On an excursion to the Victoria & Albert Museum this morning, I stumbled across an exhibition called Shoes: Pleasure and Pain (for those fashionistas in London over the holidays it is definitely one to add to your to-do list). The exhibition shows the development of shoes from as early as the 17th Century. Those of you who know me are aware that shoes are my thing; if my shoe-game is not on point my look cannot be slaying!
One consistency in the world of shoe making to this day is the way it belies one’s social status. Social media has made the wardrobe of our favourite celebrities more accessible than ever before. This accessibility means that the work of high-end designers are now more recognisable, anyone can tell the label that accompanies red bottomed heels and more attuned fashion followers can easily distinguish between this season’s Manolo Blahnik collection and last year’s knock offs. It is no longer only the Kim Kardashians of this world who can afford luxurious foot wear as was the case in the royal courts centuries ago.
Whilst some shoe designers who are known world wide, each culture has their own history. The Japanese Oiran shoes makes an appearance in this exhibition as a shoe of seduction with a history of its being worn by Geishas until the early twentieth century. The tale of Cinderella, which take various forms all over the world can be traced in Egypt around 50 AD, the glass shoe replaced with a golden slipper. However the progression of time does not mean that beauty of tradition is lost. Look at the way African shoe makers have been able to combine Ankara print with -amongst other accessories- heels and trainers. Those of you looking for the perfect gift in this season of giving, you know where to begin!
But let’s return to the issue I believe the exhibit is posing. Shoes are not merely commodities, or things. They are designed as works of art. They speak of who we are and many of us do judge others from outward appearance first, footwear included. Should the pleasure we get from shoes (be it from the confidence they give us or the way the accentuate our look) be combined with the pain either literally or maybe even financially? What do you prefer, to look good at the expense of comfort? I am definitely guilty of doing so! How much is too much to spend on a pair of shoes? Have you ever felt guilty for making a purchase you couldn’t justify to your bank account? Does that guilt fade as you admire the way the shoes make you look and feel? What do your shoes say about you?
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AUTHOR: Ama Badu (Senior Online Editor)
For reviews, premiers and red carpet events on the Afro-British scene, Ama is your go-to blogger. With an analytical mind and articulate tongue, she hopes to write articles that will get Africa (and indeed the world) discussing “real” issues and tangible solutions.
Images from the V&A
Ankara shoes by Laviye