posted by: jitterbugbaby in Shoe History Corner on January 11th, 2008
This week’s historical shoe feature is brought to you not by an actual pair of shoes in some collection somewhere, but by a movie. Because of the production design of a movie and because of the incredible caliber of one of the performances in that movie.
I’m talking about The Libertine and its leading man, one Johnny Depp, who is absolutely mesmerizing in his role as John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, brilliantly witty poet and all-around scandalous, omnisexual man about town. No one will dispute that Depp is a phenomenal actor, but watch the beginning and the end of this movie for the start and finish of what is, in my opinion, his best performance of them all.
The movie overall has some serious issues with editing and narrative continuity, but it certainly does suck you into the nitty-gritty reality of Restoration era England with all its muddy, dark, murky, dirty, corporeal details on display. Rather than glamorizing the opulence of the time, this movie will make you want to shower after you see it. You’ll be bathed in the muck of dank muddy old England, and if you’re like me (with a penchant for production design taken to extremes), you’ll love it.
Amid all the dirty darkness, though, are some fantastic footwear creations, which is only appropriate given that this was a time period when men especially were gussied up to the nines and paraded themselves around like peacocks. Just look at this coronation portrait of Charles II from the Royal Collections in England.
Apart from the overall splendiforousness, look at those shoes! High heels for men? You betcha! He brought the fashionable long square toe back with him from his exile in France, along with the fancy red soles that we still see on Christian Louboutins today.
They’re all embellished with these fantastic large buckles and bows over the instep, which you can see in close up in the second picture below (see… I told you there was mud everywhere).
What I love most about them, though, is the incredibly high tongue that becomes an embellishment of its own, as you can see in these two fashion plate images of men from the time. (from The Costumer’s Manifesto and Braun & Schneider’s History of Costume, respectively).
You get the idea. If you’d like to see the shoes above in action, rent The Libertine. While it does have its problems, it’s worth seeing for the deliciously tactile look of the thing and for a truly tour de force performance by Depp.