It is entirely likely that you will hate the shoes that I am wearing today. There is absolutely nothing pretty, elegant or stylish about them. In fact, looking at them entirely objectively they are actually kind of ugly. Or fugly as people say these days.
About the time that I bought these shoes I was going to the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow on a fairly regular basis. The Citz, as it was known, is one of the oldest theatres in Glasgow and launched the acting careers Rupert Everett, Ciarán Hinds and Hugh Grant. I saw Glenda Jackson perform there on stage as Mother Courage, I saw Alan Rickman. The Citz attracted a lot of controversy in the Seventies and Eighties, not least because of the full frontal nudity and the fetish costumes favoured by the infamous directorial triumvirate of Giles Havergal, Philip Prowse and Robert David MacDonald. My parents took us to the Citizen’s Theatre pretty much monthly from the time that I was about 11 years old onwards. I loved it. One performance of Hamlet that I saw featured the lead actor wearing a straight-jacket and a pair of cloven hooves. These shoes remind me of that performance. Sometimes shoes are about more than aesthetics.
Take Lady Gaga for example. More than a few people don’t get Lady Gaga. They particularly don’t get her prediliction for wearing strange looking shoes.
If you have been living somewhere without access to television or newspapers for a while or generally ignore pictures of people in the music industry (hi Dad) you will have no idea who Lady Gaga is. If so, I refer you to Exhibit A: Lady Gaga at the Grammy Awards last week:
Lady Gaga wears provocative and slightly odd outfits. A while back she shared with a few members of the press that she might just be a tiny wee bit of an hermaphrodite. Shocked journalists examined her groin for the signs of non-ladylike lumps for quite a while afterwards. As for myself, I look at her feet.
Roll the clock back to 1970 when a chap named David Bowie caused rather a lot of fuss by dressing up as a lady-boy on the album cover of The Man Who Sold the World:
I believe that David Bowie may have a little bit of a penis too. He is also known for wearing some rather nice platform boots.
Interestingly Lady Gaga and David Bowie have both studied mime and dance with avant garde theatre performers – David Bowie worked with Lindsay Kemp and Lady Gaga has worked with performance/burlesque artist Lady Starlight.
Both are consummate show-people to the extent that if either walked into your life using their real identities, namely David Jones or Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, you probably would not recognise them.
Every time, therefore, that I read a snotty newspaper article wondering what on earth Lady Gaga is wearing and why, I get cross. I have been wondering why I get so cross for some time now.
Many years ago, my mum met and fell in love with my dad at the University of Illinois graduate school at Urbana-Champaign. My mum was a New York slick chick, an tiny ex-ballet dancer with a brain the size of a planet and a smashing pair of legs. My dad was a boy from Paisley with a slight speech impediment (which he has since obliterated). They fell in love and my mother was convinced to leave the Land of the Free in favour of what she thought was the Land Where Everyone Lived in Castles. When she arrived in Paisley, Scotland with her horn-rimmed tortoiseshell glasses, her Capezio pumps and her orange linen pedal pushers the natives look at her like she was a visitor from another planet. A visitor that had come to kill, skin and eat their children. For breakfast.
Despite many years of living in Scotland my mum still has that aspect of Otherness and I love her for it. So for me when I see performers like Lady Gaga part of me wants to jump up and down like a kid and say, go for it! Piss the bastards off. You can live a life trying to be pretty, to be ordinary to be original or you can wear something that makes other people spill their tea over the morning paper. Be yourself, make an exhibition of yourself and be fabulous for as long as you can be – the Gaga way.