Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shoe-business and what's in a name?

Shoes from Eaton's Catalogue, circa 1910

As it’s summer reading time, I’ve been amusing myself lately perusing the Eaton’s Catalogues of the 1900 era on the Internet. 300 pages of shirtwaists and sarsaparilla tonics and feathers and flowers and wings to adorn your Easter bonnet. It’s a history lesson, I tell you. Just take the footwear section.

Now, we've all heard of Cinderella's glass slipper. Which was really a shoe. Well, it appears that in 1900, a slipper was a shoe, a shoe was a boot of sorts and a boot was well, also a boot, but not a moccasin.

Although, some slippers looked like real slippers.

What am I talking about? Well, there's a labelling discrepancy between then and now with respect to footwear.

Shoes, I am guessing here, were footwear for outdoor wear, mostly lace-up boot-like things. (Which I notice are all the rage today, except in a much much more sleek and sexy version).

Slippers, were footwear you could 'slip on' so they were sturdy things you wore, indoors. Or like Marion Nicholson, of Biology and Ambition out on the lawn of Tighsolas in summer in 1910.

Boots, I am again guessing, were very sturdy items, designed to protect against the elements and rough roads. And to be worn outdoors.

Yes, people walked a lot in those days! And they had to mend their boots a lot! These days, try to find a shoemaker.

Anyway, in the 60's if I recall, right when mini skirts and bright vinyl go go boots were in style with the young, another fashion fad came and went, the Granny fad. There were granny boots and granny glasses and granny skirts. No corsets, though.

This fad didn't last long (well, fads never do) because, franky, the fashion was uncomfortably Edwardian and once you are free you can't go back!!

Basically anything goes with female footwear these days. You can wear flip flops at your high school graduation with some traditional Cinderella style gown (or with some skimpy designer undress that is essentially a corset worn on the outside. I have witnessed this first hand) and you can wear bright pink spike-heeled leather boots under your hijab. (I've seen this too!)

And the market for orthopaedic shoes, I know from personal experience, is booming because the Boomers all have bad backs from wearing unhealthy footwear all their lives, and from living in our cars as adults. We're all out of shape.

A slipper to me has always been a very soft thing you wear with pyjamas. Hence its name, bedroom slipper. A classic bedroom slipper is made of soft leather and has a fringe of soft poodle-fur like material or  shaped whimsically like a Gund kitty cat or Alligator or Garfield.

I don't own slippers, I use socks to keep my feet warm. Some of them have whimsical little adornments, bead eyes and felt ears and such. My dogs will chew to smitherines any rogue sock lying around, ones with or without eyes.  A moccasin is a shoe made out of leather or animal skin. I had sealskin moccasins as a young child when I lived in Labrador in 1959. I used them as bedroom slippers until the back part was squished flat like a mule. (Remember that sexy scene from Rear Window, where Grace Kelly gives Jimmy Stuart a sneak preview of her boudoir wear, including high heeled mules.(It's my favorite scene in the whole movie.)

Sexy mules, not to be confused with mules having sex, which apparently,  doesn't work anyway.

From perusing the 1899 Eaton's catalogue, I can see a moccasin is a leather or animal skin boot. (My husband has a pair, from the old days.) Canadians in 1900 bought moccasins. These were serious winter boots worn, I assume, mostly by men. I bet they were much warmer than the other boots they wore. I wonder if the 'the rubbers' people purchased were winter boots, which were worn over shoes –before they were called overshoes.

Even in my day, as children, in the 60's, we wore these rubber boots over our shoes (or overshoes) and our FEET FROZE. They only came in dark brown. (We called them boots. 'Rubbers' were the thin pads my father, an accountant, wore under his shoes proving that professionals in winter walked only in well-groomed areas.)I can unhappily still recall the awful ache I endured as I waited for my toes to defrost after each winter outing. And when I was real young, three or four, I'd always get my dark brown rubber boot stuck in the deep snow and have to unbuckle it and pull my shod foot out and leave the thing there, out in the backyard, for my hapless Mom to go dig out.

My own kids seldom experienced that: they had those modern multi-coloured insulated boots, more like moccasins, but made of some magical cold-repellent (or is it heat-retaining) space-age material, in the 80's. And they rolled their eyes when I told them 'how lucky they were' because in my day...blah... blah...blah. And then when they became teens, they dropped wearing winter boots all together because it wasn't cool and the thick running shoe sole insulated them from the freezing ground and they didn't spend much time outdoors anyway because video games were around by that time.