Shoes in Pop Culture: When Everyday Clothing Become So Much More

How would you describe shoes to someone who had never seen them before? In a practical sense, shoes are purely functional. They are designed to cover and protect the feet. Yet we also look at shoes from a fashion perspective. We buy shoes based on what they look like. We don’t tend to think about shoes and their relationship to pop culture.

Over the last hundred years or so, shoes have made more of an impact on pop culture than many people realize. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘these boots are made for walking’? It is actually not a phrase unto itself. It’s the title of a Lee Hazelwood song recorded by Nancy Sinatra in 1965.

The song was so influential that it became Sinatra’s signature. It also went on to encapsulate an idea that modern culture continues to fully understand, no explanation needed. It is these types of things that remind us just how influential shoes are to the culture.

Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers

Pop culture has embraced all sorts of iconic shoes over the years. Perhaps the most iconic of all are Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. As a movie prop, the slippers play an important role in telling Dorothy’s story. We have translated that story into the culture via the concept of making everything okay by clicking our heels together.

The interesting thing about the ruby slippers is just how cheap they really are. There were five or six pairs made for the movie, all of them starting as cheap department store pumps that were dyed red and then bedazzled with cosmetic jewels. Despite the reality of those shoes, they mean so much more to the culture.

Other Iconic Shoes

Nancy Sinatra’s boots and Dorothy’s ruby slippers are just two pairs of iconic shoes. There are more where they came from:

  • Sonic’s Sneakers – Fans of 1990s video games are sure to remember Sonic the Hedgehog and his amazing sneakers. They were not ordinary sneakers; they were Power Sneakers capable of helping Sonic do amazing things.
  • Wonder Woman’s Boots – Speaking of doing amazing things, Wonder Woman wears a pair of gilded boots that are as much armor as anything else. No doubt they are as powerful and protective as her golden bracelets.
  • Air Jordans – Air Jordans are iconic in the sense that they spawned an entire industry of designer athletic shoes around athletes. Air Jordans were all the rage when they were first released; they are still popular today. They set the standard for all celebrity-endorsed sneakers.
  • Marilyn Monroe’s White Heels – Marilyn Monroe wore a pair of white heels in The Seven Year Itch. They became synonymous with her image. These days, anyone looking to pull off Monroe’s look would never dare to try it without a similar pair of shoes.

From Darth Vader’s reinforced boots to Pee-wee Herman’s white platforms, shoes have helped define pop culture in every era. But is that all there is? No.

We Love Our Shoes

Pop culture or not, we seem to have a love affair with our shoes. According to GC Tech, a Salt Lake City company that makes waterproof shoe covers for men, our attitude towards shoes is to be expected. Shoes play an integral role in foot comfort. Foot comfort plays an integral role in everything from physical health to emotional well-being.

Pop culture has made shoes so much more than just footwear. But at the end of the day, you want your shoes to be comfortable and functional. There is nothing wrong with that.

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