Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Manolo Blahnik: The Art of Shoes Exhibition

The exhibition dedicated to the famous shoe designer Manolo Blahnik is now on display at Prague’s Kampa Museum.

The travelling The Art of Shoes exhibition, currently in Prague, explores the career of the visionary Czechoslovakian designer. The exhibits including shoes and drawings, are divided into six thematic sections, examining the recurring topics of the designer’s inspiration, such architecture, art, botany, or geography. Visitors can also learn how the shoes are created from films that show the designer working in his studio. On display are Blahnik’s iconic shoes some from Sex and the City and Marie Antoinette, The Prague exhibition s open until November 12, then it will move on to Madrid, before terminating at the Bata Museum in Toronto.

Standing on your own two feet.

Standing on your own two feet may be perfectly possible for us, but learning to do so, can be a hard lesson. For some, of course, this is neither physically nor metaphysically possible, so we must be always grateful for what we have. However, what would you do, if you had three legs?

Francesco A. Lentini was born in 1884, in Rosolini, Sicily, into a poor family with twelve siblings (seven sisters and five brothers). Lentini, may not be a name you instantly recognise, but he became an internationally famous 19th century showman who enthralled audiences across the world for over forty years. His stage name was The Great Lentini, and he worked with every major circus and sideshow including Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and Barnum and Bailey. As an artist, he was so well respected by his peers, they referred to him, as "The King.” Long before Elvis Presley was even a twinkle in his grandfathers’ eyes.

Like Elvis the Pelvis , both were born twins, and their twin brothers sadly died at birth. Unlike the King of Rock ‘n Roll, Francesco had a parasitic twin. (sometimes known as a vanishing twin). This is a rare condition where twin embryos begin developing in the uterus, but for one reason or another, the cells do not fully separate, and one embryo develops at the expense of the other. The parasitic twin is incompletely formed and totally dependent on the body functions of the normal fetus, or autosite. Lentini’s parasitic twin was still born but remnants were attached at the base of his spine and consisted of a pelvis, a rudimentary set of male genitalia and a full-sized leg extending from the right side of his hip. There was also a small club foot protruding from its knee.

The absence of antibiotics meant surgical separation was impossible and the child was left to grow up a freak. Fortunately, as often happen in these days, Francesco was welcomed into the theatre and became a child performer, using his third leg to amaze Victorian audiences by kicking a football across the stage. He was billed as the Three-Legged Football Player and proved a very popular attraction. By the time, he was an adult, his normal legs were slightly different in length with his extra leg several inches shorter than both. The showman would often be heard to muse, “Despite having three legs, I still don’t have a pair to stand on”. Away from the stage Francesco led a normal life and was married with four children. He lived to the grand old age of 82 and of course was the inspiration for ‘Jake the Peg’.

By chance, the symbol for the Isle of Man (in the Irish Sea), is the Tree Cassyn which is Manx Gaelic for three feet. The circlelike insignia, Three Legs of Mann is thought to represent the sun and its daily passage across the heavens Consequently, it is associated with pagan sun worshipers and the emblem has been found engraved on ancient monuments and prehistoric burial mounts from Mexico to Japan and many other places in between. The Old Celtic Legend, tells of the Isle of Man first ruler, ManannĂ¡n, who defeated invaders by transforming himself into the three legs and rolling down the hill to repel the intruders, By the 17th century, the Manx people celebrated this by minting coins with the three legs and the Latin motto, "Quocunque Jeceris Stabit" [ quo-kun-q Jekeris Stabit] which means "Whichever way you throw, it will stand". By the 18th century, the three legs of man became almost ubiquitous as the favoured tattoo for seafaring men navigating the high seas.

If the Great Lentini left us a legacy (or should it be? Leg-I-see), or the moto “Whichever way you throw, it will stand" has significance to us today. Then, it must be, always use your given talents, no matter what these may be, and remember, any disadvantage can and will, be overcome by standing on your feet. (59)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Foot Orthoses: What happened to the arch support?

A few decades back no self respecting perambulator would be seen around town without sporting a decent pair of arch supports in their shoes. Now of course these have become foot orthoses. Interestingly the term orthotic is commonly used to describe the new shoe inserts but this is not the noun but an adjective, so in proper talk the arch support has become the foot orthosis (singular) or foot orthoses (plural). There are two types of foot orthoses i.e. accommodative or functional orthoses.

Accommodative orthoses fill in dead space under the foot and are made from foams or polyurethane materials. These provide much needed cushioning or shock attenuation (dampen impact). Accommodative orthoses are available over the counter and come in full length, three quarter length, or heel cups. Foam materials have been tratitionally been used in accommodative devices but now it is more common to see new polymers incorporated into their structure. Visco-elastic materials are solids which contain gas and fluids and have the benefit pressure cannot pass through them so these have proved very useful in tempering shock.

Functional foot orthoses provide support to the moving (kinetic) foot. 'Orthos.' means straight (Latin), and a functional orthosis helps to re-establish closed chain motion. Not straighten exactly, and everyone is different, but some orthoses can help stabilise the moving (kinetic) foot. The theory is unstable feet caused by hypermobiliy in the joints contribute to painful conditions, ranging from heel to knee pain. These symptoms are from repetitive stress and insertable functional supports may relieve these problems by maintaining middle range motion of joints in the feet (stablising), thereby enforcing a rest to overused tendons, muscles and joints.

The arch component is often misleading and whilst a condition known as ‘collapsed arches’ is commonly spoken about it is a very rare event indeed. The height of the long arch of the foot is controlled by the position of the heel (in the frontal plane), so to achieve the highest arch. then tilt your heel inward. The reverse is also true. Customised Functional foot orthoses incline the heel and forefoot to make the foot act more efficiently. The arch section of the device has no other function than to tell left from right.

Custom devices are made specifically for individuals (usually to a plaster cast of the foot, but more use is now made of CAD and CAM technology) but pre-made devices can also be purchased over the counter. Made to measure foot orthoses are more costly and this is not always covered with health insurance. Experts warn us even the best foot orthoses cannot cure all, and even with devices good-quality shoes, stretching and training weak muscles also play an important role in becoming symptom free.

Efficatious claims that foot inserts relieve back problems is also something consumers need to take with a pinch of salt. In a review of scientific literature by the non-profit Cochrane Collaboration they found "limited evidence" insoles help back pain. Further a number of clinical trials in Australia involved testing the outcomes between bespoke and prefabricated foot orthoses and the researchers found no obvious advantage to bespoke foot orthoses when it came to preventing injuries or reducing pain. So it is very much a case of buyer beware and the advice of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society is for all general consumers to seek out information to help you choose which type of foot orthoses you need with the pharmacist, podiatrist, pedorthist, and physiotherapist a good place to start.

Saturday, August 12, 2017


Betty Page (1923-2008) : Queen of Curves

Bettie Mae Page was born in Nashville, and one of six children. As a child she was sexually molested by her father and after he sent to jail her mother could not cope and Betty and two sisters were sent to an orphanage. When she left school she completed an arts degree with Peabody College in Nashville before starting her modeling career in San Francisco then New York.

Her combination of girl-next-door freshness and dangerous sensuality made Betty, one of the most famous ‘pin up girls’ dubbed, the Queen of Curves. Her egg timer figure (36-32-35), sweet smile, sparkling blue grey eyes, and a unique jet black hairstyle (due to her high forehead) set the scene for the sexual revolution. Daringly (for the time) she appeared in bondage pose and her images not just satisfied her eager fans but also creatively influenced many of today’s artists, designers, writers and filmmakers.

As part of her contract, Betty was required to do several bondage or fetish shots for all of her shoots. For the setups she made her own daring outfits and when bondage was required the ropes and chains were done by her friend Paula. Betty has reported she enjoyed all of the modeling she did, including the bondage scenes (as well as spanking, wrestling, whipping, dressing up in a leather pony costume, etc.), and did not feel exploited. It seems the Dark Angel was not a real-life bondage queen, and had great fun posing for the pictures.

She was a model to many of the creative photographers of the fifties. Her image appeared everywhere and she posed for Playboy as Miss January 1955. The photographs were taken by Bunny Yeager and featured Betty winking at the camera wearing only a Santa hat as she decorated a Christmas tree. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner described it as "a milestone in the history of the magazine.” Betty Page also had a Hollywood screen test, but refused the casting couch, rejecting overtures from studio executives including Howard Hughes. As a result she never appeared in legitimate movies but did guest on TV shows such as "The Jackie Gleason Show." (The Seinfeld of it’s time). Her modeling career lasted from 1950 to 1957, after which she completely disappeared. In interviews later Betty told of becoming a Christian and studying the bible at various bible colleges. Despite self exile she enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in the 1980s, as a new generation of fans became obsessed with her legacy. In 1992, the TV programe Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous found her, living with her brother. Despite the moneys paid for her photographs, she never earned a penny more than the standard $10 an hour, modeling fee.

In her later life when interviewed she refused to have her picture taken, wanting to remain, on film anyway, forever young. As was her innocence Betty remained agog at her apparent popularity and influence on others.

Celebrity look-a-likes include Demi Moore, Lucy Lawless (TV's "Xena: Warrior Princess.") and even Madonna. Betty’s features regularly featured in numerous comic books based on her various personas. In the eighties her character appeared in the Dave Stevens comic "The Rocketeer." Later when it was made into a movie, Betty Page fan clubs and websites proliferated thereafter and Betty Page made a good living signing memorabilia at conventions. Sadly Betty Page, iconoclast and one of America's most photographed pin-up girls died from pneumonia in Los Angeles in 2008. She was 85.

Betty Page: The girl in the leopard print bikini Passport Video 2004
Cook K 1998 Playboy Interview: Bettie Page" Playboy, Jan. 1998.
Corwin S 1994 Betty Page Confidential Stan Corwin Productions and Bunny Yeager
Essex K 1991 In search of Bettie Page LA Weekly Oct 11
Essex K & Swanson JL 1995 The real Betty Page Playboy Dec.
Essex K & Swanson JL 1996 Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend
Foster R 1997 The Real Bettie Page: The Truth about the Queen of the Pinups
Henry B 1992 The Betty Boom Playboy, Dec.
Rund JB 1978-1980 Betty Page: Private Peeks vol. 1-4
Silke J et al 1995 Bettie Page: Queen of Hearts.
Snead E 1991 The legend of Betty Page USA Today June 5
Theakston G 1987-1993 The Betty Pages 1-9
Yeager B 1993 The Real Betty Page" by Interview, July.

Shoemaker in his shoe shop in 1903

Friday, August 11, 2017

HICKIES 2.0 : The Evolution of Shoelaces

Jews and Shoes

There is no surviving artifacts or descriptions of Jewish shoes from the period of the early Bible (Nahshon 2008 p2). However, footwear does hold an important significance to early Israelites. According to the Scriptures, God gave man a ‘coat of skins’ to wear.

"...Unto Adam and also unto his wife did the Lord God make "clothes of skin and clothe them..." (Genesis 21:3).

Once the Hebrews acquired the art of tanning they used thick hide for sandals. The Biblical sandal was either leather or wooden footboards held with finer leather thongs to the foot (Nahshon 2008). The lyric in the Song of Songs (circa 900 BCE) confirms sandals were worn by the high born.

"How beautiful your sandaled feet, O prince's daughter! Your graceful legs are like jewels, the work of a craftsman's hands.” (Song of Songs 7:1).

One of the earliest known depictions appears on the Assyrian Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (circa 841 BCE) and depicts Jehu (son of Omri) bringing a tribute the Assyrian king. Jehu is prostrating himself in homage and is depicted wearing up-turned pointed shoes. These were fashionable with Assyrian royal families and may not be representative of ordinary shoes worn by Jews.

By the 8th century BCE., elders were concerned at the irreverence of decorated elevated sandals worn by young women. (Isaiah 3 16-20).

"Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet."

Later during the period of captivation in Egypt, Jewish slaves were taught the craft of Egyptian sandal making and took the trade with them. The fleeing slaves were wearing sandals (Ex 12:11).

"This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the LORD.”

According to the Holy Scriptures Moses wore shoes when he approached the Burning Bush (Exodus 3:5).

"Remove your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground."

This was repeated again, at the confirmation of Joshua as the new Moses.

'And the captain of the LORD's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot: for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.'
Josh 5:15
Possibly the first shoe miracle to be described was n Deuteronomy 29:15

“During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.”

Footwear and feet took on major symbolic significance in the Jewish religion. These are seen in the Torah , (Laws of Moses) and the Shulchan Aruch, (Code of Jewish law) which was written in the 16th century. Every day event was to be seen as something to worship the glory of God including putting on sandals.

The Jewish laws prescribed the order in which you put them on. The right went on first followed by the left. (Shulchan Aruch/Orach Chaim 2:4). The left shoe was to be tied first and the whole process reversed when taking the shoes off (Shulchan Aruch/Orach Chaim 2:5). It is thought this custom was based on the belief the right side was more important than the left and subsequently the right foot should not remain uncovered while the left was covered.

Shoes were tied from the left because knotted teffilin was worn on the left arm. This refers to the children of Israel being brought out of Egypt as an act of God. When walking outdoors, Jews were required to cover the entire body including their feet (Shulchan Aruch/Orach Chaim 2:6). By the end of the first century CE shoes were considered an item of sensuousness, comfort, luxury and pleasure. Rabbi Akiva (ca.50–ca.135 CE) instructed his son Joshua not to go barefoot.

In the Talmud (200CE – 500 CE) (Shabbat 129a) it declared "A person should sell the roof beams of his house to buy shoes for his feet, " which if taken literally would again underline the importance of footwear in the Holy Land. Scholars and those well versed in Jewish Law (Talmid Chacham) were never to go out wearing shabby or worn out shoes. Much later the Kabbalists considered the body as "the shoe of the soul," to protect it during its journey in the physical world.

According to Nahshon (2008) the primodial connection of the naked or semi naked foot to the land became an important element of Israel’s Zionist pioneer culture. Walking barefoot symbolically intimated one of three states: the lack of social status, an act of humility, or reference to the Divine. A common punishment or judgment was being forced to go without shoes.

'At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.'
Is 20:2

Captives went barefoot and their footwear was often taken as a trophy.
'And the men which were expressed by name rose up, and took the captives, and with the spoil clothed all that were naked among them, and arrayed them, and shod them.'
2 Chron 28:15

The Jewish custom of not wearing shoes was also taken as a show of remorse, penance or mourning (Book of Isaiah 20:2). In Talmudic times both the pall bearers and the mourners went barefoot. When David was in mourning he went barefooted.

'And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and went as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot'
2 Sam 15:30

Jewish Law determined wearing leather shoes was not permitted during the period of the seven days of mourning (shiva,). For practical reason when shoes were allowed the custom was to place a little earth or pebble in the shoes to remind the wearer that they are in mourning. Jews are buried in a shroud covering the feet and the corpse is never dressed in leather shoes.

In the laws of halitzah when a married man died childless and leaving an unmarried brother, the brother was obligated to marry his widowed sister-in-law. This was called a levirate marriage and was primarily to continue the family linage. Deuteronomy (25:5-9) ; and Book of Ruth 3:4. If the brother in law refuses to marry the widow a ceremony involving the halitzah shoe was undertaken. The shoe worn on the right foot of the male was made from the skin of a kosher animal. It was like a moccasin made of two pieces and sown together with leather threads with long ties.

The widow places her left hand on the brother in laws calf, then undoes the laces with her right hand before removing the shoe from his foot. She then throws it to the ground, and spits on the ground in front of him. The beth din then recites the formula releasing all obligations. Here the shoe is a symbol of transaction and reference is made in Biblical times to shoes and sandals being used to seal bargains.


Human beings intrinsically used their bodies (or parts thereof) as physical measurement of the known universe and so it would see perfectly logical to extend this to describe all human endeavors. The idea our ancestors described the universe with reference to the human body would give credence to the argument when describing faith there would be a head of a religious order; and feet, or the foundation of followers. This would translate into concrete iconoclasts as found in talisman of faith e.g. Statue of Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro. The absence of sophisticated transport in Biblical Times required walking as the primary means to spread the Gospel. By implication this would necessitate healthy feet and encourage protection of them. No surprise, perhaps to find reference to feet and sandals became closely associated with evangelism within in the New Testament.

Nahshon E 2008 Jews and shoes Berg Oxford.

Jews and Shoes is a fab new book by Edna Nahshon and a refreshing look at the makings and meanings of shoes, cobblers, and barefootedness in Jewish experience. The book is well illustrated and shows how shoes convey theological, social, and economic concepts, and as such are intriguing subjects for inquiry within a wide range of cultural, artistic, and historic contexts. Jews and Shoes

Edna Nahshon is Associate Professor of Hebrew at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Senior Associate, Center of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Oxford University.

Reviewed 30/01/2016

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Icthyotherapy (fish pedicure)

Fish pedicure originated in Turkey. and involves dipping the feet into a special bath which contains up to 200 tiny toothless fish which then proceed to nibble away old skin cells leaving the new skin refreshed and invigorated. Fish pedicures are popular and have spread to most other countries.

Human skin is made up of tiny cells, which are divided into two major layers. The lower Dermis contains all the blood vessels, nerves and fat lies below than the outer skin or epidermis which is an avascular (bloodless) layer.

The epidermis is very thin but made up of five distinct levels. As the lower cells pass upwards to the surface they become more compressed until they are cell-less flakes of keratin (protein). In order for the older keratin flakes to separate, squames (individual flakes) need a high water content which is the function of moisturising creams i.e. to add this water to the cells. In the normal course of events old squames leave the skin to be replaced by new ones so in effect like other animals we shed our skin every 28 days.

When the epidermis is damaged it may start to over produce keratin and this is seen either as callus or corns. Callus is a general distribution of hard skin (usually painless) whereas corns are more concentrated and can be painful. Biochemical factors in the blood determine the growth rate of the epidermal cells (which vary with individuals) and so damaged cells reproduce like normal cells but at a faster rate. This explains why callus and corns return when paired and the only way to deal with the concentrated mass of keratin (hyperkeratosis) is to physically scrape it away. Something we have known since the time of the Ancient Greeks when the original surgical scalpel was first invented to remove hard skin.

The key to any successful treatment is the safe removal of the keratin flakes and fish that nibble away skin cells, whilst novel, can be a valid way to control mild hyperkeratosis. Its usefulness is usually restricted to callus care and hence epi-dermabrasion by fish appears more in the range of beauty therapy than medical treatment but nibbling fish have been successfully used in the care of psoriatic skins (affects about 2-3% of the World Population).

The two species of fish used are Garra Rufa and Cyprinion macrostomus, colloquially known as doctor fish and belong to the carp and minnow family. The fish have no teeth so cannot nibble (more importantly break into the dermis) but have a strong suck. Attracted to the many nutrients within the skin cells including those produced in healing wounds they swarm the skin plaque and proceed to lick it once it has been softened by the water. The constant ‘sucking’ by the younger fish has a gentle massaging effect on the recipient giving them a gently tingling sensation . Once the old cells are removed this gives the clinician better access to underlying lesions which then may be treated in a conventional way.

At first, the introduction of fish pedicure to mainstream beauty therapy caused no major alarm to authorities mainly due to the inability of the fish to damage healthy skin and no cases of cross infection reported were reported. More recently however, health authorities have been concerned at the potential to spread infections between people through open wounds. In the UK the Health Protection Agency (HPA) started to look more closely at the new phenomenon and already some US states have banned them. HPA published a report Guidance on the management of the public health risks from fish pedicures (2011). They report echoed the the potential for cross infection and the need for consumers to bare this in mind when having a fish pedicure. Salons are recommended to use UV-lit tanks which are constantly filtered to keep them clear of disease. However not all salons are registered and policing standards presents a major challenge. Reference
Guidance on the management of the public health risks from fish pedicures (2011) Health Protection Agency

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Syndactyly: Mermaid feet

Syndactyly (from Greek meaning "together" and "finger") presents when two or more digits of the hands and or feet are fused together. It is unusual in humans but not uncommon. In simple syndactyly, adjacent fingers or toes are joined by soft tissue. In complex syndactyly, the bones of adjacent digits are fused.

Simple syndactyly either full or partial is present at birth (congenital). The exact cause is still unknown but in early human fetal development, webbing of the toes and fingers is normal. Apoptosis takes place about 16 weeks into gestation and usually an enzyme dissolves the tissue between the fingers and toes. In some fetuses, this process does not occur completely and some residual webbing remains.

Syndactyly occurs in approximately one in 2,000 to 2,500 live births. Most commonly the second and third toes are webbed or joined by skin and flexible tissue. Having webbed feet does not affect the function of the foot or toes and walking or swimming and uninhibited. When webbing interferes with the function of the fingers then simple surgery may be recommended. The procedure is straightforward but sometimes there maybe need for a skin graft. In the case of webbed toes, surgical separation is cosmetic with no known medical benefits.

Famous people with syndactyly include, thespians Dan Aykroyd, Ashton Kutcher, the radiant, Tricia Helfer; singers, Rachel Stevens (former member of SClub7);writersRob Neyer, Mike Holderness comic animator Kentaro Miura ; Dictator, Joe Stalin He was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922-53). It is reported he had webbed toes on his left foot; philologiste Paul Meyer; and icon, Marge Simpson.