Put on Your Dancing Shoes..

Put On Your Dancing Shoes…


Vivek Hande




Shoe( Noun); Etymology : Schoen(Dutch); Schuh(Old Germanic); Sko( Norwegian/ Danish)

Definition/ Description:  Footwear to protect and comfort the human foot. Has acquired status of being occasionally decorative or symbol of fashion.  Has potential to evoke frenzy and obsessive thoughts, more seen with female gender. Capable of triggering intense possessive feelings and desire to shop madly.

Shoes, in various forms have been around for a very long time. Oldest known footwear has been around from the period 7000-8000 BC and made of sagebrush bark. Armenian excavations from the period 3500 BC revealed footwear made of cowhide laced with leather cord. Thong sandals have existed in various civilizations and have been made from materials such as rawhide, papyrus and palm leaves. Wooden thongs have several references in literature from India.



The Greeks largely regarded footwear as ugly and unnecessary and probably self indulgent. The athletes in Greek Olympics ran bare feet and very often naked! Pheidippides ran bare feet from the Battle of Marathon to Athens over 36 hours to convey the news of Greek victory and was possibly the first Marathoner. Well, at least that is regarded as the origin of the word. The Romans changed it all and they believed that footwear was necessary and fashionable and the more powerful wore more elaborate footwear. The slaves remained bare feet. Probably around the mid 16th Century, the royalty started wearing high heels with their footwear- a sign of affluence and power. Hence the term “well heeled” to signify wealth! By the end of 19th Century the mass production of factory made shoes had started and yet handcrafted and individually stitched shoes remain a symbol of style and fashion till today. As an aside, mass produced shoes take about 1000 years to degrade in a landfill!!



Well, shoes do signify many things about a person. It is often more than a style statement. How well polished and scuffed your shoes are, still goes a long way in establishing first impressions. While, shoes could be regarded as symbols of fashion and one can be finicky about what one picks up – I just buy whatever size 11plus/44 shoes I get – fashion be damned!  The woes of big feet run among the men in my family. When my father joined the Military Academy, they could not provide Boots his size for the first two months of training and when they finally did, he was told, “Wear your Boats and get on to the Drill Square”. For many years, I used to go to a small little shop in Karol Bagh to buy shoes-they used to make shoes for Russian Diplomats in New Delhi – my feet looked dainty compared to them!!



Shoes can be of specific types. Sports shoes : specific for Athletics; Golf; Baseball, Hiking, walking and so on. Dancing or Ballet Shoes. Boots, shoes which cover the foot and ankle and extend up the leg. Boots are often made of different leathers- Cowhide, Ostrich, Annaconda and even Elephant hide have been used for making boots across the world. Different kinds of shoes have been made as newer material have come into use- rubber, plastic, petrochemicals, wood, canvas and so on. Sneakers came to be called thus because you could sneak up on another person wearing them. Barefoot running is back in vogue and there are shoes available which mimic the experience of running barefeet and provide protection and maximum flexibility.



There is no end to variety when it comes to Men’s shoes either. Oxfords, Balmorals, Derby, Slip Ons/ Mocassins and Brogues and one could go on. When it comes to the ladies shoes, 2 inch heels would qualify as High Heels; 1.5 to 2 inches are for some reason labeled as Kitten Heels and heels with a very narrow heel are the Stilettos– good to kill someone! Then there are the Wedge heels if you want to club someone and not stab ..

Religion is like a pair of shoes- find one that fits you but don’t make me wear your shoes”- George Carlisle. In Indian mythology, Bharat ruled Ayodhya on behalf of Lord Rama by symbolically keeping his sandals(Paadukas) on the throne.  Hindus leave footwear outside the temple. In most South Indian homes, shoes are kept outside before one enters. The idea being to keep ones’ negative and evil thoughts outside and accept ones’ humility. Among the Arabs, showing ones’ shoes or sole of the footwear is considered unclean. Mosques don’t permit shoes either. For the Jews, the Talmud( Shabbat 129a) says “ A person should sell the roof beans of his house to buy shoes for his feet”. The code of Jewish Law( Shulchan Aruch) even specifies that one must wear the right shoe first and take off the left shoe first- the primacy of the right side…



Shoes have found mention in literature, music and poetry since time immemorial. Who can forget Elvis Presley crooning Blue Suede Shoes or Bob Dylan making you swing to Boots of Spanish Leather. Iron Maiden would have you Die with your Boots On and Paul Simon singing about Diamonds on the Sole of the Shoes. Closer home, one knows about Joota Hai Japani.It goes on and on..

One of the classic tales revolves around Cinderella’s shoes. And as women may have you believe, it ended well because a shoe was involved. Puss in Boots is another classic and then you have Dorothy and her Red Ruby Shoes in the Wizard of Oz.

And look at our language. You are tough as old boots and may have to rough it out on your trip which is on a shoestring budget. It is never easy to be in someone else’s shoes and we all know that for want of a nail the shoe was lost and it ultimately lead to the loss of a kingdom! We all know some Miss Goody Two Shoes and it is only the wearer who knows where the shoe pinches!!

Well, shoes do evoke some kind of neuronal burst in most women and sparks a release of neurotransmitters which compels them to buy, possess and hoard shoes and more shoes!! Imelda Marcos , the former First Lady of Philippines was infamous for her 3000 pair shoe collection and a large number of them are now housed in a museum in Marikina. Closer home, I do know a lady with very Imeldasque traits. But I will leave it that – there are some stilettos in the collection! Shoes can be expensive business- a Manolo Blahnik( immortalized in the serial Sex and the City) could set you back by 4600 USD – Blixa Alligator Pumps are expensive.  A pair of handmade Manhattan Richelieu Men’s Shoes made of handmade Crocodile Waxed Cowhide from Louis Vuitton  can burn a 10000 USD hole in the pocket!!


Hurling shoes ( called Shoeing)at someone  has been regarded as a sign of insult traditionally. It finds mention in the Old Testament as well. One of the most infamous incidents being journalist Al Zaidi shoeing George Bush in 2008 and proclaiming it a farewell kiss from the Iraqis. Condoleeza Rice was called , “ Kundara” , Gulf Arabic Slang for shoes by her Middle East detractors as an insult.

As Woody Allen is said to have famously remarked, “Comfortable shoes and the freedom to speak are the most important things in life!” And you definitely know you are very very old when someone compliments you on your alligator shoes and you are actually barefeet!!