My Shoe Story

Just over a year ago I received an email telling me about a doctoral research position on a project about shoes. To many this might at first seem like an odd topic, but not to me – and perhaps not to you if you are reading this blog. The reason for my interest was not because I owned loads of shoes – I have about twenty pairs (including old shoes, slippers and wellies), and most of my shoes are probably fairly uninteresting – I was, however, immediately reminded of one particular pair of trainers that I wore when I went travelling in 2002.

After a short and disenchanting career in fashion design I decided to abandon my life in London and booked a round-the-world ticket on a whim after work one day. Once committed, I handed in my notice and started to plan my journey. Clothing seemed to be an important consideration in the planning process; everything needed to be versatile so that I could travel as light as possible. I chose to take one pair of trainers, one pair of flip-flops and some smart black pumps (for work and socialising). The trainers were probably not all that practical: they were cream leather Puma trainers with a pinky-mauve flash on the side. Although the colour was impractical, the shape was flattering, they were comfortable, and I’d had lots of compliments about them. Puma was a recognisable, popular and generally respected brand, which seemed to assure my acceptance in many of the social situations I encountered along the way. The trainers helped me to feel confident when, for the majority of the time, I felt disorientated and unsure of myself. I wore the trainers almost all the time and together we experienced adventures in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand – a life-defining and transforming year for me.

When the shoes finally wore out, I sadly disposed of them but I felt an urge to first immortalise them on paper. I realised, through the process of drawing, that after a year of wear they had developed creases, wrinkles and shapes that I knew were unique to me and my journey. I was intrigued by how a mass-produced artefact – owned by hundreds, perhaps thousands of other people – could become so individual and significant to me. Shoes, unlike many other items of clothing, assume the shape of the wearer and it was as though my shoes had become me; but I had also become my shoes  – disposing of my trainers was like losing a part of myself.

It is this connection, now, that inspires me in my role as one quarter of the research team of this substantial body of work. When the team first got together we each wrote about our own personal shoe stories. This caused me to realise that all the shoes I remember, dating back to my early childhood, had a particular connection to a transitional time in my life – especially from childhood to adolescence, and on into adulthood. So how do the shoes we wear affect the person we are, the person we want to be and the person we become? Perhaps you have your own stories that can help us to understand the connections between footwear and identity, transition and transformation – if so we’d love to hear them…



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6 Responses to My Shoe Story

  1. Kay Gill says:

    When my daughter went travelling she took with her her favourite pair of O’Neill cotton and rattan flip flops. These had already travelled 1000,s of miles visiting many countries including Mongolia with Sophie and Fiji with me. En route somewhere in darkest Peru, she lost one! It was actually worth a phone call to me to tell me! I told her to keep the one she had left. It now lives in a frame on my hall wall – my daughter? She now lives on the other side of the world in New Zealand. That flip flop which creates great curiosity from guests connects us!


  2. Kay Gill says:

    [img] flop.jpg[/img]


  3. Pam Davies says:

    The two pairs of shoes I have chosen are both favourites, both now a number of years old but not so far upstaged by any new pretenders. It was love at first sight in both cases and wearing either pair gives me an emotional lift and feeling of well-being. Their magic is such that sometimes I choose not to wear them in case they lose their power.
    The feelings associated with each pair are different. Wearing the black suede wedges I feel a languid elegance, the ankle straps hinting at a playful sexiness. Wearing the black and white shoes I feel a woman of impeccable style, casual but striking. Well, I always have been something of a romantic!
    I think I have already given much away about the way I relate to these shoes. I am reminded of the idea that when we fall in love with another we believe they have all the qualities which we aspire to or we feel are lacking in ourselves. Maybe this is the magic that shoes can hold for me!
    In relationships we are said to move from falling in love to loving when we recognise that no other person can complete us in that way and we accept our imperfections and those of others. I know that my shoes cannot make me into something I am not but maybe they keep alive parts of myself which I hope will always be there.

    (Hope I successfully uploaded the shoe photos.)


    • Alexandra Sherlock says:

      What a lovely story, I think the images failed but do please try again. If you can keep them under 1MB and in jpeg format then they should work – you might have to wait a minute or two for them to upload.


  4. Pam Davies says:

    [img] (640×480).jpg[/img]
    [img] (2) (640×480).jpg[/img]

    I have managed it now! Pam


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