Monday, August 15, 2016

UK Prime Minister Theresa May's Footwear

New UK Prime Minister Theresa May is a conservative (Tory) politician whose taste in footwear is anything but conservative. The British press (particularly their famed tabloid press) loves to write about, and publish photos of, her surprisingly adventurous footwear. A Google image search of “Theresa May shoes” rewards with a large selection of unexpected spectacular shoes and boots; sparkly skimmers, animal-print heels, thigh-high boots, hologram wellies, and more.  Her wild fashion choices extend to her outfits, but less often and flamboyantly.
Photo 1: Thigh-high patent leather boots

Are May’s fashion choices solely an expression of her aesthetic, or does she use shoes to express and embody a female vision of political power? Such unconventional choices indicate that May does not fit the stereotype of conservative politician, and that she is a leader that makes bold decisions. May herself views her shoes as political and has described them as an “icebreaker.” Maybe that is why she wore thigh high croc boots to meet the Queen (SEE PHOTO 1). Or is the opposite effect occurring; does the media’s focus on May’s appearance disempower her? Sam Smethers, the chief executive of women's rights organization Fawcett Society, feels that female politicians are "constantly reduced to what they wear or what they look like." The image on the right illustrates the British press’ barely-contained fetishistic reading of May’s footwear choices; other Troy ministers underneath leopard print heels in a none-too-subtle nod to S&M (SEE PHOTO 2)? One question this image raises is, would the press write about a male politician’s shoe, or any items of clothing.
Photo 2: Leopard print heels

Can May’s shoes be used for political effect or are they a placeholder for belittling powerful women? Since May seems determined to use her clothing choices as symbols of a powerful political female leadership, we can likely expect several years of wild shoes from her. Perhaps the trend will catch on among politicians.  We may even see Hillary Clinton use leopard print heels to accessorize her pant suits!

Photos 3-5: Heels, skimmers and hologram wellies 

The Adrian G. Marcuse Library has several books and periodicals focused on footwear throughout (fashion) history. Check them out today!

Posted on August 15, 2016 I Blog post by Lou Acierno, M.L.I.S. (Director of Library Services)