Shoes, when used as a status symbol, have meanings that embrace not only the wearer but also the observer.The high-heeled shoes of the baroque and rococo periods ostentatiously elevated the wearer above the common people. Today designer shoes by Dior, Ferragamo, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin or Stuart Weitzmann bring happiness. Shoes can also be a symbol of power or a signifier or statement testifying to the allegiance of the person wearing them to a particular group. This is true of cyber goth boots, for example. The importance of footwear from a gender perspective forms the common thread that links gamines sporting Oxford shoes and dainty drag queens in their high heels.
The exhibition also turns the spotlight on voyeurs who get their kicks from looking at certain types of footwear. As a fetish, shoes set collectors’ pulses racing, demanding absolute devotion. Pumps – the archetypal women’s shoe – are worn for their seductive qualities, while stilettos can whip up a frenzy of sexual desire in some or serve as a painful instrument of torture for others. The similarities between lace-up boots and laced corsets bear witness to the visually enticing qualities of tightly bound, curvaceous shapes.