Sunday, April 22, 2018

Power dressing : Get to the point !

The fashion point in women’s shoes has become an evergreen in the 21st century. This has not come entirely without controversy. The foot/shoe police were quick to vocalise their condemnation with forecasts of foot doom and deformity to all who dare wear them. Problem is there is no actual independent evidence to support these claims. Certainly discomfort may result when anyone wears tighter clothing that is comfortable. Hazards also do await the foot challenged who squeeze their feet into a triangular shaped shoes smaller than their feet, but as a shoe design, pointed shoes does not present real harm to the feet. The one condition is of course both feet and shoes need to be physically compatible and worn the footwear worn for short periods then no real harm can come to the wearer.

So why do pointed shoes come in for such criticism?

As a retired podologist I studied the foot in both health as well as disease and became fascinated with the psycho-social aspects of shoe design. There are only seven basic shoe types and fashion is made from the innumerable combinations of these styles. The origins of pointed shoes are quite simple to locate and were worn in biblical times. Historians believe the style then had more to do with poor shoemaking than style per se but people who wore peaked sandals were considered ‘free spirited’.

In the 11th century, Fulk le Réchin, (you have to watch how you say that especially with cheap dental adhesive) was a courtier in Anjou, France. By all accounts, he was a bad tempered, quarrelsome fellow and according to Rossi, suffered painful bunions and ingrown toenails. He commissioned his cordwainer to craft him a designer pair of shoes to accommodate these deformities. The clever shoemaker came up with poulaines – triangular shoes with long extension beyond the toes. The belle figure was nicknamed ‘Cornadus’ or horned one, as he strutted about the court. Now whether this is fact or fiction, no one knows but something very strange did happened in the 11th century. Across Europe, the length of men’s shoes got longer and longer until they were 24 inches longer than the foot. Despite Papal bulls (public decrees) to prevent lower classes from wearing poulaines, the fashion continued unabated for another four hundred years. No clear explanation has ever been proffered to explain this strange phenomenon.

The fashion for long toed shoes became an obsession for men in the Middle Ages and lasted 400 years. For just under half a millennium, the size of men's shoes got longer and longer until they were 24 inches longer than the foot. Poulaines or beaks were thought to be used as sex toys in courtly love and have been associated with promiscuity ever since.

As a style it did not reappear until 1960s with the sexual revolution. Winkle pickers along with the stiletto heels were loved by the youth of the day and met a tirade of warnings and foreboding from the (medical) establishment. Today there is no medical evidence to show the Bulge (sixties generation) have more deformed feet because of their fleeting association with pointed shoes than any other demographic.

So why the fuss?

In the past men wore pointed shoes with the brief exception of the sixties during the sexual revolution now in the 21 st Century it is women who wear the pointed shoes. In the spirit of zeitgeist condemnation of shoes has become a male preserve once again, and is a metaphor for both a moral backlash against promiscuity; as well as fear of women entering the work force. Pointed shoe styles and high heels have become stereotypically associated with Jezebels and power dressing in the work place. To many misogynists sartorial pornography is a real challenge now power dressing for women is here to stay.

Reviewed 22/04/2016

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