Well, that subject isn’t going to go without a fuss. There was a woman in Tesco Metro this morning in royal blue court shoes. It gave me a Madeleine moment. I was 14 and shopping with my mother, in Newport of all places. We bought a coat and shoes. The coat was royal blue with a half belt at the back-nothing memorable there. But oh the shoes, the shoes.
They were absolutely plain navy blue in leather that caressed my feet like an imaginary lover. They had what was known then as a Louis heel- that is a heel so subtle that my mother wouldn’t have seen that it was a heel at all and banned them as ‘unsuitable for a girl of your age’. Yet when I walked in them I knew them as high heels and I glimpsed the future in the feeling.
A woman’s walk is more than locomotion. It is an erotic instrument. Because her genitals are internal, a woman has a close- legged stride that creates a sensuous vibrato to her body parts with each step. In high heels that is: there is little sensuous vibrato going on in my Fitflops.
Yet there is more to this question of foot erotica than attracting the male. Feet are also capable of communicating secret messages both to the self and to the other. The late Salvatore Ferragamo, who was always more of an artist than an artisan shoemaker used to say that feet spoke to him, giving him the character of the woman herself. Feet seem to have a heart of their own. The foot is a vital outpost of the brain, picking up and sending back a flow of electromagnetic signals. It is the contact with reality, the ground and gravity. It is the way to a woman’s inner core. No wonder it needs to be protected by the finest, softest, most caressing fabric available.
Remember the encounter between Cleopatra and Mark Antony? He came to talk to her about Caesar but when she touched his thigh with her naked foot he covered it with kisses and declared that, “Now I am not prone to argue.” Nor was she I bet.
So this afternoon I decided to face up to the state of my sex life in shoes. I got every pair out of the cupboards, boxes and drawers where they live and arranged them in a sort of wheel around my chair. There weren’t that many. Fifteen pairs in total. Five sexy, five neutral, and five downright antisexual. ‘You can tell a woman is getting old when she’s more concerned about the fit of her shoes than the fit of her sweaters.’ Oh dear.
But my right foot throbs with the result of foot constriction over the years, as I aimed to enhance my personal attractiveness by wearing shoes that made my feet look smaller, rather than shoes that fitted me. Thus for years I obeyed the innate thrust of vanity, as I created an illusion that served no purpose other than the erotic. The sad thing is I had no idea at the time that this is what I was doing.
Now I know, it is unlikely that I will ever don the sort of delicious footwear pictured above. The toes pointed inwards, to show dainty unsteadiness, the ribbons suggesting bondage. Shoes that say what will never again be said by me. ‘Oops silly shoes, fallen over again. Can you help steady me?’ No not likely. Maybe I’ll need help when I trip over a wonky paving stone but it will be nothing to do with my footwear.
But I’ll never forget the feeling before the semiotic truth dawned like the loss of innocence.