Vindolanda and the dating of roman footwear
And there’s a fine line between really nice shoes and those so over the top and pricey you walk around in creations that cost as much as some people live on for a month.
I’m relieved to say none of mine are in that category (as anyone can see, the rest of my wardrobe costs next to nothing).
Not that my other half shares the pleasure of it all. So when I come home with new Jimmy Choos, I’m obviously not always totally honest about the price.But the idea that shoes can tip over the edge into offensive luxury goes at least as far back as the Romans.It’s true that most Roman shoes, for most people, were practical things.Yes, you read that right: I, Professor Mary Beard, the Cambridge University classicist, who has taken more than my fair share of public batterings over my looks, have a startling confession to make: My name is Mary and I’m a shoe addict.Well I have one thing to say to my critics: they have clearly never cast a downward glance at my beautifully-shod trotters or they would have seen that what they think I lack elsewhere, I make up for when it comes to my feet. Personally, I don’t have much of an issue with body size.It’s impossible not to catch that slightly superior sneer in her voice, that seems to say: ‘If you’re not preternaturally skinny, you have no place in my shop.’No one sneers at you because you can’t quite fit into a size five-and-a-half. And even though I’m sure it’s harder to find nice footwear if your feet are very small or very big, it’s not usually a sign of moral failure to be a size nine; it’s just inconvenient.And, at the age of 58 (and a trim shoe six-and-a-half, since you ask), I’m beginning to accrue quite a collection of nice shoes.Several dozen pairs now, with several good designer names creeping into the mix. I don’t possess any massive platforms or nine-inch heels yet — but I do think it’s terrific fun trying them on.Of course, mixed in there is some good old-fashioned feminist anger; I can’t help thinking that this is all just another way of tying women down.Not high heels, as far as we can tell; even Roman engineering hadn’t quite managed to construct really high spikes.The real glamour shoes were as much for men as for women; I’m very taken with the stories of the slippers of the extravagant emperor Caligula, which were apparently sewn with pearls.