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Sartor Non Resartus On:2013-06-08 09:13:00

I don't know if you are aware of it, but in real life (which is obviously not what I'm doing at the moment) I am a programmer for a large retail chain not unknown to most of you. As a consequence of this I am exposed daily to young women who have connections to the clothing provision trade.

And they DO dress funny!

Before I elaborate on that, let me set, as a base-line to judge all that follows against, that I am a guy (as some of you may have noticed), somewhat nerdy, but otherwise just a typical guy-type guy,  you know, I watch football (though of course proper football, the real thing, not that American stuff) I like beer (ditto about the real stuff), so I, and most of the other guy-type guys I work with, tend to dress in a guy-type guyish sort of a way. When we select the clothes we wear each morning, we only ask: "Is this warm enough or cool enough (depending on the season) and not so disreputable and ragged that I'll get the sack or arrested?", though I must admit that the more socially aware of us add "Does it smell too bad??" with the extreme end of guy-type masculine sartorial elegance not even adding the "Too bad", and, when it comes to shoes, we only ask "Is it comfortable?" or occasionally "Can I kick something in it?". This will be an important question as our essay continues! But anyway you probably see what I'm getting at, so we can leave it at that. Our baseline.

Now the female of the species (being more deadly than the male), especially those under thirty, or those who would like to think that they can pass for under thirty (indeed even more especially those who think that they can pass for under thirty!) have an entirely different and entirely alien attitude to dress.

One that is also intensely impractical.

And its impracticality reaches its height, its absolute peak, its zenith way up there
... in shoes.

shoesWomen's shoes would not be out of place in a well-equipped inquisitorial dungeon some time in the late fifteenth century. Can't you just imagine how the traditional 'showing of the instruments to the prisoner' goes---"Here we have our Rack and the Iron Maiden, and something involving hot coals and boiling oil, and over there we are particularly proud of our shoe department". At which point said prisoner collapses in a gibbering heap and confesses. Unless he's a she, in which case she runs over and starts trying them on and continues for hour after hour, until the inquisitor collapses in a gibbering heap and confesses.

To give you a mild example, suitable for families and those of a nervous disposition, take the famous platform shoe. Starting life on the feet of tragical actors in the ancient Greek theatre (with the intensely practical purpose of helping the people at the back to see what was going on) they degenerated through sixteenth century Venetian courtesans and the again more-or-less practical purpose of wading through the mud an mire of unpaved streets and the concomitant dog mess (and in extreme cases people mess)  to eventually die a natural death as the need for Venetian courtesans or mud and mire avoidance techniques was paved over, only to emerge, like Dracula leaping yet again from his crypt, and once the need was finally gone, as a twentieth century 'fashion statement'. A state they had clearly reached by the 1960's as I can affirm by my personal observation, and occasionally-bruised shins.

other shoesSince then (and like Kipling's Boots , "foot—slog—slog—slog—sloggin' over Africa") they have had their ups and downs, each up even crazier than the last, so that by today we daily see young women tottering along with their knees and ankles all atremble from the strain, and in constant danger of falling down from the damned things, things that are often eight inches high and have Spanish-inquisitorial spikes all over them! Things that are, for goodness sake, useless for kicking anything (apart from, perhaps, the shins of men who laugh at women's shoes).

Indeed the only good thing that I can think of that they have added to the general benefit of mankind, is that they are about to give me the rare opportunity to quote Karl Marx, comparing Napoleon I to his nephew Louis Napoleon (later Napoleon III), that history repeats itself, "the first as tragedy, then as farce" and that's a chance you don't get every day, even if you're me.

Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton

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