Day 45 of the Shoes – In Praise of Fugly Shoes?

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.

Schuh Patent Leather Shoes Circa 1996

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.

5 thoughts on “Day 45 of the Shoes – In Praise of Fugly Shoes?

  1. I agree with much of what you say.
    Yes – those shoes are not that attractive but I have lots of shoes that hold precious memories. I am impressed that they emigrated with you. Most of my shoes didn’t make it interstate!
    Lady Gaga – What an exciting and intriguing character. I think this campaigne of the media to suggest she is a hermaphrodite is incredibly rude and inflamitory. Do you think it is just to get a reaction out of her? I think it is.
    I love her outfit in the image above, shoes score a 10 from me.
    Your mum – her brain is certainly packed with a great deal of excellent information which she dispenses in a way that isn’t condescending. ( I love that)


  2. I first went to the citizens theatre as a shifty schoolboy when it was obligatory to not only read shakespeare at school but also to see the plays being performed live. truly great and memorable experiences. there was something about the citizens that gripped the soul only in a soft inviting way. for example, the decor was blushed with faded gold palely shining from a variety of excellent plaster casts e.g. angels, coronets, bunches of fruit and the like. a true testament to the grandeur of victoriana and their consummate skill to do everything over the top. long live the memory of the midget queen who ruled over half the civilised world. in addition, at the citizens we were exposed to la comedie francaise, moliere and even sheridan and his play the rivals. we were always seated in the gods where knee punishment was both painful and sort of masochistically pleasant. what about that for a lad from paisley with a speech impediment and how else would he realise that a speech thing was simply mrs malaprop in a different guise. the speaking difficulty originally came from an accident when I was about 9 or 10. I bit my tongue in half and it had to be stitched together again. the net result of the accident was I could never say complicated words like lollipop even lily. the “L sound was beyond the range of my poor wee sewn-together tongue. I later corrected this impediment although I still speak like a drunken idiot.

    of course I know who lady gaga is and her meretricious outfits are always interesting and a serious talking point. your summary is predicated on very sound principles of toleration and humanity. I greatly like that.

    lulu, the pint sized glasgow singer, waxed very poetical about david bowie and his ability as lover so, perhaps, that may be a differing opinion as to his male attributes. she, on the other hand may be flirting with the truth. a wee bit like the fish that was on the hook but somehow managed to get away. we shall never know and to be truthful do not really want to know.

    I am particularly glad that your mum and I had such a splendid impact on your growing intellectual awareness. I note that you do not refer to the theatre royal and the operas we took you too. I hope that that experience was also a good influence.

    your piece was very good and the shoes have a little of the elizabethan quality about them.

  3. What a beautiful article about good looking shoes… Why are you all suggesting they’re ugly?
    Meretricious is my new favourite word! xox

    • My husband asked me “What are you wearing on your feet?” It was a bit of a give away. These shoes remind me of Minnie Mouse shoes. Patent leather particularly black patent leather rocks my shoe boat not matter what incarnation it is in.

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