Thursday, 23 October 2014

An Extraordinary Gentleman's Shoe...

I have, of late, been perusing some books and papers dealing with the wonderful clothing of the long 18th century as I work on edits of Mistress of Blackstairs. Although Moineau is a most well-dressed lady and certainly enjoys the best of everything, the gentlemen of her acquaintance are slightly more prosaic. Certainly, I cannot see any of them wearing the most remarkable shoe shown below!




I discovered this shoe within the pages of a 1904 book entitled Royal and Historic Gloves and Shoes. Written and illustrated by William Beales Redfern, the book was published in 1904 by Methuen & Co and is a catalogue of photographs of royal shoes and gloves through the ages, each black and white photograph accompanied by a short paragraph of explanatory text, as seen below.


A gentleman's shoe. Eighteenth century. "An extraordinary shoe, for a gentleman, with a heel far higher than is commonly found on shoes of this period; it measures full 6 inches in height. ..."

This gentleman's leather shoe with its ornate silver buckle is, of course, notable for its six inch height height. Sadly we cannot know who it was intended for, nor whether it ever graced royal feet. A salon visitor has posited that perhaps the show was intended to correct or disguise a physical impairment or perhaps even a limping gait but I think a shoe of this height would be more likely to cause such an issue.

It is a shame we will never know the story behind this remarkable footwear but then, perhaps there is a tale just waiting to be told and this shoe is a part of it!

14 comments:

  1. I can only imagine the pain of wearing it.

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    1. Definitely not a shoe for a man who likes to walk.

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  2. How could you dance in that? looks so painful...

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    1. I don't think I could even sit down in it!

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  3. Certainly an advantageous shoe. It has the ability to not only enhance height but also to launch a man forward. How helpful when a lovely lady with hair to the chandelier passes by.

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  4. Is it a single shoe or one of a pair? If it is a single one it may have been made for a man with a deformity - a short or withered leg (polio anyone ?) in order that he might stand level with a normal shoe on the other foot. I cannot see how anyone could balance with both heels that high. I think we forget how much in the 18th C, and before and after, people were at the mercy of medical mishaps that can be cured or at any rate alleviated now.

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    1. It appears to be a single shoe. I did wonder about it being used to correct a medical issue but I just wish we could know for sure!

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  5. What a story this shoe could tell. I see a novel written around it. So many possibilities.

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    1. I absolutely agree, it's a fascinating mystery.

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  6. As a tango dancer (male) I take a lot of interest in heel lengths. I don't think I know anyone who dances in 6" heels and I'm not sure that it's even possible to walk in them. I have seen a discussion of fetish footwear that claims a 6" heel is possible for a woman, so it must be possible for a man (the critical factor is foot length) but the whole point of fetish footwear is that you can't really walk in it. Lady Gaga's shoes aren't really relevant here because they are platforms, while this doesn't look like it (Unless the whole of the toe is just a disguised platform block, which would work.)

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    1. During her Goth days my sister could strut in some serious heels, but I doubt they hit six inches. It looks too shallow to be a platform, but I'm not an expert!

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