Day 18 of the Shoe Challenge – On Shoe Clichés – Acrylic* Heels

Once upon a time  you could mention the words acrylic and heels in the same sentence without thinking of pole dancing. At that time (1995) I lusted after and acquired these Prada heels in one of Frasers New Years Day Sales.  (Such was my addiction to  those shoe sales that I only managed to pay off my Frasers card when we sold our house to emigrate to Australia.) Sadly, within about a month of buying these, the fashion pirates were churning out hollow, cheap versions of the same shoe.  Within a couple of years thereafter, the girlie magazines and the drag queens had requisitioned the acrylic heel and it become a cheap parody of itself, a travesty of titillation.

Over familiarity breeds contempt,  so it is worth remembering that in the early 90s PMMA handbags and shoes were considered quite futuristic and  avante garde. Designers were constructing traditional clothes in synthetic fabrics including as plastic, laminates, Lurex, and vinyl.  In 1997, the designer Alexander McQueen used a Perspex® catwalk for his ninth London Fashion Week collection filling it with water and ink,  while the models were drenched with rain.

Acrylic/PMMA is  an amazing material for shoe designers to work with. It  can be moulded to look like glass forms but  does not crack or chip as easily as glass. Scratches can be easily buffed out. From arcylic it is possible to fashion a wearable glass slipper.

Apparently the way to breathe new life into a cliche is to use it with irony.  Karl Lagerfeld pulled  this with off in a spectacularly controversial way with Chanels mid-season range. You may remember the Chanel Miami Vice shoes Madonna wore for the New York premiere of the film Filth. Nothing says look at moi or else quite like toting pistols around in your heels.

* Legal Alert: If it was not for this blog post I would not have realised that Perspex and Lucite are, in fact registered trade marks.  Shame on me.  As a result I thought rather than contribute to the generic demise of these marks I would refer to transparent thermoplastic used to make these heels by its common name. The chemical name for acrylic is, I discovered, Polymethyl methacrylate or PMMA and it is used to make all sorts of handy things other than shoes. This Legal Alert is dedicated to @Bearmancartoons in a (probably doomed) attempt to stop him whinging about the number of shoe posts in a law blog.)

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