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Art, shoes and curiosities: A sandal's ode

Something for real Cinderellas

„Basically, I wear sandals, like Jesus. When it gets cold in Chicago, the snow way up to my knees, I still wear my sandals. But that’s me,” said Mr T. Wearing sandals was popular not only among champions and long before Christ. It’s one of the oldest fashion trends ever. Whoever invented them in prehistoric times, the design is now common property and during the last thousand years the most popular models haven’t changed at all. Maybe that’s because of the genuine simplicity ‒ it’s just a sole with straps tighten around the foot according to the owner’s desires, his social status or profession.

Throughout history there were always individuals who accented their status using footwear. In ancient Greece, for example, there were sandals for comic actors and philosophers (they wore footwear made from twigs, fibres and willow leaves) and boot sandals were reserved mostly for tragic actors, horsemen and men of power. In the Roman Empire slaves were barefoot; only free citizens of the republic could wear footwear appropriate to their status and income. Romans were even able to dye their shoes red, but only Patricians could wear such boots or sandals. If a wearer had shoes that came up to the middle of the leg with a gold or silver crescent on the top of the foot, it meant he was a senator, a man with power.

In ancient Egypt sandals were also a sign of power and status. The colour was directly dependent upon the social position of the wearer. Gold and jewelled sandals were reserved for the Pharaoh and his attendants, pastel colours for wardens, yellow and red for the middle class. The Pharaoh could afford to have peaked sandals with a prolonged curved upwards. It was the additional, aesthetic sign of his specialness.

Whether shoes were made for the poorest or for the wealthiest, in India, Egypt and the Roman Empire all boots were produced without distinction between left and right feet. That “comfort revolution” was made only in the 19th century, in 1818 in Philadelphia. Until then, everyone had two left shoes despite their crowns and ambitions.

Ambition pushes some individuals towards the creation of extraordinary things. I think that art for art’s sake and other high aims exist, of course, but mostly for making an appearance, which has led to modern artworks among ancient designs. How else could we have Stuart Weitzman’s „Cinderella Slippers” worth 2 million US dollars and made with 565 Kwait diamonds fixed into the platinum sole, or his „Tanzanite Heels” (my favourite) for the same price?

In one of his interviews about women, fairytales and shoes, on the question about the inspiration for designing the Princesa (his version of real-life Cinderella shoes), he said it was „to create for her a modern shoe with more diamonds than she can count.”

That’s not to say that he creates only red carpet slippers. Like one of his campaigns says, shoes are made for walking. The question is „to where?”