Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Political (Fashion) Statement

Recently, an Iraqi journalist chucked his black leather oxfords at President George W. Bush, causing a blushing world leader and chuckling from California to Iran. But this isn't the first time shoes have caused discussion on the national political scene, and while everyone rushes to the malls today, hoping to score 60 and 70 percent discounts on footwear, let's pause a moment and reflect on the times when our favorite accessory influenced political discussions.

-- Russian leader Nikita Khruschev was known for banging his fists on a table and yelling in Russian while other U.N. leaders were speaking. On Oct. 12, 1960, Khruschev banged his fist so hard against the table that his watch fell off his wrist. When he picked it up, Khruschev spotted his shoes, which he had taken of his feet earlier because the stiff new leather was bothering him. He then picked up his right shoe and banged it against his desk, infuriated the head of the Filipino delegation would suggest Eastern Europe be granted independence from the Soviet Union. Khruschev later wrote in a memoir, "I took off my shoe and pounded it on desk so that our protest would be louder."

-- In February 1986, Imelda Marcos left behind about 2,700 pairs of shoes in Manilla when she and husband Ferdinand Marcos fled to Hawaii after being ousted as the leaders of the Phillipines. Time Magazine wrote "If Imelda Marcos changed her shoes three times a day, and never wore the same pair twice, it would take her more than two years and five months to work through her shoe supply." The shoes later became a symbol of excessive government spending and corruption.

-- On Dec. 22, 2001, British citizen Richard Reid was arrested after American Airlines employees say he attempted to light one of his shoes on fire during a flight from Paris to Miami. Dubbed the "shoe bomber" after authorities find a detonator and explosives hidden in his footwear, Reid is sentenced to life in prison on terrorism charges. As a result of the incident, passengers are now asked to remove their shoes when going through airport security.

--In June 2001, designer John Galliano stirred a small controversy, when he presented a collection containing fish-net body stockings worn with hooker high heels and jackets stamped with political slogans, such as "tax evasion", "anar-chic" and "class war." This November, discussion also rippled through the fashion world, when Galliano used an African religious symbol as the heel of one of his shoes in the Christian Dior collection.

--On July 12, 2005, a member of Northwestern University's champion women's lacrosse team wore a $16 pair of flip-flops decorated with rhinestones to the White House for a photo op with President Bush and was denied entry to the Oval Office. The president required men to wear ties in the oval office and for women to be "appropriately dressed. A week later, a new sign –- banning jeans, tank tops, and flip flops -- appeared on the northwest gate of the White House where staff, press, and appointments enter the West Wing.

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