jake thompson

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Shoes, shoes, shoes...

Since we've been delving into the fascinating world of shoes these past two weeks (I'm not even being sarcastic), one area which has really grabbed my attention is shoes of the 1920's. Not particularly the style of the shoes being made, but the drastic change in style after the First World War. During the war, women were employed to do all manner of jobs - such as driving trucks, working on the farms. Since the early 1900's were still a mainly patriarchal society, women's fashion before the war had consisted of floor length, heavy dresses. But these were impractical in the war when it was all hands on deck, so women's clothes gradually became shorter, first ankle height, then mid-calf, then knee length frocks. This was to create more freedom to move for the women working to aid the war effort.
This coincided also with the rise of feminism in the early 20th century, so women were demanding more rights and equal treatment. One thing this aided was the woman's decision as to what she wore. Chanel was designing masculine clothing from jersey, a material previously only used to make men's undergarments. The attitude after the war was optimistic, and women had gained a lot more independence during the last decade.
Before then, feet were regarded as ugly and something to be hidden, and since the fashion was floor length dresses this was never an issue. However, when hem lines became higher, feet were permanently visible; and so feet, and shoes especially, became a fashionable accessory to an outfit. This is also around the time Salvatore Ferragamo began to create beautiful hand-made shoes in his studio in Italy.
What I found so intriguing is how the attitudes to feet changed so swiftly. Conversely, in Arab culture it is still to this day a great insult to show ones soles, and shoes are to be removed before entering any religious building. The Japanese still remove their shoes when indoors.
Even after two weeks, I can see that I've only scratched the surface of the history of the shoe. Who'd o' thought...

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