Significant Shoes

This project originated from a conversation with a dear friend who was recovering from cancer. It was a lazy Sunday morning, we had just finished breakfast and I looked down and complimented her on a particularly elegant pair of shoes that she was wearing. This started a conversation…

So which shoes are significant? There is no simple answer to this. They can be any pair of shoes, from high heels to slippers, wellies to pumps, boots, sandals, trainers or mukluks. Anything. It is the stories about them that make them significant and every one is different. This book includes stories that are: bizarre, risqué, tongue in cheek or outrageous. Often a pair of shoes reminds us other happier times, important days; days of wonder or extreme sadness. What is clear from these stories is that as far as women and their shoes are concerned, shoes are not just things to put your feet in!

I created a small portable studio and travelled round the UK. A number of professional firms hosted women-only networking events and I was a guest at the Women’s Institute in Cambridge. At every event I asked all the attendees to bring along one pair of shoes that was important to them. I also asked them to complete a short questionnaire and provide a paragraph about why this particular pair of shoes is significant. I included questions about the make of the shoes and how long they had owned them. In an effort to establish how much of a ‘shoe-addict’ my participants were I asked then how many pairs of shoes they owned (approximately).

While I was frequently surprised by the age of the shoes, the question that seemed to create the most interest, if not concern, was about the number of shoes owned. This produced the greatest variety of answers. The answers were obviously often guesstimates and sometimes women acknowledged woeful underestimates if not downright untruths. Sometimes we had discussions about how many pairs were a lot and does this sound about right (i.e. average) or can I just put a plus sign to indicate more than X. In these instances I thought discretion was needed so just went along with what anyone said.