Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Must see Hong Kong: Ridiculous shoes

Walk down any street in Hong Kong, and you can spot them. Women so thin they can turn themselves sideways to slip through the crack in a pair of closed doors. They measure their boob size in microns, dress in size zero clothing hanging lose about their bodies, and they teeter on the most ridiculous shoes you can possibly imagine.

No, I take that back. Imagination alone is not powerful enough to conjure up the footwear I see. I swear, some of these creations have been invented in a machine. You drop into this machine your chosen items - chain mail, concrete block, cat, formica desk top - then you press a button and out rolls a pair of shoes that combines all the properties of your unique materials assortment.

Seriously, I tried to photograph such fantastic objects. They resembled a pair of metal sandals on wooden stilts fastened together by the tails of small furry animals twisted like ropes.

Unfortunately they were lashing some woman's calves at the time, so I failed. You try tip toeing behind a woman while you are bent double with a camera pointed up her legs and your daughter is dragging you urgently by the hair to come away because the decency police are heading in your direction.

So I have succeeded only in capturing this rather mundane pair of ordinary sandals. They merely look so wretchedly uncomfortable her feet are trying to escape from them. Or perhaps they are meant to be worn like this, and this is currently in fashion. In this city, who knows?

The strange thing is, ridiculous shoes that you cannot possibly walk in are ubiquitous out here. They are no indicator of job, social status, ability to think. You just have to be female, aged between teen and thirty-teen, and have a wish to enter an infantilising sexualised cartoon culture. In fact, in this age group, any girl in possession of a sensible pair of footwear in which she can actually walk is probably in violation of her right to look like a two dimensional stick thin version of Betty Boop.

I might not have been out here long, but I've seen business women in smart suits who quite frankly should get a grip. Literally. They try to stride along the walkways in red heels that shout, One false move and you fall off a cliff. It's just me, obviously, but to my way of thinking, trying to look serious while lurching around like a ship is never convincing. And I could not imagine being listened to for my review on profit and loss while below ankle height I modelled myself on a streetwalker. But hey! This is Hong Kong and maybe women like to enter a culture where the higher your shoes, the better you can wobble.

But for real entertainment, go to the malls. I have seen ladies who live their entire existence shopping in Prada and Valentino stand in one place pretending to examine the shop windows of Gucci in great detail. Actually, thanks to the eight-inch heels, they are unable to put one foot in front of the other. They may have stood in that position for days, figuring out what to do next. Once, I saw one of them attempt to board an escalator. It outdid freakshow cabaret. She made several false starts before taking the plunge and tilting her heel on those piercing metal teeth of the moving tread. One misjudgment and the entire audience watches death about his work.

But sometimes you see these foot sculptures truly where they belong. Not floating about the heads of shoe designers who probably regret the decline of foot binding, but on the feet of the tiny ladies in the company of enormous, red-faced, beer-bellied European men. Yes, you guessed it. The lady of the pair is Asian and can hide behind a wine glass stem, while the gentleman of the pair needs to open both double doors and, with a bit of rear shoving from the general public, might just pop through to the other side. I kindly assume that in this partnership that there is a real meeting of minds and some hard core intellectual discussion involving Nietzsche and Jean Paul Sartre. What else could it be? Surely, not the shoes?


sharon said...

Oh Grit, where is your sense of style, of adventure, of who cares what anyone else thinks of your choices? Could it be hiding inside those comfy flats along with my mine? Although I will confess to wearing 4 inch heels (including during my pregnancies) well into my thirties and even higher platform shoes during the tasteful early 70s. I was more style than function in those days . . . . also less likely to break if I fell off them ;-)

Kestrel said...

I think dear Grit you need a pair of Fluevogs to compete. But not the beer bellied swine on your arm.

I completely empathise with this post living just down the road as it were from one of the "heel" capitals of the world.

Good on you for attempting to document it in true nitty gritty journalistic style rather than staring open mouthed, pointing and laughing. Very civilised.

Deb said...

Oh, you must take more pictures.

I never wear shoes if I can help it, and go everywhere in Birkenstocks. If I wear a heel more than 1/2" high, I am in danger of breaking an ankle. To console myself, I think snide feminist thoughts about heels and the damage they do to the achilles tendons.

So please - more pictures!