Prescribing the correct footwear is idiotic. You can’t stop a cheap thrill Suzanne Moore Suzanne Moore

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One of my favourite pairs of shoes is unwearable. They would shatter if I tried to walk a single step in them. In real life I have feet of clay but these shoes, these red shoes, these “put on your red shoes and dance the blues” shoes are ceramic, cast by a clever friend from a real pair that I once owned.

Shoes have always got me into trouble. At school I wore the wrong ones: lime-green plastic wedges were clearly not going to go down well. Letters had to be written home. I remember begging for white wet-look boots. I still long for what were basically huge slabs of black leather with a red slash which I strapped to my feet as a teenager. Or the Perspex block heels that cracked or those little gold cages found in a charity shop. These shoes were never the right shoes for a feminist to be wearing, apparently.

Someone, somewhere had decided the rules and it wasn’t me. All I know is that I remember certain shoes much more than certain relationships. This is possibly why even the most faithful of women has shoes in her cupboard that she no longer wears and that she never will again. Old women may wear old-lady shoes but dreams of other lives are there in the bottom of their wardrobes. These dreams – pre-loved, indeed – are often strange treasure to the living and lined up in vintage shops: bejewelled mules, snakeskin slingbacks, peep-toed wedges.

Dreams, you see, tend not to be very sensible. There are dream shoes and there are walking shoes. Shoes to get about in do not have enormous heels. They are comfortable, practical and look almost like the sort of shoes men wear.

This is why the row at Cannes, where women were reportedly turned away for wearing flats, was so ridiculous. Women apparently have to wear heels on the red carpet. This is blatant sexism, because – news just in! – the film industry is blatantly sexist. Once at Cannes I watched women stitched into dresses, corseted and starved into submission and literally lifted into limos to be driven 50 yards, manoeuvred out so that they could walk like glittering crabs up some steps. Shoes, quite frankly, are the least of it. Red-carpet culture is sexist. The red carpet is now where femininity is produced and ranked for a global audience. Here they are hit or miss, their fashion choices right or wrong. They are hot. Or not. The beautiful ones grace the carpet. The unbeautiful clean it afterwards.

We applaud the small acts of rebellion of some actors who won’t prance in heels, but footwear is actually the one part of this whole insane business that normal people can purchase. It’s a bit of glamour they can buy. The girls who totter on deadly spikes in every city centre on Friday night choose this. There is a huge difference between choosing to wear heels and being told to; I once had a job in America where I had to stand in 6in stilettos for hours.

The idea that women suffer for fashion has become accepted. High heels make women victims of bunions and rapists, or so the thinking goes. Actually, like a lot of things, what we wear has as much to do with class as it does with gender. Rich people have always wanted to keep their feet off the ground – literally away from the dirt. One can see enormous satin-type platforms from hundreds of years ago. Or look at the Japanese geta – wooden flip-flops on stilts, essentially, often ornately carved to stop the hem of a kimono touching the ground. Indeed, it is the poorest people who have to be able to walk and run and move fast, who wear little more than woven rope upon their feet if they have shoes at all. All of this will be on view at the V&A’s forthcoming exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain.

That shoes are a signifier of class is always brought home to me when I go to Dalston in east London, which used to be full of fantastic shoe shops, some actually very expensive, because immigrant and poor communities know full well the value of a good shoe. Now, they are full of the boringly clad who know only the value of a beetroot burger.

Predictably, my own passion had waned by the late 90s, when it became compulsory for all women to love shoes. This was like finding a long-cherished, obscure band being championed by Simon Cowell. As with so many bad things, it was the fault of the dire Sex and the City, which soon morphed from being about shopping and fucking to being about shopping and shoes.

Manolo Blahniks, Madonna told us, were better than sex. For a decade or so now, women must have become less enthusiastic about sex as everything from chocolate to a candlelit bath to an artificially sweetened yoghurt is sold to us as better than it. Shoes are just the high end of this equation, expressions of impracticality, made for people who don’t have to get a bus, ever. An everyday dream.

This is why prescribing the correct footwear, whether in the name of feminism or against it, is idiotic. You can’t stop a cheap thrill, a form of drag, a fantasy. DMs? Brogues? Leopard-skin kitten heels? It’s your choice. It’s where you go in them that matters.

Read more:http://www.theguardian.com

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