Winklepicker! This week’s Weird Word’s just plain fun to say. Winklepicker!
Winklepickers are vaguely Medieval-looking, which is when they first came into vogue. These shoes were spotted on the feet of the French ruling class back in the late 1400s. You really had to be nimble-footed to flap around town wearing these things! Sometimes, the points were so long that wearers tied a string from their knees to the shoe’s tips to keep the points from getting in the way as they stumbled about Ye Olde Town! And they talk about suffering for fashion nowadays…
A few centuries later, the winklepicker was revived, albeit with a few changes. This time, 1950s and 60s British rock ‘n rollers and their fans took to wearing them, and thankfully, these modern versions didn’t need the knee strings! These funky winklepickers sported buckles, perforations, prints, you name it. Women even got in on the act, wobbling along on high-heeled versions.
So, what is it about shoes? I was in a book store in Manitowoc, WI., a few months ago, and came across a small book about the history of shoes. I don’t remember the title, but I do remember seeing a pair of men’s high heel shoes, dating back to the early 1700s, when King Louis XIV of France, wore heeled shoes, some decorated with battle scenes. These pumps towered with five-inch heels, and Louis took it a step further, issuing a royal decree that no one else’s heels could be higher than his. Hmmm…I sense a smidgen of royal insecurity here…
Meanwhile, in Venice, Italy, women were traipsing along on platform shoes called”chopines.” These monsters could reach twenty inches in height, and women wearing them were often accompanied by a servant who would help their mistresses totter around town. Height conferred status – the higher the platform, the higher the status of the wearer. There was a secondary purpose to chopines, too – back then, Venice wasn’t known for being the cleanest city, with debris and even sewage clogging the streets, so being high off the walking path had its advantages. No winklepickers here!
I’ll leave the last word to a five-year-old I know. Girls this age love dressing up, and they’re not at all afraid to mix patterns with sequins, stripes and even feathers if they’re handy. When birthday time rolled around, this little girl wrote out a list of ten items she wanted, and number eight was the following:
“A pair of high hell shoes.”
That pretty well says it all!