The old adage says that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but the folks at the Bata Museum in Toronto, Canada, would probably say it is in the foot.
The Bata Shoe Museum, whose tagline is “For the curious,” houses an astonishing 12,500 shoes and shoe paraphernalia covering over 4,500 years’ worth of human history. From chestnut-crushing shoes to high heels for the men of the French court, the expansive collection is continually growing as a result of shoe-hunting excursions conducted by Bata Museum staff on a regular basis.
What makes this museum of interest to this blogger is the sheer amount of information and time they have invested in their website. In the “All About Shoes” section the web visitor can select several different collections to view, from footwear of the Native Americans to a history about elevated shoes to wedding wear and more.
If you would like a shoe expert or curator to spend some time talking to you about the who, where, what, why, and hows of the shoe world, check out their dozens of podcasts on a variety of topics. From dance shoes to wartime footwear and, yes, Justin Bieber’s sneakers, the Bata Shoe Museum has something for almost everyone (even Napoleon’s socks).
With hundreds of detailed and colorful photos, this visitor learned that high heels used to be closer to the center of the foot because early models did not have reinforced heels. When they placed heels on the actual heels, the shoes kept snapping off at the arch. I also learned that men used to wear high heels ostensibly because they helped them better keep their feet in the stirrups while horseriding. I also found interesting that early heeled shoes came with sled-like clog contraptions that you could tie on to your shoes. Why? Because heeled shoes were invented before roads were paved, and wearers in heels would get stuck in the mud without them.
The Bata Shoe Museum is definitely “for the curious,” but I would also say that their website is so well done and so engaging that they could even claim that their museum will make you curious.