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Shoes: Anatomy, Identity, Magic

Start Date 01 September 2022
End Date 31 December 2022
Venue Museum at FIT
Location New York City, U.S.A
Curator Dr Valerie Steele and Colleen Hill
A sitting mannequin in front of a low-placed mirror to examine her shoes, in front of a display wall of shoes

Shoes: Anatomy, Identity, Magic explored our physical, social, and psychological relationship with shoes. The exhibition began with a pair of baby shoes, indicating how shoes accompany us on the journey of life.

The theme of anatomy emphasized how we stand and move differently when we wear, say, sneakers rather than stilettos. Peep-toe shoes and thigh-high boots also draw attention to different parts of our anatomy.

The theme of identity emphasized how we tend to associate different shoe styles and brands with different types of people. High-heeled shoes have long been associated with erotic femininity, and stilettos, in particular, are identified with the femme fatale. By contrast, rubber-
soled sneakers were invented for sports, so they are identified with athletes.

The theme of magic emphasized how we may unconsciously believe that the right pair of shoes will change our lives, as Cinderella’s glass slippers captured the attention of a prince. Because professional athletes often wear sneakers, we may decide to buy a pair of Nike Air Jordans, hoping, like Lil’ Bow Wow in the film Like Mike, that they will “magically” enhance our physical prowess.

The exhibition featured more than 300 of the 5,000 pairs of shoes, boots, sandals, and sneakers in the museum’s permanent collection, aka “the closet.” Shoes: The Collection of The Museum at FIT will be published by Taschen in March 2023.