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by (re)vision society

Liberated Toes Need No Support

Illustration by Johan Jergner Ekervik

Liberated Toes Need No Support

At (re)vision society, we try to slow down our steps in an effort to consider how our actions contribute to society at large. As we look into the various technical challenges facing the fashion industry today, we also think it worthy to explore the philosophical notions behind fashion that construct our societal norms. The two ideas, when considered in tandem, may encourage a deeper understanding of the world in which we live. This week, we focus on shoes and how this powerful fashion item carries social and environmental significance. To start off shoe week, we welcome our friend and guest writer, Sofia Jergner Ekervik, to share her insight.

Emma is a 5 year old girl who just harshly kicked off her pair of red flat Mary Janes in the grass. She liberated her feet from the two disturbing items that would complicate her game. My dad captured the beauty of the moment in a painting called ”Emma’s shoes”.

Children like Emma are meant to wear shoes they can play in. If you go to a playground in Paris you will see kids in shiny polished shoes being told by their parents not to run nor to play any ball games on the rubber ground. This behavior is not allowed when you are wearing new shoes. How are they supposed to play then, you will wonder? That is a very good question, and it is extremely confusing for the child to answer being on a playground not allowed to play. Their shoes become chains. You can not play if you are following restrictions. Little Emma decided her game does not include shoes, so she simply and intelligibly took them off.

I was enjoying the sun in the court of the Victoria & Albert Museum recently whilst observing a rather entertaining scenario. A girl who had just learned how to walk was confronting the stairs. She impressively used her creativity to move her body from one step to another. Meanwhile two ladies in very high heels were helping each other to step by step take on the same stairs. They had more trouble than the little girl trying to look noble and in charge of the situation. Neither the girl nor the ladies gave up but the main difference between them was their expression. The ladies looked as though they were feeling extremely embarrassed and uncomfortable by the situation whilst the little girl found every centimeter a victory. She constantly called to her mum for attention.

Why do we stop wearing shoes we can play in? When do we switch from comfortable to vulnerable?

If you think of life as a game, you can find shoes for whatever game you want to play. Whether it is the seduction game wearing shoes that make you feel attractive, the fitness game where your choice of shoes will make you feel stronger, or the spontaneous adventure where you need to be comfortable and well supported in every step. Some play the game of thrones wearing shoes that make them look down on their crowd, making them the centre of attention.

”Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” is the title of the exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum in London, showing how shoes are not only used as accessories, but also as statements and tools. Tools of power and authority.

The Chinese tradition of foot binding for example, where women start binding their feet at an early age to disaffirm the normal shape of a foot to make it fit into a tiny shoe, was an attempt to create a new beauty ideal. Why did only the female foot face this brutality? Was it yet another way of controlling women and the way they move and interact?

Foot binding was banned in 1912, but still there are communities practicing this ”fashion”. We should not treat our body parts this way. Although today women wear stiletto heels that create a somewhat ideal silhouette, why would we wear something that science has shown damages legs and causes back problem? Being taller than people around you may make you stand out, but it also makes you fragile. Shoes like these are not meant to move in. Standing still with aching feet, having a moment in the spotlight – is that success? The girls struggling with those stairs were far from feeling and looking triumphant.

It has been a long and complicated journey but women today wear suits, and whatever shoe we decide to go with. Today we see a fashion style where women and men wear the classic stylish brogue shoe and the comfortable flat white sneaker to get the casual as well as the dressed-up look. All of a sudden we have two gender neutral shoe manners, that everyone seems to be okay with. Fascinating that the modern society no longer gives neither the brogue nor the sneaker a gender application, when the stiletto or the ballerina is still designed only for the female foot.

In the world of business, expensive quality leather shoes exude self confidence and power, the more polished and waxed the better the impression. Which makes me think about the hairstyles in the same business…

While for some, running a marathon in a pair of well supported sneakers is success and power perfected. It is not a coincidence that one of the biggest sport clothing brands is called Nike, which is the name of the Greek mythological Goddess of Victory.

Nancy Sinatra made it simple: ”these boots are made for walking and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.” Telling us this whilst radiating power wearing leather boots and proving you can dance and kick in high heels. She made an important statement, she is more than comfortable in her shoes, with both feet on the ground, not in need of a man to support her.

Sometimes we need to listen to the five year old child inside of us deciding spontaneously to kick off her shoes to make her life easier. She did not care about her feet getting dirty. What she did care about was being able to play with no boundaries.

 

Written by our dear friend and guest writer Sofia Jergner Ekervik. The Illustration that accompanies this piece was created especially by Sofia’s brother, Johan Jergner Ekervik

 

The exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain is showing at the Victoria and Albert museum from the 13th of June 2015 – 31st January 2016. The exhibition looks at the extremes of footwear from around the globe, presenting around 200 pairs of shoes ranging from a sandal decorated in pure gold leaf originating from ancient Egypt to the most elaborate designs by contemporary makers.

 

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