This short film, Ben Pietor's "It's All About the Shoes", just won the Red Ribbon at the Tropfest Film Festival. The film, about a shoe-obsessed woman who "meets her fate," is well done, but it got me thinking about women's alleged obsession with shoes. When I worked in an office, we used to sheepishly conceal the bags from the nearby outpost of a chainlet called "Shoegasm." (The name prompted one friend to quip that she was planning to open a business called "Daycare Center-gasm.") But, because buying shoes for women is supposed to be some kind of orgiastic loss of self-control, it kind of made sense. As a certain shoe-lover might say, I couldn't help but ask myself: are we really so obsessed with shoes, or have we just been told "women love shoes" so many times that we've come to believe it?Per our usual scientific practices here at Jez HQ (symbolically speaking), I took a poll. While a quick scan of the shoe rack revealed that the editorial staff on average owned, like, 40 pairs (and yes, we all work from home) we also acknowledge that for the most part this arose from the fact that most of said shoes are too uncomfortable to wear and just slightly too expensive to throw away rather than some fetish - and, further, that the bulk of said shoes were decidedly budget.There's no shame in liking shoes. As we all know, they make the outfit; the purchasing process is considerably less traumatic than for any other garment; some of them are just cool-looking objects. What's more, nowadays people just own a lot of stuff, period: we're kind of past the point of a few well-made basics that take you through life. But the whole shoes = Narcissistic, Imelda Marcos-like decadence seems like a relatively recent evolution. Shoe-loving has become a short-hand for frivolity and misplaced priorities. Yes, a lot of this can be laid at the door of a certain fictional sex columnist who discovers — adorably, natch! — that her closet of Manolos is why she can't afford to buy her apartment. Because it's not just a love of shoes that's entered the cultural consciousness — it's the fetishization of incredibly impractical, expensive shoes that, as surely as the pallor of a 17th century lady of the manor, indicates the aspirational lifestyle of the truly idle. The new fetish shoe cannot be walked in or worked in; it is made for a lifestyle of cabs and expensively-padded bar stools. The more impractical and exorbitant one's shoe closet, the more glamorous and frivolous one's existence. I'd venture to say that, however many pairs the average woman might own, her love of shoes is probably not so disproportionate to her love of other stuff as a hundred million commercials and glancing references would have us believe. Certainly it's a cliché shoe chains have embraced with a vengeance — those Payless BOGO ads, anyone? — but it really does seem like a chicken and egg situation. Do we have a ton of shoes because WOMEN LOVE SHOES, or because, um, now we're expected to? At this point it's probably as real as any Hallmark holiday, but it's annoying to be presented, as a sex, with a frivolous truism that seems to have evolved almost without our conscious knowledge. I say as I sport a pair of wedges from Shoegasm. Hey, Shorty [New York Times]
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