Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ferragamo addenda

Not only are the wedges I mentioned in the previous post stunningly beautiful, but they come from the label whose initial designer, Ferragamo, actually invented the wedge. (If you already knew that, I apologize; I for one, confess my ignorance when it comes to footwear history, a regrettable flaw in my education that I am now working to repair).

According to Linda O'Keeffe*, Ferragamo invented the wedge heel in 1936 by sculpting two pieces of wood into an "F" shape, sort of like this 1944 piece: He, of course, also invented the famous cork wedge heel, apparently as a practical solution to the wartime shortage of wood, steel and leather. And when cork wedges look this good:
...who cares? (This platform shoe is from 1938.)

Ferragamo was, of course, shoemaker to the Hollywood crowd (most famously, Marilyn Monroe), but here's what endears him to my comfort-clenching self:
"...his thriving reputation as "Shoemaker to the Stars" only partially satisfied him. He could not fathom why his shoes pleased the eye yet hurt the foot, so he proceeded to study anatomy at the University of Southern California and learned that the weight of the body falls onto the arch of the foot. After some experimentation, he perfected a steel arch support that he inserted into the instep of every shoe. For the first time in history, women's shoes were both stylish and comfortable." (O'Keeffe, Shoes, p. 376)
Many years and one reviled shoe-bomber later, that same metallic insert is the reason we now have to take our shoes off at the airport (brrrrrrurgh!), but hey, otherwise, it's totally worth it.
*Linda O'Keeffe, Shoes : A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More, 1996.


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