Monday, June 07, 2004

How to Understand Our Era: In addition to my well-known attempt to persuade the world that human behavior can be explained largely through a close study of the human shoulder, a few years ago I also proposed the somewhat contradictory thesis that we live in the Era of the Shoe. At the time, this was largely a justification for my long history of eccentric footwear and a rationalization for buying over-priced running-shoes. Since then, I’ve come to believe that I was right all along. Ah, bless you, young Manhattan Transfer, you were so wise.

Actually, we may be in the Second Era of the Shoe. Prehistoric homo sapiens likely beat out the gentle, and extremely intelligent Neanderthals because the latter had an aversion to footwear. This made the homo sapiens better able to do things like walk in the snow and look good in skirts.

The advent of history saw the primordial glory of the shoe forgotten. For much of history, in fact (if that is the proper way to qualify something that I am basically making up), shoes were a luxury that were often foregone even by the most prominent of citizens. The famous Athenian sculptor and philosopher Socrates rarely wore anything on his feet, and referred to cobblers only to mock them in the dialogue Plato called The Gorgias. In fact, he is only known to have worn shoes once: on his way to the drinking party that is the setting for Plato’s Symposium. That, of course, is the dialogue about the meaning of the love, foreshadowing the role that shoes have taken on in modern times.

The Athenians eventually got with the footwear program, and started tying sandals onto their feet. There wasn’t much to differentiate one set of sandals from the other, so in order to create status anxiety the wise Athenians banned slaves from wearing shoes.

Time went by, as time so often does, and soon the slave, serf and peasant classes got hold of the secret of footwear so the upper-classes invented slippers to preserve their sense of superiority. Shoes kept on like this for a good deal of time, with the lower classes eventually adopting boots and such to protect themselves from the elements, until all the men of Europe decided to slaughter each other in the great war. This left women in a vicious competition for the remaining men, and the results are famous—flappers, feminism, short skirts, interesting hair and colorful shoes with spindly heels.

That was the beginning of the Second Era of the Shoe. Today we are at its apex. In the future our culture will be understood by the asexual clones that dominate the earth mostly by reference to our footwear. Thank goodness we have bold documentarians such as Maccers and Eurotrash recording the state of our culture for the future generations to study.