Friday, December 30, 2016

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes!

The Bata Shoe Museum
I had quite a few, varied jobs before I settled on education as a career, but my first serious work experience was in retail, working for the Bata Shoe Company. I worked there for three years and actually managed my own store. I even met the owner of the company, T.J. Bata, and I knew about the amazing collection of shoes his wife had amassed while they ran the global company. When they retired from the retail business she established a museum based on her shoe collection. The Bata shoe empire was based in Canada and head office was in Toronto, so this is where the Bata Shoe museum is located. I have always wanted to visit this museum and spending Christmas in Toronto finally gave me an opportunity to do this.

Stained Glass Pumps
The museum is located downtown in Toronto, so it was a simple subway ride to get there. The building is supposed to be shaped like a shoe box, but I think that just makes it a rectangular building doesn’t it? In the entry way there was an impressive mobile made of stained glass shoes, and there was an activity area downstairs where children could try on a large collection of interesting shoes such as Dorothy’s red shoes, pink cowboy books, or elf slippers . . .

The museum starts with a really interesting history of footwear from earliest times, tracing what kind of shoes people wore and how they were made across the globe and through time. Along the

For dancing the Devil's Dance
Northern Footwear
way there were examples of famous shoes and trends in footwear. Cinderella’s glass slippers were there as well as P. E. Trudeau’s sandals or a pair of Marilyn Monroe’s pumps. In addition, there were three temporary exhibits, all quite interesting. One was dealing with footwear in the artic with displays from all over the world. It was amazing to see how people living in the harsh northern environment created unique footwear to their needs. A second was on men’s high heels through the years – did you know that originally heels were introduced to allow horse riders to hook their boots onto the stirrups? Thus the heels on cowboy boots. The third exhibit was especially interesting, dealing with the dangers in shoes. There were many toxic and poisonous chemicals used in the manufacture of shoes, and originally simple shoe polish was composed of toxic material, but many of the dyes and materials in the shoes themselves exposed the wearers to danger in just wearing their footwear.

Elton John's Shoes
No one would consider buying a pair of patent leather shoes to wear in the mud and snow, but in fact that was exactly what they were invented for. The shiny smooth finish made them more waterproof and easier to clean than ordinary leather shoes. Now you know!

Probably not for everyone, but I really enjoyed exploring the Bata Shoe Museum, and I certainly know a lot more about shoes than I did.