Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Pair of Silk Brocade Shoes, 1720-1730

One of a Pair of Shoes
Silk Brocade, Leather
Great Britain
The Victoria & Albert Museum
These shoes obviously weren’t made for comfort. But, they certainly were made for style. So, obviously, not a lot has changed in almost three hundred years. At least for women. Made in England between 1720 and 1730, the shoes are a creation of green, cream and red silk brocade with short “latchets” for a lace of ribbons over a long tongue. Green silk ribbon seals all the edges and seams. They sport red “Louis heels” and leather soles.

I can’t quite decide if these are men’s or women’s shoes and the supporting literature from the V&A doesn’t specify for which gender these were made. I think to quickly deem them women’s shoes would be to do them a disservice. First of all, men’s shoes (in the aristocracy) in Britain in the Eighteenth Century weren’t the boxy loafers of brown and black which have become the stuff of men’s footwear in the last century. Men’s fashions allowed for color, rich materials, gems and ribbons and I could see a gent wearing such shoes with his legs sheathed in hose. That’s not necessarily a pretty picture. It depends on the man you picture, I suppose. Monty Clift would look better in them than say, Burl Ives. But, that goes for just about anything. I digress.

I’m going to state that I think they’re men’s shoes. Any shoe historians out there, feel free to correct me.

They are quite nice looking. Here is one thing, however, that I’m glad has changed. While women suffer through terrible ordeals for foot fashion, men don’t have to. I don’t think I’d last long in shoes like this. I can barely keep my balance in Doc Martens. So, while I appreciate the look of them, I’ll say that boxy loafers are a practical improvement. That and hot running water. I like that, too.

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