They may be on your feet, but they are the jewel in the crown of every outfit. A fashionable appearance is built on a foundation of footwear. The days when people were ashamed to admit they were addicted to shoes and intentionally underestimated the number of pairs they hoarded at home are long gone – at least since the noughties. That was when shoes were suddenly discovered as sculptural, carefully created works of art, and owning them was not merely desirable, but worth shouting about. Which Alexander McQueen, for example, proved in his 2010/11 collection, the last before his death, with an unwearable stocking boot with a gold platform sole. He created it and the seemingly carved heel with the aid of 3D printing technology in homage to the woodcarver Grinling Gibbons.
This and similar treasures from the past century of shoe trends are recalled in fashion journalist and author Harriet Quick’s five chapters. They feature her selection of some 300 photographs from the extensive archive of British Vogue, including numerous works by photography icons such as Irving Penn, Corinne Day and Mario Testino. She has annotated and illustrated them with numerous aspects and anecdotes about shoes, their history and our longing to possess them – from the story of Cinderella to footwear fetishes.
After reading – or rather feasting your eyes on the abundance of aesthetically framed shoe straps, fetters, platforms, laces, heels, sandals and even wellies in – her tome, you’ll be in no doubt: there are countless shoes out there that we’d be just as willing as Cindy’s stepsisters to cut our toes off for.
Vogue: The Shoe
304 pages, 330 illustrations, hardback, in a presentation box, £75.