Before you ask, I don’t like The Wizard of Oz much. I didn’t find it a magical, transformative childhood event, the way so many people seemed to. But I do remember thinking that Dorothy’s glittery red pumps were the bee’s knees. With a slightly more adult palate, I discovered the subtle layers that underpin the film, and still came away with one vital life lesson: Red Shoes Rock.
One freezing morning at university, my friend and I sat on campus, whiling away the minutes till a shorthand lesson. A woman in a faux-fur coat, black opaque tights and pillarbox-red courts swished past. Without missing a beat, my friend said in an old lady voice, “Red shoes, no knickers.” It was brilliantly judged – and perfectly captured the idea that red shoes (on a woman) belie a racy, ‘dangerous’ personality.
And that’s why I love them. Red shoes make people sit up and take notice. They give you an instant gloss, a certain polish that any other hue simply cannot convey. Regardless of height – though the higher, the better, obvs – red shoes raise you to the status of a femme fatale in the Barbara Stanwyck mold, cigarette smouldering, capable of killing your husband and living off the life insurance in Monte Carlo. And isn’t that something we all aspire to?
My favourite cinematic scarlet footwear of all time is the pair of ballet shoes worn by Moira Shearer in Powell and Pressburger’s 1948 classic, The Red Shoes. Shearer was a beautiful woman – a classic Scotswoman with alabaster skin and flame red hair. But the shoes are the real star. This perfect film – terrible and beautiful – is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale of a vain woman who, enthralled by her red shoes, finds that she cannot stop dancing once she starts. The shoes take over her life, through all weather, all day, every day. This is Andersen, so the ending was never going to be straight up happy, but it is a release of sorts.
So there you have it. Red shoes are desirous, life changing and ultimately deadly. Wear with caution.