cover of book

Shoes: The Meaning of Style
by Elizabeth Semmelhack
Reaktion Books, 2017
Cloth: 978-1-78023-834-0 | eISBN: 978-1-78023-885-2 | Paper: 978-1-78914-080-4

Today, buying shoes, wearing shoes, and collecting shoes is for many of us a habit that borders on fetish. Shoe lover or not, we all make choices every day about which shoes to wear. But why do we choose the footwear we do?

In Shoes: The Meaning of Style, Elizabeth Semmelhack explores the history of shoes and how different types of footwear have come to say varying things about the people who wear them. Organized around four main shoe types—boots, sneakers, high heels, and sandals—the book explains their origins, the impact of technology on how shoes are produced and worn, and explores their designs, describing how shoes now have social meaning far beyond their use to protect the foot. She considers how some footwear has been used to protect power structures and perpetuate cultural values, while other footwear has been worn in protest of prevailing cultural norms despite simultaneously being an unabashed product of consumer capitalism. Along the way, Semmelhack reveals the scandals, successes, and obsessions of the designers and consumers that have built the juggernaut shoe industry.

Beautifully illustrated throughout, Shoes is a surprising history of an everyday piece of attire. It will appeal not only to followers of fashion, but to those interested in social history and identity.

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