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The curious origins of shoes


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From antiquity, footwear became an important status symbol jealously guarded by the ‘well heeled,’ and through to modern history; protected by Sumptuary Laws to prevent upward mobility.

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The curious origins of shoes

  1. 1. The Curious Origins of Shoes Cameron Kippen
  2. 2. The importance of shoes Shoes retain a unique importance to human beings which defines complete understanding. From antiquity onwards, footwear became an important status symbol jealously guarded by the ‘well heeled,’ and through to modern history have been protected by Sumptuary Laws to prevent upward mobility.
  3. 3. Bipedalism Bipedalism describes walking on two feet as opposed to all fours (quadripedal gait). No one can be sure when our ancestors took to bipledal ambulation but it is postulated to be approximately 7.5 million years ago, with evidence of tools and language dating back to 2.6 million year ago.
  4. 4. Influence of climate change Transition from 4 legs to 2 is thought to have been quick, likely as a pragmatic solution to environmental change. There is clear evidence brain function became more complex as the blood flow to the brain increased.
  5. 5. Foot form and function Walking on two feet influenced musculature and body shape. The human foot had a weight bearing heel, an inside arch, and big toe for ground leverage.
  6. 6. Human beings became seeing beings Experts believe the form and function of buttocks, bosoms; the legs and thighs, tummies, hips and even genitalia were all influenced by walking on two feet. Bipedalism brought adaptation of the foot, knee and hip, leaving hands free to gather and improved sight to hunt.
  7. 7. When did shoes appear? The general consensus is shoes were worn from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic period or Old Stone Age (circa 40,000 years ago). This timeline is consistent with development of tools, socialisation, and decoration. Shoe finds date to only 10,000 years ago
  8. 8. Shoes: A cover up! Clothing serves three main purposes: decoration, modesty and protection. Whilst the latter may appear the most logical it is not supported by history.
  9. 9. Decoration Fig leaf mentality may excuse why some covered up, but by far the major reason for clothing was decoration. Early shoe finds confirm distinctly different, and highly decorative, styles.
  10. 10. The Displacement of Effect As early human beings covered up their heads and feet took on new significance. Heads (hair) and feet took on greater significance and became genderfied.
  11. 11. Why do we dress up? The essential purpose of decoration was to beautify bodily appearance, so as to attract admiring glances from others and fortify self-esteem. Initially prehistoric people decorated and scarified their skins to protect themselves from imaginary evil spirits. Gradually these magical patterns became incorporated into everyday clothing as talisman with significant social and spiritual meaning. Clothing provides the safest distance to judge a stranger.
  12. 12. Foot Attire and Adornment Hunters and gatherers admired the strength and courage of their prey and proudly wore their dead hides next to their skins in the hope to harness their qualities.Victors wore mementos of their vanquished including their testicles. Remnants are still seen in modern shoes i.e. tassels on loafers.
  13. 13. Shoes: Rank and Privilege In Roman Times, wearing shoes was restricted to citizens of Rome only. Women and slaves went without. Military rank was indicated by how high leg strapping was worn.
  14. 14. Can you trust yourself alone with year shoes? According to Rossi ‘feet are sensual objects which often require to be hidden from unwanted attention.' Shoe is Anglo-Saxon and means to cover furtively.
  15. 15. Shoes: There are nine of a kind The Moccasin The Sandal The Clog The Boot The Monk The Platform The Mule The Pump The Oxford Remarkably styles have remained unchanged since the beginning and shoe finds from antiquity would not be that out of place in the shop window today.
  16. 16. Are feet sexy? In the brain, the sensory centre which supplies feet lies in close proximity to the sensory nerves of the genitalia. Some experts believe there may be ‘neural print-through’ which, causes the foot to become sexually expressive.Tickling the feet would be the same as “tickling the fancy.”
  17. 17. Zeitgeist: Courtly Love 61 cms Promiscuous sex among the privileged classes was prevalent in the Middle Ages. In the absence of feudal lords and Knights at the Crusades, young men of the court were taught to sublimate their desires and channel their energies into socially useful behaviour. Masturbation was commonly practised as a form of safe sex and two 24” long dildos did not go a miss.
  18. 18. Poulaines : long toed shoes Despite Papal disapproval and sumptuary law to prevent lower classes from wearing poulaines (long toed shoes), the fashion continued unabated for four hundred years.
  19. 19. Shoes and safe sex Shoes were stuffed with moss and grass and became phallic with hawk bells sewn on the end, to indicate the wearer was interested in sexual frolics. Syphilis epidemics were ever present prior to the 15 century
  20. 20. The scourge of STDs Wearing poulaines caused men to adopt a wide based, high stepping gait. The same pattern (syphilitic myelopathy) is seen in tertiary syphilis. The Court Jester appeared at this time and may have been an attempt to draw attention away from the madness associated with late stage syphilis in the Regent.
  21. 21. The Scarpine or Bears Paw Fashions were slow to change yet in the 15th century they changed almost overnight. Long toed shoes were replaced by broad toed shoes called scarpines.
  22. 22. Scarpines Very broad shoes often with pockets for individual toes. The shoes were ideal to protect ulcerated feet. Leather uppers were usually slashed to add volume. These appeared at a time when the Cult of the Virgin Mary was popular
  23. 23. The Lotus Foot In 11th Century China, young girls (and some boys) had their feet bound from age four until 19 years. For over a thousand years this practice became a right of passage and the Lotus foot (3 inches long) was highly prized in a bride. Foot bindings secured a quality marriage but until recently the reason for the practice has been unclear. However, it is now better understood, smaller step lengths increased pelvic musculature and the folds of the vulva. In Taoist China, the act of procreation was considered the highest form of worship, coupled with unwanted pregnancy and STDs , bound feet were used for safe sex.
  24. 24. Lotus Shoes During the South Sung Dynasty (1127- 1279AD), foot binding became an all pervasive preoccupation among the middle and upper class. Women commonly owned several hundred pairs of shoes and spent long hours embroidering them with symbols of fertility, longevity, harmony and union.
  25. 25. Chopines Chopines became fashionable among women of substance in the wealthy city states of the 17th century, Italy. As the fashion spread, these became higher and higher until they were 24 inches from the ground.
  26. 26. Demise of Platforms Ladies had to be escorted when walking outside, and when more pregnant woman fell (or miscarried) over their platforms, the height of shoes were controlled by law.
  27. 27. The Heeled Mule After a clever modification was made to make the chopine safer, and they soon became passé. The heeled mule became the essential fashion accessory.
  28. 28. Catherine de' Medici (1519 – 1589) When the young Catherine arrived in Paris to be married to the king of France, she was wearing high heeled mules. The fashion remained popular for her life time before it was considered déclassé.
  29. 29. Restifism Havelock Ellis, an English psychologist, pointed out ‘of all the forms of erotic symbolism, the most frequent is that which idolises the foot and shoe'.
  30. 30. The Stiletto Heel Roger Vivier invented the Stiletto Heel after World War II. By introducing a thin metal plate into the arch of the shoe, it made the arch slimmer and the heels higher. By the 1960's, the stiletto heel was a 20th century fashion icon.
  31. 31. Acknowledgements To all sources who made this presentation not only possible, but more importantly, plausible. Sincere thanks.
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