Shoes: The Meaning of Style

Author(s): Elizabeth Semmelhack

Reaktion Books | No Category

We all make choices every day about which shoes to wear, but why do we choose the shoes we do? Today, buying, wearing, and collecting shoes is for many of us a habit that borders on a fetish. Even those of us who consider shoes to be trivial are aware of how the wrong choice of footwear can have dire social consequences. This book explores the history of shoes and how different types of footwear have come to mean different things about the people who wear them. Organised around four main types - boots, sneakers, high heels, and sandals - this book explains their origins, the impact of technology on how shoes are produced and worn, their designs, and how they have come to have social meaning far beyond their use to protect the foot. Along the way Elizabeth Semmelhack reveals the anecdotes and scandals, successes and failures, dislikes and obsessions of the makers, wearers, and observers who helped to create the movements and fashions of footwear. Beautifully illustrated throughout, Shoes is a thoroughly surprising history of an everyday item. It will appeal not only to followers of fashion, but to those interested in social history and identity.


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'Elizabeth Semmelhack's work sheds a new and fascinating light on footwear, looking at its social significance and how it has changed over the years. It is an absolute must for those interested in the subject.' - Manolo Blahnik; 'This book shows us all the fashion, art, and design that allowed shoes to become a powerful cultural phenomenon. From the feet to the street to the commercial mountain peaks! And the chapter on sneakers represents how sneakers became not just a fact of life ... but a way of life.' - Darryl DMC McDaniels

Elizabeth Semmelhack is Senior Curator of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. She is the author of Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture (2015) and Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Shoe (2008).

General Fields

  • : 9781780238340
  • : Reaktion Books
  • : Reaktion Books
  • : October 2017
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Elizabeth Semmelhack
  • : Hardback
  • : 320