When I was researching this Bloomberg View column on why people love to talk about shoes, I interviewed Manolo the Shoeblogger via email. His answers were great, but they didn't make it into the column. So, with his permission, I'm posting the interview here:
Q: Why are people so interested in shoes?
A: Because shoes have magic in them: Our fairy tales are filled with stories of fantasy shoes: glass slippers, hundred league boots, ruby slippers, shoes in which old women reside, boots for sword fighting cats, shoes made by elvish cobbles at night, red ballet shoes which cause the wearer to dance incessantly, and on, and on.Every child knows that shoes are magic. It is one of the first things you learn. Shoes are magic.
To be barefeeted in literature and in life is to be the pitiable creature. To have the shoes, even the most humble, is to be the person of some substance. When you put on the pair of the beautiful, well-made shoes that fit, you are filled with satisfaction and contentment; you look better, you stand taller, and you are more confident. Thus shoes work transformative magic. We all know this to be true, because we have all experienced it ourselves.
Even our modern shoes, in which the magic is usually latent, can be frequently beautiful. And when we buy beautiful shoes we believe we can imbue ourselves with some of this beauty. Pants are pants. Dresses are dresses. But it is only with the shoes on our feet that we are fully dressed. The ball gown, no matter how beautiful, is not complete until the dancing shoes have been put on.
Shoes are the one item of clothing that allows the widest range of personal and artistic expression. You would perhaps look foolish wearing the blue, bejeweled, suede dress. But give that same material to Giuseppe Zanotti and you would have shoes fit for the queen of the world. Outrageous colors (purple!) and material (snakeskin!) can be made into the most captivating shoes. And shoes have structure and architecture, and can molded into fascinating wearable forms that other types of clothing cannot be. Yes, hats are similar. But hats are optional, shoes are mandatory.
Finally, shoes are the one item of high fashion that does not discriminate based on size or age. The stylish plus-sized lady can wear Louboutins if she can master the heels. The elderly woman of spirit can be at home in the pair of Blahniks.Q: Why are they so interested in shoes now?
A: For whatever reason, we are in the Golden Age of Shoes. There are more talented designers than ever before; women are more adventurous in what they will wear than ever before; and the market is able to deliver beautiful shoes to more places than ever before.
The question is, why now? The best answer is that we are the impossibly rich society, and that even despite the Great Recession we still have plenty of money to spend, and much of it, for the first time, is in the hands of women, who are working at greater rates and earning more money than ever before.
And because of the rise of the internet, and concurrent democratization of fashion, shoes, which are the easily sized and quickly transported commodity, were at the forefront of the shopping boom that followed these two trends. The aspirational woman in Montana can now buy Louboutin pumps from Saks online, and have them on her feets in two days (one, if she pays for overnight shipping). This is the dramatic change in how we live our lives. In the past, our Montana lady would have had to go where to find her shoes? Salt Lake City? Seattle? And when she got there, after great effort the selection of styles would have been limited, the sizes haphazard. And for all of this world, we owe Zappos the enormous debt of gratitude, for pioneering this way of shopping, for it is as radical as anything the internet has done.