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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Comfortable Shoes: Utilitarian, Unisex and Ugly

In times of hardship and economical decline then shoe styles often take on a utilitarian and unisex style. This is predictably met with a tirade of abuse from the fashion police who jealously guard their right to be well healed. In the late seventies when most of the Western World were struggling with social decline the punks, radical gays and skin heads took to Doc Martens giving the first unisex style which eventually became gentrified, fashionised, and the forerunner for four wheel drive shoes, still the prerogative of the preppy crowd. Unisex footwear really began in the sixties with the Hippies and their sandals which became the counterculture’s signature footgear. Flip flops had become synonymous with the cheap package holiday and no self respecting holiday suitcase was without the unisex plastic sand shoe. Once again the humble thong came to silence its critics when it too rose to ascend the catwalk and become the toast of the contemporary fashion. Long before Crocs, the fashion clog was a must for both men and women in the heady early seventies and prior to the Glam era, no heavy metalist would be without their wooden clogs. ‘Shoes for the proletariat,’ as they were known post the French revolution were openly condemned as a fashion disaster and like the sabots of the revolution quickly abandoned as ugly. However vengeance of the clog came to haunt the fashionista in the form of croslite, and the much maligned Croc. Hanoi Jane may have been many things to many people but she was single handedly responsible for the trainer revolution for women. Unisex, I hear you bay? Yes because for decades trainers for women were scaled down from mens’ designs. How unisex is that? Hated as much as the leotard and leggings they came with the fashion police continued with their barrage of condemnation, that is until designer trainers made an appearance and became the true mark of casual elegance for the Sloan Rangers, Yuppies and Hooray Henries. Had it not been for the Chavs where would the UGG boot be today. Certainly a firm favourite of the low social economical groups who would supplement the heat needed to avoid hypothermia by dawning their favourite sheep skin lined boots. But when Baywatch’s Pamela Anderson was photographed wearing her fashionable uggs and bakini then all Hell was let loose, and the foot police are still reel’in from the fall. Of course the true irony of utilitarian, unisex and ugly shoes is they are all comfortable.

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