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232 × 162 × 23 mm
368 pages
172 illustrations, 159 in colour
15 Apr 2019

Shoes The Meaning of Style Elizabeth Semmelhack

We all make choices every day about which shoes to wear, but why do we choose the shoes we do? Shoes: The Meaning of Style explores the history of shoes and how different types of footwear have come to mean different things about the people who wear them. Organized 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.

‘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

‘strikes a careful balance between using language that is accessible in its clarity while also appealing to academic readers interested in the relation between material objects and socio-cultural identity . . . beautiful color illustrations of shoes both old and new. My review copy of the book looks as good and feels as lush as some of the shoes contained therein . . . Semmelhack’s book is a pleasure to read and relies on a rich diversity of literary, visual, and material sources. It nicely ties types of footwear to the historical contexts in which they emerge and become meaningful . . . Semmelhack’s ambition to transgress traditional gender boundaries is highly admirable too.’ — Journal of Fashion Theory

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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).


I Sandals: Eccentricity
II Boots: Inclusivity
III High Heels: Instability
IV Sneakers: Exclusivity