300  Years of Shoes the collection

"It was proclaimed throughout England that the beaks...of shoes or boots should not exceed two inches upon pain of cursing by the clergy and the forfeiting of 20 shillings."

 

- From a Royal edict of 1464 quoted by Joseph Strutt in: A complete view of the dress and habits of the people of England : from the establishment of the Saxons in Britain to the present time

London, 1799, II 110-111

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The theme of this collection is ‘Glittering Wings.’ ​Each piece is inspired by a different bird - its shape, motion, colouring - and by the style of shoes from a different point in history.

Whilst English shoes once had beaks, as can be seen in the quote above, winged sandals (the Talaria of Mercury) are a symbol of the Greek messenger god Hermes.They were said to be made of imperishable gold and capable of flying the god as swiftly as any bird. The Latin noun tālāria signifies "of the ankle” and arguably became linked with the image of the Roman sandal with ties that bound around the ankle. The sandals of Hermes are first mentioned by Homer, and the Homeric hymn to Hermes from 520 B.C. states that they allowed him to leave no footprints. One estimate suggests that by about the 5th century B. C. winged sandals had come to be regarded as common accoutrements of the god deemed most capable of quickly and freely moving between the worlds of the mortal and the divine; thereby playing the role of the psychopomp or "soul guide," a conductor of souls into the afterlife.

It is certain that since the earliest recorded history, humans have shared a nearly universal desire for the freedom of flight and looked to the design of the wings of birds in order to replicate their ability to fly, wishing their feet might for a moment float above the earth rather than necessarily stepping so heavily upon it.

The suggestion that we might each walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before judging them, is a notion meant to develop empathy. There is surely an added piquancy to imagining walking a mile in the shoes of someone from history; thereby sharing not only in their personal experiences but also experiencing a different period in time.

That there is only one of each design in this collection (the left shoe in each case) is meant to speak of what is lost to us from history as well as what survives.