A Shoo-In For Shoes
The Global South has both the soul and the sole of the footwear industry
‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes--- and ships--- and sealing-wax---
Of cabbages--- and kings….’
These amusing lines are uttered by the obese twins, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’, a sequel to ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. Whenever a writer with any pretensions to literature (absolves me of the charge!) chooses to write on one of the subjects from the above inventory of unrelated themes, these lines shine with a neon glow on our minds.
Lewis Carroll, the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a mathematician and a poet, with his charming wordplay and fantasy remains a perennial favourite of the young and the old.
Since shoes are weighing heavy on my mind, and considerably heavier on the wallets of millennials and their parents , however cliched the quote might seem it is very appropriate.
The digital platforms are seductive sirens and it is easy to get hooked. So don’t blame yourself if you are linked -in various ways on social media. Looking good, selfie-ready, well groomed and well shod has become the sine qua non of being a worthy cyber presence, influencer, cult figure or a digital celeb.
Likes can be bought along with bots (with a few exceptions of ‘honest injuns’ who stick with organic likes) to bolster one’s virtual profile or, more ominously, even overturn election results if one has the ‘trump’ card!
The well-heeled youth today spend obscene amounts of money on shoes of multifarious hues, patterns and treads. Both genders are equally complicit in this saga of extravagance. It is a total shoo-in for branded shoe companies in their fleet-footed race to the bank vault. The Malaysian-Chinese couture shoe designer, Jimmy Choo, even has a rhyming name with the product.
More than 75% of the global footwear production is from China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia. So, the Global South has both the soul and the sole. The most suitable or, perhaps, ‘bootable’ poster girl for women’s shoes should’ve been Imelda Marcos. After the Marcos’ ousting from the palace, 2,700 pairs of shoes were left behind in the wardrobe. Even if you are a centipede, this number is one too many!
Darlene Flynn, from California, known as the ‘Queen of Sole’ has the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of shoe-related items. She housed her collection in her house. No wonder there was no place for her husband , whom she divorced, to fit in even with a shoe horn.
Perspective matters in all matters. Are we, the old fossils, treading on the dreams of Gen Z that believes in living it up here and now? Harking back to our parsimonious past, we, the baby boomers, only think of the staid Bata and Corona shoes or the more commonplace Hawaii chappals used by the less shod populace. Even the unassuming chappal has been upgraded to colourful Flip-flops with a respectable price-sticker.
To their Gucci we can think of our ‘nukkad ka mochi’. Nike, named after the winged goddess of victory in Greek mythology, with its swoosh uptick is uber cool for millennials but the price tag is enough to cause a nervous tick in our minds.
Crocs, the clogs that standout with a unique ventilated upper, have taken the shoe-world by storm. The tagline, ‘Come As You Are’ fits in with the laid -back attitude of the young . Being backless, the crocs can cause heel pain. But you think the owners would shed even ‘crocodile’ tears at this drawback?
Not au courant with the latest hot-selling shoes, I was a bit taken aback when our grandson, a tween, on the cusp of teenage, was treading on air, having bought a pair of Air Jordan shoes. With the amount spent on them with his birthday money he could’ve made an air dash to Jordan instead! But many more uber-luxe brands like Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bally et al make me faint in horror at their scandalous prices.
In a world riven by inequality, the peer pressure to acquire branded shoes for enhancing self-worth has even resulted in murders committed by those down and out at the heels. Shoes have been used as metaphors by many singers like Elvis, Beatles, Paul Simon, Shania Twain and some others. Nancy Sinatra’s strident song, “These boots are made for walkin’ “ echoes its defiance musically even now.
It seems no one wants to walk barefoot in the park anymore!