Monday, July 20, 2009

Silly Walks: The Eagle has landed

“That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." These are the famous words of "moonwalker" Neil Armstrong (20/07/69).

Meanwhile back on Earth walking is not as natural it appears and is a learned activity which has more to do with social conventions than anything else. Human skeletons take about seven years for the femurs (the ham bones) to derotate from their infantile position. During this time toddlers and wee folk walk funny. Hen toed or pigeon toes are two major concerns communicated by adults at the sight of their offspring rolling in on their arches. All perfectly natural and for very sound mechanical reasons but because they do not deport themselves with the aplomb of an adult gymnast, then parents convince themselves their children are destined for fallen arches and hammer toes. Not so. The very young child will use the nature range of their joint motion to set up spiral forces through the long bones of the body. This helps the bones develop strength and resistance to stresses which are evident when the adult mass is added. No sooner do we have the semblance of an adult skeleton (about the age of 11) , then on comes adolescence and who hasn’t been there or seen the devastating effects of the teenage slump as the kids truck “ much to the consternation of adults” to look cool. The range is too large to event begin to describe but no matter what style it is not likely to be welcome on the catwalk. By the time we catch up for real time to ourselves the years of walking against gravity have taken their tool and the older we become more changes to our walking patterns become evident. So we start to shuffle through necessity and not by choice.

The first recorded footsteps are dated as afar back as 3.5 million years ago and surprise, surprise the footprints on the moon would be no different. In that time the species has not really changed much when it comes to walking but the style of walking has been effected with shoe fashion. Certain types of women in the Mediterranean civilizations wore elevated sandals, sometimes called clap, claps, because of the noise they made. Depending on the heel elevation this was seen to cause teenage women a sway provocatively from side to side making their eyes roll. Wobbling to the delight of males was scorned by the elders of the towns and respectable girls were strongly dissuaded with warnings of foreboding. The fashion glitterati of the Middle Ages adapted a puppet like walk with a very high steeping gait. The royal thunderbirds wore ridiculously long shoes, sometime 24” longer than their feet. Amazing as it may seem long toed shoes for men last five hundred years before the fashion became passé. The duckbill shoe which replaced it was 12” across the ball with individual compartments for each toe. The podiatrists delight meant real men, waddled. By the Higher Middle Ages men took to wearing funnel shaped boots. Unfortunately boot makers had not quite perfected the techniques to close the leg of the boot and left them gapping so as to catch every drop of rain. The resultant wet feet caused men to walk bow legged for about one hundred years. The swagger was later adopted by Hollywood heroes like John Wayne. By the seventeenth century macho men minced, caused by their tight fitting Oxford shoes. Men wore high heel shoes made to pinch the feet of the Macaronis. To draw attention to themselves they had metal taps attached to their heels and soles and scuffed noisily on the cobbled streets. Rich men wore bejeweled shoes richly decorated with bows, buckles and roses. Fine leather riding boots were the preferred fashion of the more respectable Beau Brummell and John Bull. Many early immigrants to Australia wore their London fashionable boots on embarking much to the amusement of the locals who realized all too well the inappropriateness of the fashion footwear was to the Australian climate. The same embarkees could be seen weeks later in bare feet. Fashions changed, literally overnight once it was made clear to all aristocracy would loose their heads and from the time of the French Revolution, men’s shoe fashion became ultra conservative. By the time of the American Civil War soldiers were issued with left and right boots which were so unpopular the Confederates often choose to fight barefoot. Cheapskate supplies provided serving men with cardboard boots which disintegrated after the first soaking. The term ‘getting down to brass tacks” related to the protruding tacks in the boot which irritated the soldiers feet. All officers were issued with a file to get down to brass tacks. By the time the west was one the Wellington boot was redesigned to suit the rigors of the horse soldier, so majestic on horseback but reduced to a waddling wreck on all twos. Seems little had changed from the days of old when knights were neutered on two feet. What made the eventual difference was how the men of the west were depicted in the developing cinema of Hollywood. Never one to understate they took the Napoleonic boot (shorter) and added intricate leather designs and came up with what was know as the cowboy boot With absolutely no historical association with drovers of yesteryear the new rodeo crew swaggered around again as if they had rickets. As for the ladies well with the introduction of the stiletto, Marilyn Monroe had the presence of mind to have one heel slightly shorter than the other which gave her a sexy limp (Trendelenberg’s gait). Pert bottom and a walk to die for. So I suppose we could say on the Anniversary of the Apollo Mission is “one small step for man has made a world of a difference.”

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