7 INSIGHTS ON HEELS YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED.

I love all shoes under one condition: They must have heels. In other words you won’t find ballerinas in my wardrobe and the only flats I own are sport and running shoes. High heels force one to walk tall and make more of one’s outfit.

Yes, yes, I know that high heels have all sorts of disadvantages but if one is obsessed… Before I dwell about them I will tell you something about the heels’ past.

The History of Heels

From what I read we know very little about the origin of heels but their history started more than 2000 years ago. What seems pretty clear though is that they first were invented for practical (yes, indeed!) reasons.

In ancient Egypt butchers wore shoes with heels to avoid walking in blood and the Mongolian horseman wore boots with heels since it was easier to keep the feet in the stirrups. I am not so sure about the latter since I also learned that the Mongolians did not use saddles at all so why should they need stirrups?

The first record of heels of being a fashionable accessory is is 1553 when Catherine de’ Medici married the Duke of Orléans. She wanted to look taller and therefore brought high heels from her hometown Florence to France where they quickly found a lot of fans. During the following century women wore 12-centimetre-heels. Unfortunately they were so uncomfortably “shaky” that these ladies depended on a walking stick to keep the balance. Along with the doom of the French monarchy these heels also vanished. I am not surprised. This takes me to the next chapter

7 Rules to Wear High Heels Right

If it comes to heels I have quite something to tell. In order to avoid bad buy I recommend the following:

  1. Stilettos with 12 centimetre (or more) heels are for special occasions.
    Period.
  2. Watch the anatomy of your foot.
    The French ladies could not walk in their shoes because as I suspect the streets were not what they are today and the shoes were anatomically wrong. All shoes should be comfortable but with high heels it is even more important. Make sure you feel the inner sole of the shoe on your entire foot. Often I observe “hollow space” between heel and toes. This puts far too much pressure on your toes, causes pain and looks awful because you cannot really walk in such shoes.
  3. High Heels are a matter of cost. Do not try to buy cheap.
    I once spoke to a shoe maker about this. She explained to me that heels are pre-fabricated in specific factories. The good ones are expensive; even for shoe makers. Moreover, the heel must be in the correct angle to the shoe itself. I (my feet, to be precise) found out that this is only the case with expensive shoes. Plus they are made of soft leather which makes them comfortable
  4. You want to wear the same pair of shoes all day, right?
    At least I do. Therefore it is important to know that high heels are not necessarily very thin ones. If you walk over cobblestone in heels you need stronger ones with a diameter of about 1.5 to 2 centimetres.
  5. Only buy the height you feel comfortable with.
    If you are already tall you might be happy with a tiny heel. Whatever your height do not buy any thing you already feel in the shop that you cannot make it more than an hour.
  6. Find a good shoe maker.
    Heels are very easy to damage since the possibilities to get stuck somewhere, rip of the rubber of the heel are endless. Only well-tended heels are elegant heels.
  7. If you climb the Mount Everest forget about heels.
    I hate to admit it but there are situations where high heels are – quite literally – a no go. If you go hiking “off the beaten tracks” wear shoes that allow you to do so. You don’t want your feet killing you since this will also be the end of your high heel career.

I am quite sure that many of you already shop according to these maxim. After all they come from common sense not from rocket science.

SHOES NOT MADE FOR WALKING.

Last week we spoke about sandals which is probably the oldest shoe model. This time it is about slippers. As the name suggest we are talking about shoes that are easy to put on. The downside is that they are not tough enough for real life but only made to be beautiful (according to the taste of the time).

Some History

Typically made of embroidered silk or brocade and decorated with precious jewels they clearly were a status symbol. The soles of slippers were often also made of textile or thin leader which means the feet would get wet from a single raindrop.

Red slippers made of silk-brocade have been the traditional footwear for bishops during a long time. When Elisabeth I was enthroned in 1559 silk slippers with heels were the latest fashion for women and men.

Only the working class had “real” shoes and it is says that Marie Antoinette had a servant whose only job it was to look after her 700 pairs of slippers. I don’t know if she also had other types of shoes and if they were tended by another person…

Modern Slippers

Slippers are still manufactured by many designers. However, they have become real shoes for real people.

Brands like Manolo Blahnik, Bally or Baldinini create exclusive models. And they are made for walking. In style!

INSIGHTS ON CINDERELLA, HER GLASS SHOE AND ME.

I am the living proof that Cinderella only exists in fairytales. Probably you remember that her glass shoe proved too small for all the would-be princesses in the kingdom. Or I must have been in the wrong realm. Given my shoe size (34 in Europe, 3.5 in the US) I promise it would have fit me.

You see, if everything had gone right I would not bother you with my literary creations but walk about the castle. And no; children’s shoes are no option; I am only wearing heels. Or would you suggest sneakers to Cinderella?

However, this does not impact my passion for shoes. Moreover, I share the belief that shoes tell something about the person wearing them. I’ll come to this in a minute.

Shoes have a very long history. At times, the fact of possessing shoes (or not) made the difference between poor and wealthy visible.

SANDALS FOR EVERYONE

The most ancient shoes found so far are sandals. In pharaonic Egypt simple workers had sandals with soles made of papyrus. In the grave of King Tutankhamun on the other hand archeologists found sandals that bore soldiers of Egypt’s rival army engraved in their sole. This literally enabled Tutankhamun to kick his enemies with every step. The young king also possessed a pair with golden ponds on the top in which ducks made of lapis lazuli “swim”. I have seen these shoes in the Egyptian National Museum and found the idea pretty amazing.

Roman soldiers wore sandals that were made of a single piece of leather while their empresses could only be satisfied with soles made of solid gold and straps decorated with jewels.

In Europe poor people wore wooden sandals until about 1200 AC. Later sandals more or less disappeared and only came back in a VERY different look and meaning in the roaring twenties. Nowadays they are available in all colours, heights (heel or no heel?) and shapes.

WHAT DO SANDALS TELL US?

I said before that shoes tell something about their wearer. They do, just with sandals the meanings are very different.

For monks of certain religions sandals were (or maybe still are) a symbol of modesty, after the French revolution the so called empire style that reminded to the glorious Roman Empire appeared and rich ladies wore flat sandals along with their pseudo-roman dresses. In the twenties, sandals were looked at as sexy and coquettish while the brand “Birkenstock” sells sandals under the flag of health.

WE WILL WALK ON

This is the first part of a shoe series. Next time we’ll speak about slippers. Originally, the most unpractical shoes ever made.

WHAT IS GUCCI’S FIRST NAME?

gucci

Last week I told you that Gucci was very successful even without using real leather. Given his original profession this is rather surprising. Guccio Gucci (sounds a bit like Galileo Galilei, doesn’t it?) was born in 1881 and he was a trained saddler who, besides saddles, created bags and suitcases. He opened his first shop in Florence in 1921.

We already elaborated last week that during World War 2 leather was difficult to come by and forced people into creativity. Guccio Gucci created bags and shoes in canvas and his procucts were sought after.

When he died in 1953 his family set up shop in New York. In memory of Guccio and his passion for British equestrian sports they launched a moccasin which today is sold by the name of “horsebit loafer” (see image above). Originally, in 1957, it was only available as a men’s shoe in the colours black and brown. This loafer’s emancipation took more than 30 years. Only in 1989 Gucci created such a model for ladies.

But the story is impressive: what started off as a saddler’s workshop is now one of the world’s most renowned brands.

 

JUST 8 PAIRS OF SHOES, MILADY

shoes
You probably noticed that I am fond of shoes; a preference I share with millions of other women. Meanwhile I started reading about shoes find it quite interesting.

The Roaring 20ies

Shoes were important and had to be long-lasting, comfortable and practical. But when in the 1920ies the dresses became shorter, shoes were much more visible and important. Shoes were no longer only function but style. If it comes to heels it is safe to say that style is above function.

The less Roaring 50ies

In the early 1950 women were recommended to have eight or nine pairs of shoes. (I won’t ask how may you have)

  1. Good walking shoes
  2. Pumps in brown, black or navy blue
  3. White shoes for the summer
  4. Sandals that go with an evening gown (preferably gold coloured)
  5. Loafers
  6. Sport shoes
  7. House shoes
  8. Shoes for rainy weather

During the war leather was scarcely available which forced the shoe manufacturers to be more creative. They used wood, canvas and other material for their products. (Gucci became very successful with canvas, a story I will tell you next week.)

When in the 1950ies life standard improved the ladies could afford more shoes. Moreover other accessories like hats, scarves etc. lost their importance and women could invest that money in shoes. Good raw material was available again and the shoe industry came up with a lot of new ideas.

The Origin of Shoes

While the United States was the biggest shoe supplier during the war the increasing wages in the 1950ies led to an industrialized mass production. In 1945 the Italian shoe manufacturers merged to a union, the so called ANCI. The Italians specialized in the production of smaller quantities and occupied the luxury segment; especially when it came to heels. They had know-how and style.

In the 1970ies Spain became with about 1800 shoe manufacturers more influential to the shoe industry but the Brazilians were a strong competition since they produced at lower cost and started exporting their products in 1968.

Nowadays the shoe market is dominated by brands. Even men’s shoes that haven’t changed much within the last 50 years are now subject to trends. Of course the changes are much less significant than the ladies’ footwear; unless one goes for sport shoes.

As for me I think shoes are more than “walking devices”; shoes are a statement. And the right amount? Just get yourself a large shoe cabinet.

Heel and Sole

heelsole

It is not enough to say that I was fond of shoes. I am crazy about them; especially if they have high heels. Therefore I did some research and found out a few interesting things I want to share with you.

The American journal “Hide and Leather and Shoes” was established in 1890 and edited every Saturday. It contained insider information about methods of tanning, leather dying and as well the weekly prices for skins and hides. Other information appear quite funny to us. For example the journal announces that a certain director just returned from a business and leisure trip to Cuba.

I studied some editions of 1939 and there were two things that caught my eye.

About Soles

Of course shoes were made to stay (almost) for a lifetime. The consumer expected a solid making by the manufacturers which probably posed them some serious challenges and limitations. The soles are easily the most vulnerable part of shoes since we walk on them. As it seems they were the limiting factor to the number of different models. In literally every edition of 1939 I found a large advertisement of the United Shoe Machinery Corporation in Boston. They praised their soles (not their souls) for the following “outstanding advantages” (February 25, 1939) which make the lives of the manufacturers easier.

  • Unrestricted Selection of Platform Materials
  • Secure Sole Fastening
  • Maximum Flexibility
  • Economy in Materials
  • Ease of Manufacture

To us it is normal that shoes can have every colour and every shape we like. To allow this quite some innovation was required.

A Patent About Heels

Enrico De Gironimo, New York, N.Y. was granted the patent no. 2,139,885 for a removable heel in 1939.

heel

The explanation I found is only about the making and says the following:

“A shoe heel comprising a plate fixed to the sole of a shoe and having an inwardly inclined border flange constituting a socket, a second plate having a down reaching dowel secured in said socket, a heel body held to said second plate, a heel lift, means to prevent twisting of said lift relative to said body, and means to clamps said lift and body to said second plate.”

Honestly, are you any cleverer now? I admit this is too much information for me and too little at the same time. Hell, I cannot imagine why I would need a removable heel. If a shoe is made for a heel it cannot be worn as a loafer or a ballerina.

And have you ever broken a heel? I did once and it is simply impossible to mend it properly. If you can solve this riddle please drop me a note. I’ll be more than grateful.

Images

Although I create my own images the credit for the original material for the ones in this article goes to the journal “Hide and Leather and Shoes” published in February and April 1939.

The Intranet On Paper

bally

The Internet is omnipresent. It is available in every household and in each enterprise. Almost all companies have as well an intranet which is accessible only to the employees and contains internal information. Depending on the size of an enterprise the intranet comprises an internal phone book, organisation charts, documents employees can give to their customers if required, product or service descriptions maybe a job portal or success stories of important projects.

If the company is technically very advanced and has an affinity to social media one will find videos of manager’s speeches.

In general, it is assumed that a web platform is always up to date. If this is not the case it is about as helpful as the newspapers of two months ago. Needless to say that even this expectation is justified it is not always fulfilled.

Talking About Newspapers

Some days ago I found something like the paper version of the intranet. Yes, I admit that I investigated for shoes; a weakness I share with many other women. But my inquiries returned some interesting results. I found the house journal of Bally a very renowned Swiss shoe factory. The editions I discovered where all from 1941 and since the journal appeared monthly it was probably more newsworthy than many modern intranet portals.

This house journal contained information about employees, such as anniversaries, new arrivals and company leaves. Unbelievably, many people stayed for 40 or even 50 years with the company. This is so to speak the intranet part.

Bally’s company magazine consisted as well of an external part of which I think people were supposed to read in their spare time. After all, today’s employers are hardly crazy about staff that surfs the Internet just for fun during office hours. But it is to say that Bally did not have to care about the moral aspect of their employees’ readings. The journal’s subtitle says it all: “Literary and Advertising Part from Hearth and Home” is the English translation. After browsing it I can assure you that the journal’s content is instructive, rather unsophisticated and – dead sure! – harmless and G-rated! The filtering process which nowadays has to be performed by proxy servers and firewalls has already been accomplished by the editorial office.

Not a single moment I am mourning after the newspaper and nothing could motivate me to give back the Internet. I am aware that every keystroke can be recorded and depending on the environment will be. But I can be very sure that the stuff I am spreading here will not appear in the archive of any library 70 years later but will merge in the masses. If I want to be archived I have to publish a book or – even better – do my doctorate and immediately stop pondering upon shoes.