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May 26th, 2009

What do shoes today tell us about tomorrow?

QueenI read an interesting article last week called “Shoeconomics.” The author interviewed Elizabeth Semmelhack, curator of a Toronto shoe museum who also published a book about the history of heels. The premise of the article is basically about answering the question, “Can the heels of today tell us about the economic conditions of tomorrow?” Surprisingly, the two seemingly unrelated topics, well, aren’t unrelated.

Heels, however, cannot predict the future. They do, though, give us a sense of where we might be headed. For instance, Semmelback mentions that in the early 1990s, heels became synonymous with sex, and sexy, then, became the essence of femininity. According the Semmelback, the heels we see from that decade clearly reflect that sentiment.

During the Great Depression, Semmelback says something strange happened to shoes: they got smart.

“Fashion was linked to Surrealism and to intellectual concepts. [Designers] made shoes far removed from the stereotyped sexualized shoe.”

Today, Semmelback notices heels are becoming more architectural by design, still sexy, but definitely engineered to “push the envelope.” She speculates about what this new trend might mean: “It’s as though today’s designers are making shoes that can be sexy and significant.”

Well, I should hope so.


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