Thursday, November 19, 2009

Calcei Recalciatus

Sartor Resartus, meaning “the tailor re-tailored,” was the title of a famous work by the nineteenth century author Thomas Carlyle. But Calcei Recalciatus might be a more fitting description for the sensibility of our age. Remember the knee-high boots Jane Fonda wore in her Academy Award-winning performance as the prostitute Bree Daniels in 1971’s Klute? That may have been one of those rare intersections between podiatry and culture, and certainly marked a distinct shift from the notion of looking into a person’s eyes as a determination of character. Klute did for foot fetishism what 2001: A Space Odyssey did for computers, each ushering in an era of new paraphernalia.
Many people have the mistaken impression that platform shoes are relics of the disco era. In fact the platform shoe, along with the fuck-me pump, are both alive and kicking. And if you look down at the golden rail in any midtown bar and you will see hundreds of old fashioned wing tips, as pointed and studded and cocksure as Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt himself. Pat Boone made white bucks famous, but they remain an assertion that joie de vivre is timeless. And what about the fate of the Bass Weejun in an age when Nike running shoes have asserted their hegemony over all other casual attire? The Weejun has become like the Lost Generation, the Fitzgeralds and Hemingways who made Europe their home in the Jazz Age. Loafers, worn without socks, may not have prevailed in America, but they have crossed the pond and live on as character builders in Europe.
Take a walk on lower Broadway in Manhattan any weekend night, when crowds of young people march in lockstep towards the evening’s oblivion, and watch the bouncers part the velvet rope to one of Serge Becker’s trendy clubs, and you’ll see that it’s shoes, not clothes, that make the man…or least make an impression.

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