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Tucson Weekly Media Mix

OCTOBER 26, 1998:  FILLIES OF SOLE: There are some publications out there where you just wish you could've been in the room when some passionate editor or panicky board of directors made their pitch for "the next big thing."

Shuz is just such a magazine. It's so fresh, our word-processing program doesn't even have the proper characters to spell its funky name. (There's a bar over the "u.") Shuz celebrates its premiere issue this month, and it's no small endeavor. For starters, you've gotta plunk down $9.95 for this twice-yearly publication. And if you don't happen to be one of the people on the planet (we're still polling for a sense of their numbers) who's of like mind with the editors (i.e., obsessed with shoes since you were a little girl), it'll take awhile to acclimate.

Just what is going on, here?, we kept asking ourselves as we leafed through its 128 pages. Was it an advertorial for the shoe industry? A fancy catalog? An actual editorial product? Evidently, the editors are still trying to decide what kind of format will viably support their habit.

Because what Shuz most definitely is, and most assuredly will remain, is an exuberant, unabashed, personal celebration of the harmless obsession of buying shoes. Or is it buying personal empowerment? Or selling shoes and personal empowerment via cloying advertising slogans? (E.g., "Bootie is in the eye of the beholder.")

Many of the contributing authors look to the shoe for comfort, confidence and, well, camaraderie ("My Lifelong Love Affair with Boots"); for artistic inspiration (in addition to profiles on three ultra-successful women shoe designers, meet "June Moxon: Shoe sculptor/racer," who drove across the country in "a huge, snakeskin pump" of her design); and mother-daughter bondage. We mean bonding.

("Need is not a word we use when we shop for shoes," said the rebuked daughter of a woman whose specially designed closet supports 500 cubbyholes for her prodigious predilection. The 14-year-old daughter herself was lobbying for what would be her 40th pair at the time.)

The most interesting piece in the issue hints at the wealth of insight the humble shoe indeed has to offer armchair anthropologists: Linda O'Keefe's "Arch Rivals" offers a brief history on women's shoes that traces the invention of the high heel not to restrictive women's fashions imposed by some patriarchal society, but rather to Mesopotamian butchers--who "constructed stilt-like overshoes so they could maneuver on carcass-strewn floors." Who knew?

And though she of course gives due mention to the most famous historical women's shoe--the disfiguring Chinese Lotus slipper--she makes the somewhat surprising assertion that, "The stiletto is undoubtedly the most controversial shoe of this century." Read on to discover how it was actually the stiletto that changed the face of interior architecture, and may have even inspired (indirectly, of course) the sexual revolution: "Stilettos even forced designers to develop floor coverings strong enough to resist...sharp heel tipss; and according to the author, Kinsey wrote of the shoe's design that "it mimicked the position both feet adopt during sexual arousal," and that the angle of the shoe "transmitt(ed) sexual sensations throughout the body."

That sure puts a new spin on all those years our working, single mom, with her myriad pumps, groaned about how her feet were killing her. Not that we're going to ask.

We were down with Shuz, silly and sophomoric as it is, because it's packaged so nicely and is so delightfully specific...and celebrates women who're making a killing in the fashion industry.

But in the end, there's really no more to Shuz than meets the eye. It's really just about shoes. Lots and lots of shoes. And how to store them if you have more than 500 pairs, which many of the women in this magazine do.

After the initial suspension of disbelief--yeah, sure, shoes have people, too--there are just so many (and yet, so few overall) sentences that jerk you back to reality. The reality being, that we're unlikely to ever walk a mile in anything this magazine has to offer.

How can we be sure? Take this quote from designer Vanessa Noel, a woman we wanted to believe in, with her well-heeled studies in fine arts and architecture at Cornell University. "Noel believes that fashion is indicative of the times," the opening article begins. So far so good.

Then she speaks for herself: "With Desert Storm, women stopped dressing up. I would go to galas in jeans and my white-sequined Bill Blass jacket. And that's just what people wore. The same sort of thing was felt a few years ago with hip-hop."

The thing is, she wasn't joking.


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