Sunday, May 20, 2018

Beauty Parlours and Pedicures: Are they safe?

The humble pedicure has become a favourite pastime of the leisure class. Blissful treatments that pamper the feet with velvety lotion, soothing massage, pretty polish and warm, sudsy water swirling around each and every toe are going done well in high streets and elsewhere. Pedicures have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, according to the International Spa Association. The foot treatments are one of the spa industry's most requested services after massages, facials and manicures. Summer and winter customers average a pedicure every two months.

Massage of the 7,200 nerve endings in the feet, not only soothes the old plates of meat but also relaxes the whole body. Foot messages are so popular nearly 26 percent of spa clients are men. Now men are traditionally reluctant to show their feet to anyone so the pedicure must have something. Perhaps it’s because they get a longer massage in lieu of a nail polish. Popular variations include a foot scrub in salt water with a foot wrap and sent to recline in a leather chair which features built-in message rollers. This stimulates blood flow and makes you feel just fabulous.

Nail Salons have blossomed of late and many offer pedicure services but only a few specialize in foot masks or an extensive massage. Nail Salons do offer top to tail beauty management of nails and nail painting, just ask for a French Pedicure they are very popular. Nail sculptors can rebuild damaged nails and if this is impossible, cosmetic fake nails offer undetectable repair to anyone other than the most discerning expert.

Now that pedicures are on the rise, consumers need to be aware all necessary precautions are being taken by the management to prevent cross infection. With clients sharing facilities all equipment and foot spas need to be sanitized. Shared facilities like foot baths harbor harmful microbes like bacteria and fungus and these may pass from client to client. Some clients are reported to bring their own pedicure tools with them (clippers, nail files, pumice stones, etc.) to reduce the risk of infection. This may be safer than share contaminated equipment but quality salons should guarantee all has equipment is either single use or has been sterilized since the last recorded. Use. Always check the salon employs trained technicians, often their certificates are proudly displayed. Good salons display a mission statement as a form of consumer quality assurance. This short document often displayed in the waiting area contains all the reassuring information a client needs to make an informed contract with the establishment. Well worth looking for.

Beauty therapy does offer a cosmetic alternative pedicure but for those with abnormally thickened nails, infection or corns and callous, it is best to visit the podiatrist. All the same health and safety conditions above apply, and if you ask nicely, your podiatrist will give you a soothing massage too.

Rusunen A P 2004 TOE-riffic: Pedicures are a popular way to relax while putting your best foot forward

Reviewed 20/05/2018

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Shoe rituals and marriage

Another Royal Wedding always brings the pomp and traditions of marriage to public attention. As the crowds gather to watch the latest bonding of two people in matrimony, I wonder how many are aware of the origins of the shoe superstitions that surround marriage.

Shoe symbolism in connection with luck and marriage rituals dates back to antiquity and is found in every culture. These customs and superstitions are still practiced today, although their origins are long lost. Our forebears had serious reservation and much apprehension as to the misfortunes which may await them when embarking on a journey, any journey, including matrimony. To avoid calamity many strange customs were performed.

Divination (or seeing into the future) played a major role (as it does today with horoscopes etc.) with even the most mundane happenings taken as serious omens or indications for the future couple. On the road to the ceremony an old greeting to the bride and groom from people they met was "A happy foot!" The bride was encouraged to kiss passing strangers in order to ward off evil spirits. The only exception was anyone who was barefooted. The strangers were cordially invited to join the bride on the road to the church and refusal was taken as a bad omen. Remnants of the same behaviour may still be seen at Hen Parties.

The best explanation why shoes hold such powerful symbolism is because many believed not only did old shoes retain the spirit of the original owner, it was also possible to gain these characteristics and strengths by wearing them. Following in your father’s footsteps relates to a time when the cost of shoes were so expensive ordinary people could rarely afford them. The common practice was to bequeath shoes to family and friends. Throwing shoes after someone setting out on a journey was thought to bring good luck and reference to this superstition appears in the literature of the 17th century onwards.

"For this thou shalt from all things seek,
Marrow of mirth and laughter,
And wheresoever thou move, good luck,
Shall throw her old shoe after."
Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809 - 1892)

The modern custom of tying old shoes to the bridal carriage or car may be a variation upon this good luck custom. In Transylvania the gesture was thought to increase fertility.

Throwing the shoe was taken to wish the couple a fulfilling life together with procreation being a very important part of that union. In China, the bride’s red shoes were tossed from the roof to ensure happiness for the bridal couple.

In the past and shared with many cultures brides were chattels to be traded and owned. Marriages were frequently arranged to bring two families (or countries) together. Loving relationships often followed the union but would not necessarily predate it. In the case of unexpected pregnancy, the union was hurried along. In Biblical times confirmation of a contract for redemption or change of ownership was denoted by removing a shoe.

In Ruth 4:7, the kinsman of Boaz, “drew off his shoe," to indicate a land deal, described as "this was a testimony in Israel."

Strange as it may seem marriage then was no different and in many countries fathers of the bride gave the groom their daughter’s shoe. This confirms the exchange of chattels and passing the responsibility for her well-being to her new husband. In medieval France the groom may sat with his shoe over his bride’s foot and in other customs the groom ceremonially taps the bride on the head with her shoe to show he was master. A variation was for the bride to kiss the groom's foot.

Shoe rituals are common in many culture and include: placing her wedding shoe at the head of the bed on the husband’s side to symbolise his sexual possession and to encourage fertility. The ancient Inca Indians of Peru, were not considered married until they exchanged sandals. In Northern Italy the old custom was to have everyone try on the bride’s shoe, just like Cinderella. In Hungary the groom drank to his bride out of her wedding slipper. In Finland, the married couple was accompanied to the bridal suite by the whole family. The mother would not let the groom go to his bride until he had given her a pair of shoes. An old custom was for the brides to wear slippers or socks on her wedding night, as it was commonly believed walking with bare feet on the floor may result in being tickled with misfortune. One other rare variant comes from Wales where the bride and groom were presented with a pair of shoes joined together by a chain all cut from a single block of wood. There were two little cavities, one contained a lump of sugar and the other a piece of coal to ensure the couple would never lack sustenance and warmth.

It is traditional for Hindu groom is to wear embroidered shoes called Joota at the wedding. As part of the day’s ritual following the Baraat ceremony female guests of the bride attempt to steal and hide the groom’s shoes as he makes his way to the Mandap (where the wedding ceremony takes place). Efforts are light heartedly thwarted by the groom’s male guests since the groom must have his shoes. Inevitably when the Joota are not found a substantial ransom must be paid. Besides getting money, the bride’s sister’s get ‘Kalecharis’ which are rings made out of gold, while the bride’s cousins get rings made out of silver. The is matrimonial ritual, called the Joota Chupai (or Joota Chori), ends with return of the shoes. The origins of the ceremony are long lost but are practiced by both Hindus and Muslims (in some Asian countries). No one can be sure but Joota Chupai may relate to a time when brides were stolen and a dowry was required to be paid.

The Romans believed evil spirits gathered at doorways and if a new bride stumbled over the threshold it was a bad omen for the marriage. Hence, the bride was carried over the threshold. In 16th century France, a newly married couple was obliged to stand naked out-doors while the groom kissed her big toe of her left foot. Each partner then gave the other the sign of the cross with their heels, then with their hands.

For most the connection between footwear, luck and marriage still continues with the miniature silver shoe on the wedding cake and or tying old boots or shoes to the back of the vehicle in which the newlyweds begin their honey moon. In Latin, ‘conficere’ means to prepare which is a source of the word confetti. In Medieval Italy the custom was to throw sweetmeats (candy) at carnivals but by the 19th century the custom was freely practised in England at weddings and special occasions. Sweets were replaced by paper shapes in symbolic form and colour with shoes and horse shoes included.

Interesting Site
Wedding Shoes Shoe rituals and marriage

Goldman L 1993 Dressing the bride New York: Crown Publishers Inc. 155-163.
Rancier L 1997 The sex chronicles Santa Monica: General Publishing Group

Reviewed 19/05/2018

Friday, May 18, 2018

The body politic

The idea our bodies operate as a whole i.e. head, intestines and limbs, dates back to Antiquity. In the fables of Aesop, he reminds people, "limbs" must be co-operated with the head (or Senate). Romans believed the head contained the soul which in turn directed the body. The innards which processed food and nourished the whole body were regarded as the seat of passions with the liver given the same emphasis as the heart is today. The body metaphor was eagerly adopted by Christians and the Church became the body, with believers as "multiple limbs" of which Christ was the head. The "mystic body of Christ" was also central to followers and remains so today in Holy Communion.

As the Christian empire evolved the importance of the pope and king became more prominent as heads and the heart became the seat of vital forces. St. Bernard's 12th century Sacred Heart of Jesus developed into a major theme by the 17th century. The innards, especially the liver, lost its importance and became the "seat of lewdness". Political Body metaphors were frequent in texts that debated the status of clergy and nobility. One that favours the clergy in 11th century called it the eyes, and secular power the limbs. John of Salisbury (12th century) makes the prince the head, and his officials the eyes etc., with peasants as the feet, indispensable but requiring support from above. Wealth-producing activities had an ambiguous place in the intestines.

From the 13th century violent conflict, usually involving religious wars were viewed by both sides in terms of “heart and hand” fighting for mortal head of their Church i.e. King or Pope. Later what mattered was not the physiological unity of the body but separation of the spiritual from the temporal.

Fashionable men of the 14th Century wore poulaines, long toed shoes often 24 inches longer than the feet themselves, and adopted a high stepping, stomping gait similar to the staccato movement of a puppet. This was considered as style and copied slavishly. There is no evidence to support our forefathers were aware of deliberate muscular activity and its balancing function nor was the knowledge of anatomical analysis of movement and posture possible at a time when dissection was considered taboo.

From the Middle Ages to the 16th century, "failures of physical uprightness" were attributed to deformity or bad deportment. Good posture meant esteem and in the 16th century a new class of courtiers, paid greater attention to deportment. Physical appearance became synonymous with moral attitudes and bad body attitudes, was thought to cause physical deformities. Clothing became more rigid as a result and imposed a standard form. Contemporary text on deportment characterised the best as natural and stressed "grace," which was defined as the opposite of affectation. Aristocrats were thought to emulate grace and in the Judo-Christian belief, regarded as godlike, i.e. ‘made in the image of the maker.’ The elite of society spent long periods of preparation learning gracefulness with noble exercises like fencing, riding, and dancing.

Apart from the practicalities of defence, the movements of fencing, which were circular, was a "Pythagorean" concept of geometry with no regard for bone or muscle structure. Movement was not a way to correct posture and the body was regarded merely as the outline of a surface.

The origins of corsetry, as support for deportment, date from the 16th century. Adult corsets appeared with whalebone stays for aesthetics or metal stays for therapeutics. In 17th century a new morality based on civility and propriety demanded that one "cut a fine figure," with the public as judge, and emphasis on posture grew. Acceptance the body could be manipulated became a specific focus and the orthopaedic approach (straightening) a distinct discipline especially in children. Acceptance children were not small adults, but developing skeletons, lent physicians to develop manipulation. Even well-formed children were manipulated by hand or with swaddling clothes as a preventative measure to deformity.

Manners become theatrical and the aim of exercise (dance, etc.) was to control movement, but not benefit from it. Since the body was no longer a microcosm, it no longer had to follow ideal proportions. Now the motive (often disguised with religious rationales) was to avoid ridicule.

In Jesuit schools, bulwarked against secular education, public speaking became important to teach the code of performance. Jesuits in 17th century schools encouraged plays to teach control and memory, elegance (with ballet) and decorum.

Muscular Christianity and physical culture of the last four centuries have ensured the same curriculum has been maintained throughout and still forms part of our modern education in Western Society.

Reviewed 18/05/2018

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Hot and sticky: Can I smell cheese?

Perspiring is a natural way to control our internal temperature. Sweat is normally odourless and contains sodium chloride, potassium, urea and lactate. On the palms and sole of the foot are the eccrine sweat glands. There are approximately 125,000 sweat glands on the sole of the foot and excrete about on average one midi of moisture each day. Excessive skin perspiration is called hyperhidrosis (or hyper hydrosis meaning extra water). This affects about 25% of the population. Overproduction of sweat can be idiopathic or no known cause or related to general illness. Eccrine glands are slow to respond to temperature regulation but instead react quickly to mental or emotional stimulation.

Sweaty skins are moist, cold and clammy to the touch with white soggy skin in-between the toes. Either gender may be affected and it often commences with the onset of puberty, subsiding in some people, after the age of 25. Burning pain, itching and blisters may also be reported. In very severe cases excess perspiration soaks socks and destroys shoes. People with wet skins are more prone to fungal and viral skin infections. Some people suffer from foul smelling sweat which is caused by a breakdown of bacteria on the skin surface or infection of the hair follicles. Alteration to bacteria around the apocrine sweat glands makes under arms smell and other private areas, a bit pongy. Eccrine bromidrosis (that is the polite word for smelly sweat) is caused by microbiological degeneration of skin cells softened by excessive eccrine sweat.

Apocrine bromidrosis affects adolescents upwards, eccrine bromidrosis all ages and gets worse in warmer weather. No one bacterial species seems responsible with many of the resident floras capable of generating volatile acids.

Isobutyric acid smells like sweaty socks and isovaleric acid smells like sweaty feet.

Brevibacterium epidermis produces methanethiol and hydrogen sulphide which smells like cheddar cheese.

Treatment for both hyperidrosis and bromidrosis involves first reducing the flow of sweat. Good foot hygiene is important and the feet should be washed at least once per day in warm water with mild soap for hyperidrosis and medicated soap for bromidrosis. Skin is patted dry with a towel and care taken to dry carefully between the toes. The use of bland talcum powder, such as would be suitable for babies, should be applied to the clean feet in mild cases but medicated powders may be recommended in severe hyperidrosis and bromidrosis. The powder helps absorb excessive sweat and gives a friction free surface for toes to pass over each other.

Reduction or perspiration can be achieved by the use of topical antiperspirants such as aluminium chloride soln (often on prescription). But care should be taken not to use cosmetic deodorants for this purpose. First check with the pharmacist because antiperspirants stem the flow of fluid but deodorants only neutralise their smells.

Important preventative measures include wearing non-occlusive footwear made from natural materials. Cotton socks are absorbent, fungistatic and bacteriostatic and should be changed twice per day. Socks should be washed daily in non-biological detergents.

Things to avoid include high caffeine intake, eating spicy foods, overeating and stressful situations.


Research from Holland indicates mosquitoes prefer the feet and lower leg. One theory is mosquitoes prefer sweaty skins which contain corynerform bacteria. This particular bacterium gives Limburger cheese its distinctive smell. As a footnote to finish some authorities think the cheese was developed because dairy workers used to sweat over their labours. Makes you wonder what future generations will miss now these industries have become so scrupulously cleaned up.

Reviewed 17/05/2018

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The word on the street is ‘socks.’

The word on the street is ‘socks.’ Socks have become a fashion statement and are no longer just what separates you from your shoes. According to Business of Fashion (BoF), fashion's major brands and influencers are turning the sock into a huge fashion statement.

Socks and sandlas were once considered declasse but according to fashion shows for Spring 2018, the combination is a must this summer with Gucci, MSGM, Erdem, Marc Jacobs, and House of Holland all showcasing the 'ugly combination.'

'Sneaker socks' describe a combination of a running shoe and sock attached. First seen in soocer boots the trend has now crossed over into high fahion with many designers incorporating them into their collections. DKNY, Balenciaga, and Ash have all released versions.

According to research firm NPD Group, and Morgan Stanley, the activewear market has reached $44 billion in the United States and will grow to $83 billion by 2020.

Vetements in collaboration with Reebok produced the stretch-knit sock sneaker which retails at $840 (US). These proved so popular the company intends to launch nine new colorways of the shoe.

Socks are accessible to everyone and at a time when fashionista are gravitating toward the same designer sneakers well chosen socks give a chance to really stand out. The new order of logo sock is the odeal way to catch the eye. Major fashion houses such as Gucci, YSL, Off – White and Thom Brown have been promoting fashionable hose, including crystal-embellished logo socks.

Occupational Footwear: Rovies and Clogs

‘Rovies’ were worn by the workers in the Dundee jute mills up until the 20th century. They were hand knitted, ankle high boots made from fine jute. Popular with spinners they were worn with thick woollen stockings. Not only did this keep the worker’s feet warm, it could get pretty cold in a jute mill, especially I winter, but also kept the micro-fibres from the loom which filled the air from getting onto the feet and especially in-between the toes, of the spinners where they would cause intolerable irritations. Rovies represent a good example of early occupational footwear but wearing them was not a condition of employment.

Today we take for granted occupational footwear but before health and safety legislation existed millions of workers were exposed to injury and death at their place of work.

In the old satanic mills of Victorian times, most workers were barefoot or wore wooden clogs. There are various styles of clog but a common one worn by the proletariat in France just after the Revolution was Sabots. These were quickly rejected as the Empire style emerged, leaving only the very poor to carry on wearing them. However, the poor workers voted with their feet, well shoes anyway, and when industrialization came to Europe. Disgruntled workers faced with the invasion of technology on many tradition crafts, decided to destroy it by throwing their clogs (or sabots) into the machinery, and literally sabotaged it. Or so the popular story goes, in truth it was probably broken railway sleepers (also called sabots) which were used. The vast majority of mill owners employ barefoot workers and took no responsibility for the consequences.

It took two World Wars and the invention of the motor cycle before engineers’ boots became the archtype occupational footwear. Only recent legislation however, has meant protective footgear has become essential in Western countries.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Reviewed 16/05/2018

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Where to go with a sore toe, in Kyoto : The Go-o Jinja Shrine

The Go’o Shrine , in Kyoto, lies on the western side of the Imperial Palace. It celebrates Wake no Kiyomaro (733-799), a high-ranking Japanese official during the Nara period (710 AD – 794 AD). He became a trusted advisor to Emperor Kanmu, before being exiled in 769 and as further punishment had the sinews of his legs cut. The intervention of the Fujiwara clan saved him from being killed. After Empress Shōtoku died, he was recalled and appointed a junior minister of state (Udaijin). According to legend no Kiyomaro was protected by 300 wild boars and his injuries miraculously healed.

The Go’o Jinja Shrine, in Kyoto, lies on the western side of the Imperial Palace. It celebrates Wake no Kiyomaro (733-799), a high-ranking Japanese official during the Nara period (710 AD – 794 AD). He became a trusted advisor to Emperor Kanmu, before being exiled in 769 and as further punishment had the sinews of his legs cut. According to legend no Kiyomaro was protected by 300 wild boars 300 boars who helped him travel to the destination, during which time his injuries miraculously healed. The intervention of the Fujiwara clan probably saved him from being killed and after the Empress Shōtoku died, he was recalled and appointed a junior minister of state (Udaijin).

When he died,Lord Wake no Kiyomaro was enshrined at the Jingo-ji Temple on Mt. Takao, but later relocated to the current site by the order of the Emperor Meiji in 1886. It enshrines the deity of legs. The Go’o Shrine is dedicated to all things pig, and receives visitors from all over who suffer from leg and foot injuries.

A stone block bearing no Kiyomaro footprints is said to heal the injuries.

The entrance to the The Go’o Shrine is guarded by a pair of wild boar. Traditonally Japanese temples have komainu (mythical lion-like beasts).

The shrine is also used as a place for lavish marriage ceremonies. It is situated next to several different hotels that are outfitted to host wedding receptions.

The shrine is located five minutes north of Marutamachi Subway Station on Karasuma Street across from the Imperial Palace visitors' entrance.