“Just about every traditional dress system or cultural wardrobe defines customary roles and meanings for footwear”, says Gina who blogs at Neatelo about comfort shoes and sandals. “Their style, material and workmanship affect how they are perceived”, she explains. Some cultural occasions also dictate the use of particular shoes. The entertainment industry is no stranger to this, and Hollywood has tapped into it in several notable pictures.
As long ago as 1992, Michael Douglas starred in the movie Falling Down, in which he portrays an unnamed character (he appears as D-fens in the credits) who is made redundant at work. At one point during the film, he stops on the sidewalk to examine the sole of his old, unpolished office shoe. It has a hole in it. Shortly afterwards, he loses his temper with a shopkeeper, partially trashing the store as he spews xenophobic invective at him, and then spends the rest of the day getting involved in a series of successively more savage incidents of conflict and violence, using weapons that he obtains by expropriation. During the final fight, he is shot dead trying to retaliate with a water pistol.
Another incidence of violence involving a conspicuously shod character, although it is substantially more graphic, is Abigail Whistler’s fight with three vampire muggers in Blade: Trinity (2004). Played by Jennifer Biel, she destroys them with the aid of an extendable blade situated at the front of her boot’s sole.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman is physically and emotionally wrenching. In it, Robbins (who plays banker Andy du Fresne) is mistakenly prosecuted and sent to prison for life. He manages to escape by tunnelling through an exceptionally thick wall and then leopard crawling along a sewerage pipe, which isn’t empty at the time. His disguise is the stolen suit, and pair of highly polished office brogues, of the head official at the prison, who shoots himself a few days later.
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On a happier, less violent note is the absence of a shoe in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), in which Will Smith plays an unemployed, broke man (Chris Gardner) who participates in selection training at an investment company. As a resident of a public shelter, he loses a shoe and has to pitch up at the office that morning wearing only one of the pair. A fellow candidate sneers at him, but Chris makes a success of the training and it is he who is hired by the firm.
The status of footwear in society is emphasized by all of these films. Footwear is often a matter of necessity, but it is also a medium for creative expression. And, as a component of dress in the movie industry, these scenes exemplify how powerfully it can be utilized.