shoes. you're probably wearing them now. somehow they are fastened to your feet, keeping your soles from touching the ground, whether cozily shielding them from the wintry city streets or flipping up sand behind you as you trot down to the shoreline. you may change pairs a few times during the day, rooting in your closet for something more apropos or comfortable. you may even have an emergency pair in the trunk of your car for a trip to the gym or an after-work run.
it's no question why we wear shoes. but which shoes do we wear? and, if i decide to wear this hat with these sneakers, will it totally destroy my reputation as a discerning clothes-horse?
at what point did shoes deviate from basic functionality to become a serious statement of stylistic preference? we almost universally purchase shoes from common retailers, whether at the time-tested mall outlets or from the radically varied breadth of internet retailers. yet even in the face of large scale distributors, DIY etsies designers, and eternally cycling fashion trends, we are never going to be limited in the ways that shoes can express some elusive, indescribable quality. but can a pair of shoes really broadcast 'i don't give a fuck!'?
some eras are typified by specific morphologies of shoe. wing-tips, saddle shoes, bulky basketball shoes emblazoned with a leaping (and although too small to see, tongue brandishing) michael jordan. but just like every other customizable item in our 'post-consumer' (lol) world, the choice of what to wear has become maddening, as was seen worldwide in the ...shudder... viral video, 'shoes'. in case you are fortunate enough to not have seen the aforementioned short, a troglodytic 'young woman' is upset with gifts given to 'her' and goes into a hysterical bloodlust focused on locating and obtaining footwear.
this is not the only well-worn meme dealing with the powerful need to own footwear. just last sunday, i watched a feature about football superstar adrien peterson in which he attested to having spent over 200,000 dollars on shoes. shoe rack infomercials convince you that your dozens of shoes can conveniently be hung on the back of your door in a wire metal shoe rack; that is, if you don't mind the damn thing swinging shut a half second after your door does, spilling them all out fuckwards and making it look like a payless exploded in your room. i also recall a segment in the concert film 'vieuphoria' in which James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins describes to a therapist his mortifying paranoia about what each of his bandmates may be wearing on their feet at any given time. he then suggests that shoes be offered to them on a deli cart prior to each show.
all joking aside, the jingoism of shoe hoarding is quite real. many people collect cars or thimbles or ceramic 'mammies', but the ubiquity of footwear has bred a widespread culture of shoe-mania. Indonesia and Bangladesh provide millions of laborers just to create footwear for discerning shoe maniacs, all while many of those workers shamble in wearing dilapidated slaps. every mall in america is not without at least three or four shoe outlets. is this because america needed all those shoes, or because america wanted us to think we needed all those shoes?
the global marketing conglomerate knows what you want. after getting a confirmation email from a social networking site called shoegazr.com, google politely let me know of five different sites in which to indulge my need to purchase footwear. kobe bryant does shit you would never believe possible, and then at the last second they tell you 'he was wearing THESE SHOES!!! available at diesel'. some marketing is not so blatant. often on television, where hosts or correspondents feet are rarely ever shown, companies furnish footwear and discretely plug their wares at the end of the episode.
a hot pair of kicks can broadcast affluence and draw attention to the greater whole of the individual, just like a songbird will flex his pipes to show sexual fitness or a dog will roll in a dead opossum to prove his ability to hunt. the difference between these natural examples and the phenomenon of 'flossing' is that our culture has been slyly convinced to conspicuously consume, or without the guise of terminology, to purchase items that are beyond the basic need of the item itself in order to be unambiguously regarded as rich or rad or cutting-edge by one's peers.
this brings us back to shoegazr.com. call it a 'sign of the times', but now it is no longer necessary to actually OWN the shoes that you intend to floss. using this site (fully integrated with the magnificent facebook), one can build a profile that showcases the user's provided personal data, his or her current shoes, and a 'wishlist' of shoes found on the web. the site itself is particularly sleek and easy to use, and users unanimously coo at the functionality and aesthetic of its features. but functionality and aesthetic is not reflected in the variety of shoes that have aggregated in the user's galleries. beyond the 'wouldn't it be crazy if i had these shoes' argument, do users seriously consider purchasing shoes that appear as if frank lloyd wright cantilevered them together? what about the converse all-stars that lace all the way up to the waist? does the expense and discomfort of wearing these shoes quantify the intrapersonal glee harvested from kicking those bitches down to the club?
there is a well-known 'culture lag' in fashion. seafoam goes from new york to los angeles to chicago to seattle to florida to the midwest (or some derivative thereof). something as simple as a certain color or fabric can be marched down the runway while dozens of fashionistas mentally masturbate about how fucking genius it is to bring back twill, and, in five years, you'll see it sagging on its hanger on the clearance rack at lane bryant. some members of this phylogenetic tree never make the outlet store cut, or are diluted so much as to not even resemble the original garment. these are all phases of the corporate branding process that dictates the oeuvre of style that manifests itself on the streets, in the media, and on your body.
if the western world did not have an unquenchable thirst for uniqueness, it could definitely be argued that marketing and branding would not be the multibillion dollar industry it currently is. but the western world also has a pervasive desire to make their outfits pop, rather, to emit a favorable self-image, and with the glut of media input pushing and pulling fads around at a breakneck pace, we can only expect some sort of 'shoe-fashion singularity', where some devious designer unveils THE PERFECT SHOE, and everyone pulls off their boots and slaps and loafers and knows, just KNOWS, that we all have to be wearing this shoe. but until then, we will have to keep perusing the series of tubes and building our wishlists on shoegazr. we'll have to keep buying shoelaces and racks and deodorizers and all of the other essential items that go along with putting shoes on your feet. functionality hasn't been replaced by aesthetic. functionality just lies at the bottom of the shoe-mania pyramid, the humble base for greater economic fulfillment, image generation, and consumer satisfaction.