If the Shoe Fits: Footwear Function and Fashion

February 24, 2021 | Jen McB

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“Wearing wonderful shoes is a truly uplifting experience."

Thea Cadabra

Who could not use such a thing as appropriate footwear? Everyone needs shoes and everyone wants the nicest shoes they can find because the impact of making a bad shoe choice is felt in an instant. Whether you are planning a hike or dreaming of a dance there is a shoe for almost any occasion. Quality shoes can live a long a varied life much like the people who wear them. They have been cast in bronze as mementos, hidden in walls and repaired by expert hands during make and mend campaigns of decades past. Wearing proper shoes not only protects the foot from the elements but the overall health of the person. In a sense, our shoes make us who we are.   

Shoes say so much about us, there is a photo of Toronto librarians from a century ago and they are wearing a style of shoe I only have memories of one Scrooge McDuck wearing. So, I have done a bit of a search on these “Spats” or Spatterdashes as they are called. It turns out that one hundred years ago they were once used to keep dirt from the roads away from shoes. Practical in a way, but not decipherable from the photo as being a separate article of clothing. Popular until they were not.   



Our shoes our selves

Bridget Moynahan describes a favourite pair of boots in Our Shoes, Our Selves: 40 Women, 40 Stories, 40 Pairs of Shoes. “They were strong. They were solid. They were badass and I needed them.” Shoes are emotional. They connect us to the ground. I will forever remember the knowledge shared by one young ROM associate who described moccasins as being soft-soled for the purpose of keeping Indigenous people connected to the land. Our soles and our souls are the quintessential body and mind connection.

Shoes have been named for movements and people. The Francesina was a type of men's oxford, popular during the French Revolution. If you are the best of the best, you are rewarded with a shoe honorific, Air Jordans spring to mind. What young person did not see Judy Garland on the screen or marvel at how ruby red her shoes were? Or that they were magic and could transport her back to the safety of home? A shoe exists in time. Now we see LED shoes on the streets, to go with the scooters and the bike paths. 

If you treat your shoes well, then you will also have a record of time.


Further Reading

If you find footwear fascinating as I do, try one of these books!

Shoes and Movement

The Ultimate Hiker's Guide

The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide by Andrew Skurka

Families on Foot

Families on Foot: Urban Hikes to Backyards Treks and National Park Adventures by Jennifer Pharr Davis and Brew Davis


Kicksology by Brian Metzler

Science of Running

Science of Running by Dr. Chris Napier 


Shoes and Style

Shoes an Illustrated History

Shoes: An Illustrated History by Rebecca Shawcross

The World at Your Feet

The World at Your Feet by The Bata Shoe Museum 

Shoes the Meaning of Style

Shoes: The Meaning of Style by Elizabeth Semmelhack 

The Towering World of Jimmy Choo

The Towering World of Jimmy Choo: A Glamorous Story of Power, Profits, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Shoe by Laura Goldstein Crowe amd Sagra Maceira de Rosen


Shoe Design

Fashion Illustration and Design

Fashion Illustration and Design: Accessories by Manuela Brambatti and Fabio Menconi

Altered Shoes

Altered Shoes: A Step by Step guide to creating Fabulous Footwear by Marty Stevens-Heebner


Craeft: How Traditional Crafts are About More than Just Making by Alex Langlands

The Cobbler

The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell from Grace and Came Back Stronger than Ever by Steve Madden with Jodi Lipper


If you're interested in shoes you might also enjoy this post, "In Memory of Sonja Bata". Now she really was a shoe maven!

What are your favourite shoes? Share below in the comments!