An otherwise brilliant philosophy professor used shoes to illustrate the concept of diminishing marginal utility. He claimed that once you had reached the minimum required number of shoes (two) each shoe acquired thereafter was less valuable than the one before. I respectfully disagree.
There is something of a mystique surrounding shoes. Why do we love them so much? Why do we go back to them even when they hurt us? I have a theory that their allure operates on a primordial level. Beyond fulfilling the basic function of clothing us, shoes also embody the essence of man as a creative, ambitious, social being. This is why I believe that the art of shoe shopping is natural and beneficial, and why it merits encouragement. We should not be ashamed of our shoe lust – we should embrace it.
At their most superficial level, shoes are aesthetic creations. They have the potential to be exceptionally beautiful, and to make the wearer feel radiant. The attraction is hardly elusive. But their beauty differs from that of a meadow or a waterfall. We appreciate shoes as the end products of human endeavour. They inspire us and remind us of man’s capacity to produce the truly exquisite. Such talent must not be ignored.
It was Francis Bacon who said that “fashion is the only attempt to realise art in living forms and social intercourse”. He had the right idea. Fashion is art. It is art which is easily integrated into our lives and which takes on a daily significance. Moreover, it is a vital part of our national identity.Britainhas an illustrious history of creativity. I need not remind you thatLondonis one of the great fashion capitals of the world. We take pride in our culture of nurturing artistic expression and innovation. It is enshrined in the laws of our country that “everyone has the right to freedom of expression”. This tradition has given the fashion industry a solid foundation, but now we must step up to ensure the continuing viability of this rich and vibrant dimension of British life.
Fashion and retail represent a substantial sector of the economy. To a greater or lesser extent, we have all been affected by the current economic crisis. Initiatives such as government stimuli have offered short term relief, but if we want to see real recovery the economy has to be allowed to heal itself. What can we do to aid its recuperation? I hear you cry. We can spend. No longer should we feel guilty about splurging on a sensational pair of stilettos. This has become a virtuous act.
From this perspective it seems that we almost have a civic duty to buy another pair of shoes. Not only do you need another pair, but the whole country is depending on people continuing to make such purchases.
The importance of the footwear industry operates on a personal level as well as a national one. The designer has chosen to share with us the workings of his imagination. He has conceived them long before they are unveiled to the public; and he has nurtured his ideas and seen them through to fruition. The creator has given the purchaser something of himself, and this is a gift which is rightly cherished. When we buy a pair of shoes we connect with the designer, and with those who have contributed to the creative process. When we buy vintage shoes, the chain of people who have loved them is even longer. The idea of our shoes having a history intrigues us. This link to countless other people reminds us that we are not alone. This is just one dimension of shoes’ unifying quality.
Shoes can be an excellent social lubricant. With new styles constantly appearing in magazines and on our acquaintances we rarely tire of talking about them. They have cross-cultural appeal and can offer the perfect ice breaker, even in otherwise trying circumstances.
There are few experiences as depressing as having to travel by bus in LA. One of them is waiting for the bus in LA. Nonetheless, one should never underestimate the power of black suede pumps to salvage any situation. One night whilst I was keeping my solitary vigil they attracted the attention of a woman who was to become my best friend there. My shoes had saved my (social) life. As I remember her first question to me, I still overflow with shoe-related pride: “Where do you work, with your cute shoes?”
She had already made assumptions about my lifestyle and status based on my shoes. It is no secret that we dress to create a certain impression of ourselves. When we don an especially fabulous pair of shoes we inevitably seek the approval of others. Whether we wish to appear taller, more stylish or more successful, a great pair of shoes can give us the confidence we need to sparkle professionally and personally. When we look at shoes we see our aspirations.
Shoes appeal to us on a deeply personal level. They evoke intense emotions as they reflect our innermost desires whilst attending to our fundamental needs. Moreover, the economic, social and creative benefits of a new shoe purchase are overwhelming.
So let us vote with our feet and support the footwear industry inBritain. Yes, you really do need another pair of shoes, and, come to think of it, so do I.
Originally written for the ELLE New Talent Contest 2010