Category Archives: Culture

Be your own brand: finding the you in your shoes

Lady Liberty high heels

To excuse most of my eccentricities I claim that the world would be a pretty dull place if everyone liked the same things. It would look pretty dull if everyone wore the same things too.

There are places where this still happens – places like schools and prisons – and they are rotten places. But most of us are able to wear basically what we want to most of the time.

One way to celebrate this welcome liberty is to ensure that your clothes and shoes are not just unique but are uniquely you. It’s called being your own brand (BYOB), and it’s a great way to demonstrate your own authenticity and values on a daily basis.

Being your own brand is about making your own little dent in the universe. Admire what other people are wearing, check out the latest trends and then go and do it your way.

One of my favorite celebrity shoe-lovers Sarah Jessica Parker understands BYOB and is not afraid to dress her way despite anyone else. In April 2015 SJP explained:

You can’t dress in hopes that people will receive it well. The best way for me to walk out the door is when I feel like myself … Everyone is going to have an opinion and it’s not my business to know it, learn it, hear it, read it or take it in. I think you should look good because you feel good.

Go SJP! Another woman who lives this ideal is Taylor Reeve. Taylor is the designer behind the funky brand Taylor Says which is on a mission to create original, badass shoes for babes everywhere.

It was seeing Taylor’s new NYC taxi-themed shoes with Lady Liberty soles that inspired me to put these thoughts in writing.  UPDATE, March 2018: These heels from 2016 are no longer available for sale (ie they have sold out). If this changes, we will update this page with links. Taylor Says yellow taxi shoes

Why do people drink champagne out of high heels?

Christian Louboutin champagneDrinking champagne out of stilettos is one of the weirder things people do with high heels. So when did it start, and why do people do it?

The practice of quaffing champagne out of a slipper appears to have first been used to pay tribute to the artistry of female dancers prior to 1900.  Perhaps in those male-dominated times it was seen a more appropriate way of showing respect than simply grovelling at the dancers’ feet. However the exact origins of the practice are a little hazy.

Christian Louboutin’s shoes for champagne swilling

In 1999, Christian Louboutin and champagne maker Piper-Heidsieck combined to create a package comprising a bottle of champagne and a crystal heel shaped glass from which to drink it. The limited edition package was called Le Rituel and it retailed through high-end stores for $500.

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When promoting Le Rituel, Louboutin referred to a practice of Russian tourists in 19th-century Paris, who would apparently drink vodka out of ballerinas’ slippers. For this reason he said he decided to model his crystal champagne flute on a Cinderella theme, not “dirty old Russian guys in the 19th century.”

The designer may have been correct in suggesting that vodka was served to Russian tourists in this way. However, what is not in doubt is that the female cabaret dancers of Folies Bergère in Belle Époque Paris would regularly serve champagne to gentleman admirers from the inside of their dancing shoes during this period.

Drinking from high heels in Russia… and maybe England

We also know that this ritual was itself inspired by the ballerinas of the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow in the 1880s. While multiple sources say that the Russian ballerinas used champagne for this ritual, it is perhaps possible that vodka was not also used on some occasions there too. The theory is not widely implausible as there is an established custom in Ukraine of drinking vodka from a bride’s shoes on her wedding night.

Although the custom of drinking champagne from a slipper is widely credited as beginning in Russia in the 1880s, one source has been identified which suggests it may have been around a lot longer. The source – a review in a newspaper from 1893 – attributes the practice of drinking champagne out of a figurante’s white satin slipper to Fop’s Alley in the reign of William IV (1765 to 1837). Fop’s Alley was the passage through the centre of the pit in an 18th century opera house or theatre.

Drinking from high heels spreads to the USA

However it originated, the best-known example of a person sipping champagne from a stiletto occurred in America’s most famous brothel in the early hours of 4 March 1902. That venue was the Everleigh Club in Chicago, where Prince Henry of Prussia was being entertained with a lavish banquet.

As part of the celebrations, Vidette, the best dancer amongst the Club’s butterflies, was dancing on a table to the music of the Blue Danube waltz. In the middle of her routine, she kicked and her silver stiletto flew across the room and hit a bottle of champagne. A man standing nearby picked it up, raised it high and drank the champagne from the shoe.

This started a chain reaction, as Karen Abbott writes in her acclaimed book Sin in the Second City:

Prince Henry’s entire entourage arose, yanked a slipper from the nearest girl, and held it aloft. Waiters scurried about, hurriedly filling each shoe with champagne.

“To the Prince.”
“To the Kaiser.”
“To beautiful women the world over.”

After this, it did not take long for the trend to spread beyond the Everleigh Club. Charles Washburn charted its progress in his 1934 book Come into my parlor : a biography of the aristocratic Everleigh sisters of Chicago:

A custom soon to gain momentum across the land was dedicated. Wine was sipped from a slipper for the first time in America.

It was the only interlude ever to be broadcast from that celebrated revel. In New York millionaires were soon doing it publicly, at home-parties husbands were doing it, in back rooms, grocery clerks were doing it — in fact, everybody was doing it. What? Drinking wine from slippers! It made a more lasting impression on a girl than carrying her picture in a watch. No wonder it became so popular.

Drinking from high heels becomes part of pop culture

By the first half of the twentieth century, drinking champagne from stilettos was seen as an act of extravagant decadence, which was sometimes parodied in the art world. Oscar Hammerstein II referred to it in the lyrics to his 1927 song “Life Upon the Wicked Stage” for his Broadway musical Show Boat. In the 1939 MGM film At the Circus, Groucho Marx humorously reminisced:

That night I drank champagne from your slipper. Two quarts. It would have held more but you were wearing inner soles.

By the 1950s, women too were getting in on the act. In 1951, American actress Tallulah Bankhead sipped champagne from her slipper during a press conference to celebrate her arrival in London. And in 1957, English actress Julie Andrews drank a toast to the cast of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella by sipping from her glass slipper.

Drinking from high heels in modern times

In modern times, the most famous example of alcohol being consumed from footwear comes from renowned shoe-lover and director Quentin Tarantino. In 2010, Tarantino’s muse Uma Thurman let him drink white wine out of one of her stilettos.

The pair were at the New York Friars Club Roast at the Hilton Hotel to honour Tarantino, and the shoes in question were black velvet high heels designed by Christian Louboutin. To the amusement of the audience, Thurman filled the second of her shoes with wine and had a drink from it herself.

So, why do people drink out of high heels? As the history of this quirky practice suggests, there are different reasons. What started as a way to salute dancers has now become a tribute to female beauty generally.

But it can be also be more than that: a symbol of extravagant decadence, or of high celebration. A way of combining the sex appeal and beauty of heels with the luxury of champagne. A way of revelling in the great things in life, or perhaps a grand romantic gesture. Or maybe it is just a way to ruin perfectly good champagne?

Drinking in high heels

Why Peggy Bundy always wore high heel mules in Married with Children

In the legendary 1980s television comedy Married with Children, the lead character Al Bundy was a shoe store salesman. But Al was not the character best known for their shoes.

Instead it was Al Bundy’s wife Peggy who became famous for her footwear. The style of shoes that Peggy Bundy always wore in Married with Children were single strap, open-toed, high heel mules.

The rest of Peg’s fashion wardrobe consisted mainly of tight capri-length leggings with a large belt, often accompanied by an off-the-shoulder top. But whatever else Peg wore, her high heeled mules were always a mandatory accessory.

(By the way, a mule is simply a slip-on, backless high heel such as the black ones pictured below – available via our affiliate link to Milanoo for $73.32 but frequently reduced).

Peggy Bundy mules

The reason Peggy Bundy always wore mules was partly because of the sexually frustrated nature of her character. Peggy’s look was cheap, tacky and promiscuous. The mule, as the ultimate “bedroom shoe” assisted with that.

In an interview for Loaded (Magazine) in July 1997, Katey Sagal (who played Peggy Bundy) referred to the importance of the high heel mules to help her get in character:

It doesn’t come together until I get dressed. The wig… and the shoes, the shoes are really important.

Peggy’s humorously tight clothing and high stiletto mules gave her a unique, small stepping walk, which Sagal also attributed to the shoes in an E! Extreme CloseUp interview in 1992:

[W]hen we went to wardrobe, about how we wanted them look – them all to look, and I thought that she should wear shoes like that… anyone who wears ‘those kind of shoes’ will walk that way.

In fact IMDb attributes the Peggy Bundy look to having been conceived by actress Katey Sagal herself:

Katey Sagal came up with the idea for her character Peggy Bundy to dress in 1960s-inspired clothing. Sagal’s reason for the look was because she wanted to parody the 1960s housewife. For her audition, Sagal had brought her own red bouffant wig, and when she won the role, producers approved the image into the show.

Marabou mulesWhile Peggy wore *a lot* of different mules on Married With Children, one particular kind that she sometimes wore was the Marabou mule. A Marabou mule is simply a mule with a fluffy fur or feather adornment over the front strap such as these pink ones available from Milanoo for $54.99 (affiliate link).

An example of Peggy Bundy wearing Marabou mules can be found in the Married with Children episode “The Great Escape.” In that episode (first broadcast 21 February 1988), the entire Bundy family was forced to sleep overnight in Al’s shoe store.

As the family settle in at the store for the night, while their  daughter Kelly plots to escape and go to a rock concert. Peggy Bundy can clearly be seen in the episode wearing Marabou mules.

The Great Escape episode was part of the second season of Married with Children and is out on DVD via Amazon.