and along with the new Thrasher Image* the movement introduced casual clothes to youths. Skateboard shoes, another mutation of the canvas trainers, (Vans, Airwalk and Vision) began selling in huge quantities to young people around the world.
By 1992 the new craze of inline skates was rediscovered and its impact was felt on snow, surf and street fashion.
* Influenced by hardcore punk style incorporating the clothing worn by US, Hispanic street gangs. Thrashers initially listened to heavy metal music but are more likely today to include rap and hip hop.
Macdonald K 1999 It's hip to slip The Sunday Times (WA) June 27 pp 26
Takamura Z 1997 Roots of street style Tokyo; Graphic-sha Publishing 163-164
As early hominids took to bipedal walking two million years before they developed the brain we now accept as our own, it gave them plenty time to think on their feet. A residual aspect of our primitive existence is the inclusion of reference to the foot and shoes into our common language. So the spectrum of life is subconsciously caught from the ‘patter of tiny feet’, heralding the beginning of life to the inevitable, ‘popping your clogs’ and ending up in ‘Boothill’, in our lexicon. All languages contain more reference to the lower limb than any other part of the human body, including the naughty wobbly bits.
The foot still fascinates the bipedal primate, no matter how sophisticated and superior the species becomes, we need to concede the sage words of Bernard Breslaw “You need feet”.
Life is to do with getting from A to B and from beginning to the end that depends on feet. Lets start at the very beginning when we ‘take out first step’, sure footedness is something we learn and getting there can cause our parents some concerns but once we have our foot on the first rung of life’s ladder there is no stopping us. Of course there are rules and we need to be good foot soldiers. The quicker we learn to control the Id (ego), then the more likely we become productive members of the tribe. To integrate we need to do the leg work and must be mindful not to lose our footing on the way. Trying to keep our foot out of our mouths can be a challenge at times, especially when young and impetuous, but through length of days and treading the hard road, comes understanding and the ability to listen more than talk. No one can do more harm to ourselves in life than, ourselves especially when we put our foot in it and trip over our own feet. Pick your steps wisely, is good advice. Some succeed by standing on others’ toes, but a good footnote is to remember the people you step on, on the way up the ladder, will be waiting to trip you up when you inevitably come tumbling back down. A good idea is to foot the bill and take the responsibility for your own mistakes. In life’s journey when you recognise others are taking advantage of your good nature you need to learn to say no, and put your foot down. Laying our troubles at the feet of others is the tactic of a heel. The primary function of the species is to leave our footprints in the sands of time. Hence the circle of life continues as our offspring follow in our footsteps. But let us not forget the pathway of life may not always be rosy and trouble free and hence the need to get footloose once in a while.