cantilevered footwear

Little known fact: fashion fascinates me. I can even fake my way through a conversation on shoes and get away with it. In fact, I'm thinking of starting a separate blog to ramble, rant, and muse about fashion in general and men's fashion in particular. I still have to refine the idea to make the blog distinctive from all of those other blogs. And I have to figure out how to do it in a way that doesn't conflict with my zillions of other writing projects. It would also be nice to use the blog to make some money somehow. Maybe I'm trying to do too much, though, with a resulting dilution of the "Frédérik" brand (whatever that is.) What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. In the meantime, here are some thoughts on intriguing, but odd, footwear, modified from comments I made at the Facebook group "Wicked Shoes."

**** I thought I’d seen something like shoes in the image above before, and sure enough, I did: Victoria Bechkam and her PVC heelless boots. A bit of digging revealed that Antonio Berardi designed these engineering oddities. A bit more digging loosely confirmed my suspicion: the soles at the ball of the foot are most likely weighted. I suppose this is the footwear equivalent of a cantilever, although I can’t imagine that it would be possible for a woman to fully relax her weight onto the heel without tipping over – that is, weight has to really be focused on the ball instead of distributed, however unevenly, throughout the foot. And it undoubtedly requires more muscle power for the foot to pull the weight upwards using the upper than it does with heeled shoes.

Biomechanics aside, though, I think Berardi has essentially taken the stiletto’s fetishied precariousness one step further by creating the illusion of complete instability. The shoe doesn’t merely look unstable; it looks impossible. Does it work? As an abstract, high-fashion concept it’s bold and innovative, making it an ideal runway object. But it seems too far removed from the practical to be anything other than a curiosity. Unlike Aminaka and Wilmont’s equally bold soleless heel, this doesn’t respect the form of the foot. By working against it, it creates an unsettling aesthetic that intrigues
but doesn’t persuade – at least, I’m too busy worrying about the shoe’s engineering to really get into appreciating the shoe as a shoe a woman is wearing.

But here’s a fun variation; pony boots, also available in a thigh-high version.

The whimsy is enough to overcome the initial shock that comes from the absence of a heel - note the horseshoes! But the construction seems far less cantilevered and precarious, even though the foot is elevated at an extreme angle, giving the shoe an engineering elegance Berardi’s shoes lack. It might appropriate to bring in the word “gait,” since these pony boots must result in a rather contrived walk. I’m not entirely sure whose boots these are, but I suspect that these are not from Berardi, but rather from Dressing for Pleasure, a BDSM/fetish/roleplay retailer. That would explain quite a bit, actually.

Edit (01.06.09): the pony boots are called Rancho and are fabricated by punitiveshoes.com
, a BDSM/fetish retailer. Palio is the thigh-high variant. Thanks to Anna Valentina for the link.


Anna Valentina said...

Pony shoes, ballet boots, impossibly high platforms: ah, the imaginative possibilities (e.g.: http://www.punitiveshoes.com/index_en.shtml). Personally, I like my boots best when they're thoroughly impractical in a vertical position. ;)

Frederik Sisa said...

Ah yes, the ballet boots. I've seen pics of those too. I'll admit the fascination is undeniable, however, I have to (naively?) ask: how do you walk in them?

Anna Valentina said...

Very carefully! Seriously, though, the ability to wear ballet shoes/boots is in the lower body: insteps are stretched, arches contracted, calves/quadriceps/gluteals lifting. The pressure on the toes is significant in a way that doesn't occur with normal heels that flex the ball of the foot. (Ballerinas stuff padding in the toes of their pointe shoes, which helps greatly.) Boots, as opposed to pumps, provide more ankle support, and keep the foot more securely anchored, but, like corsets, ballet-style footwear is much more about the resulting confinement of movement, and heightened delicacy/femininity (read: good for slave training and boot worship, but not, say... grocery shopping).
...Aren't you glad you asked?

Frederik Sisa said...

Yes, definitely a case of choosing the right footwear for the right purpose...which is why I'm always surprised by women who wear high heels while tackling Disneyland...but maybe I'm not really all that surprised.

Totally glad I asked, by the way. Thanks for the elucidation. :)