I have my Chuck’s for Inauguration day. Do you?
If you look at trends on social media, like I do, search any variation of #ChuckTaylors. You will see women around the nation buying and sharing their pictures of their sneakers in support of Madam Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris.
Kamala Harris has made a statement with her chosen footwear, and I love that women from all walks-of-life are using the opportunity to do the same. And for some reason, every time the media references VP Harris’ shoes, Nancy Sinatra’s song “These Boots” pops into my head. I took the liberty to change the chorus to fit my excitement over Inauguration Day. I am sharing so you have the ear worm, too!
You keep lyin’ when you oughta be truthin’
And you keep losing when you oughta not bet
You keep samin’ when you oughta be a’changin’
Now what’s right is right but you ain’t been right yet
These shoes are made for leadn’
And that’s just what they’ll do
One of these days these shoes are gonna lead for all of you
I know. . . . Pretty cheesy. But I think it makes a good anthem. Not only the verse of how many people feel about past leadership, but also a song of empowerment for all the women, especially Black and Brown women, who have never had representation in the highest offices.
So, why focus in the shoes? VP Harris told The Guardian that she has a “whole collection” of Chucks to go with different outfits and different settings, like running through the airport. Her casual footwear has endeared her to so many. As she comes bounding out of the plane to head to a meeting or event, it is nice to see someone who seems approachable and relaxed. Her comfortable and casual style makes others comfortable with her.
The shoes people choose to wear make a statement. So, of course I started thinking about the history of shoes and professionalism. How do our dress codes regulate shoes? How are they gendered? What does it mean to have a gender neutral shoe be acceptable in the work place?
Now, in many cases we have to wear shoes according to socially constructed codes. Women often have to grit their teeth and bear the pain of high heels because the sculpted shoes are thought of as more professional. But not too high because then you might look trampy. Not to low or clunky because that might be too prudish. Oh, the shoe conundrum.
Men have a little more flexibility in the professional shoe department with the low heal dress shoe. Although, some men may want to rock their high heels to the office, and that too is regulated through gendered dress codes.
At one time, men did wear heeled shoes. Persian soldiers wore heeled shoes to keep their feet in the stirrups, much like today’s cowboy boots. Then, European aristocrats appropriated the fashion and constructed a idea that the heeled shoe symbolized virile masculinity. The heel highlighted their shapely legs and taut calves. Louis the XIV even passed an edict that only allowed those of noble birth to wear high heeled shoes.
Let’s talk about high heels and the male gaze. Stilettos, in particular, have a hypersexualized history. They are designed a certain way to tantalize men and often associated with prostitution. Stilettos elongate the legs and help round out the bottom and breasts.
I did a keyword search for “high heels” in the newspaper data base and found over 15k articles starting all the way from 1735. So, as you can see, they are a staple in women’s and high heel lovers arsenal. High heels have even been used to kill people–not kidding.
But, I also know how women get creative to be able to wear comfortable shoes. Some carry their sneakers in their bag and switch to heels at work. Me, I wore my heels to school and then switched to my Chucks to teach. Now, I just wear my Chucks everywhere.
Chuck Taylor designed the basketball shoe in 1922 to help support player’s feet. Chuck’s name was added to the ankle logo, sealing the fate of the Converse as the Chuck Taylor All Star. The shoe really gained popularity in the post-war market and remained the shoe of choice for pro and college basketball players through the 1960.
I was part of the “retro” revival in the 1980s. You remember. That’s when the Converse Hi-top Chuck’s came back in style in hyper-pigmented colors. When I was in elementary school, we would exchange one shoe with a friend to wear a shoe of a different color. But be sure to change back before going home.
But now, Chuck’s are worn with everything, from jeans to power suits. I really love that we have a symbol of power connected with shoes, but that connection is also made through the Madam Vice-President. I really do care. Do you?