The Symbolism of Shoes
The symbolic meaning of shoes
People use a wide variety of symbols in order to communicate with each other and to identify themselves and the world around them. Body language, gestures, religious symbols, mathematics, colors, natural symbols and so much more. Symbols function at a deeper, almost subliminal level, more profound and direct than that of written words and speech.
In this lens I chose to examine an uncommon symbol: Shoes. The inspiration came from a good friend of mine, who has recurring dreams about shoes. We all have our own, private symbolism, which we usually access through dreams or through a certain affinity or aversion we feel for specific images, motifs, animals, emblems, shapes, plants, patterns. Personal symbols may look funny to the outsider, but that does not mean they are less important or significant. I would encourage everyone to try to decipher their own inner, symbolic language, as a means of reaching hidden and unknown aspects of their personality.
*photos taken by me
The shoe as a symbol
Shoes in symbolism have a contradictory significance. They represent authority and power, but they can also represent humility, servitude. It all depends on the context we find them in.
In some religions, when you enter a temple you are required to put off your shoes, showing humbleness and respect to the divine. In this case shoes are a symbol of obedience, of earthly in contrast with the holy. "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground ', is the command to Moses" (Exod. 3. 5).
In older times, not all people could afford buying shoes (slaves often didn't wear shoes), that is why they are associated with wealth, freedom and comfort, but also with the other side of the coin: vanity and arrogance. An example of such symbolism can be found in Hans Christian Andersen's story The Red Shoes. Platform shoes (chopines) were born in the 16th century as symbol of wealth. Women wearing excessively high chopines could not manage to walk without the assistance of at least two servants. In fact, the reason why men still offer women their arm today dates back to when women wore chopines and needed that little extra help to be able to go forward. Excessively high chopines in Italy offered the opportunity for more fabric to be displayed but it also offered the opportunity for servants to be displayed
In Europe it wasn't until the eighteenth century that women's shoes were different from men's
Some types of shoes, especially high heels, have erotic and sexual connotations. Femme fatales never wear sneakers! They always walk on black or red, high -heel shoes. Stiletto heels appear to some as a phallic symbol.
Shoes keep our feet warm and protected,so obviously, for some individuals shoes symbolize protection or an environment where one can feel safe.
Old, worn shoes are a symbol of hardships and struggles. An excellent example is that of Van Gogh's stills, where old shoes are depicted as a symbol of hard life.
In christian tradition, the shoemaker's tools are the symbols of St. Crispin and St. Crispianus
The moon is "the Goddess of the Brazen Sandals" and golden and brazen sandals symbolize the full moon. Winged sandals portray fleetness and are an attribute of the messenger gods, especially Hermes/Mercury.
In weddings, shoes used to symbolize the authority of the husband over his wife and some of those traditions survive until today. In the Middle Ages a father passed his authority over his daughter to her husband in a shoe ceremony. At the wedding, the groom handed the bride a shoe, which she put on to show she was then his subject. In China one of the bride's red shoes is tossed from the roof to ensure happiness for the bridal couple. In Hungary the groom drinks a toast to his bride out of her wedding slipper. Today in the U.S. shoes are tied to the bumper of the bridal couple's car. This is a reminder of the days when a father gave the groom one of his daughter's shoes as a symbol of a changing caretaker. Egyptians would also exchange sandals when goods were exchanged so, when the bride's father gave his daughter to the groom, he would also give the bride's sandals to show that she now belonged to her new husband. In Anglo-Saxon times, the groom would tap the heel of the bride's shoe (or possibly strike her with a shoe...sources vary on this point) in order to display his authority over her. The bride would then throw shoes at her bridesmaids to see who would be the next to marry. In Tudor times, it was the custom to throw shoes at the couple or their carriage for good luck.
In gravestone symbolism, empty shoes symbolize the loss of a child. Usually one shoe is overturned. Thus shoes represent human frailty.
In Freudian symbolism, the shoe is the symbol of the vagina, while the foot symbolizes the penis.
One superstition holds that if you place your shoes in the form of a T on the left side of your bed, you are guaranteed to glimpse a vision of your one true love in your dreams
Shoes in Dreams
Shoes are symbols of your own personal determination to head in a particular direction. They tend to link to a wish to put a lot of effort into achieving something immediately. Often a lack of shoes shows that you wish you could head in the direction you wish.
In general, shoes represent your approach to life. Wearing shoes in your dream suggests that you are well-grounded or down to earth. It also represents your convictions about your beliefs. If you are changing your shoes, then it refers to your changing roles. You are taking a new approach to life. If you forget your shoes, then it suggests that you are leaving behind your inhibitions. You are refusing to conform to some idea or attitude.
To see old and worn shoes in your dream indicates that you will find success through hard work and diligence. You have come to terms about who you are.
To dream that you are wearing inappropriate shoes for the occasion or for the activity at hand means that your progress and path in life will be long, hard and laborious. It may also indicate that you are heading in the wrong direction. Perhaps you need to reevaluate your goals. If you dream that your shoes do not fit or that they pinch and hurt, then it means that you are questioning your goals. You are doubting the direction of the path you are taking.
To dream that you are not wearing any shoes indicates that you have low self-esteem and a lack of confidence in yourself. You are dealing with issues about your self-identity. It also represents poverty, lack of mobility, or misunderstanding. Alternatively, to dream that you are not wearing shoes represent your playful attitudes and relaxed, carefree frame of mind. You have a firm grasp and good understanding on a situation. If you dream that you lose your shoes, then it suggests that you are searching for your identity and finding yourself.
( Dream Moods )
They say that if you dream of losing a shoe, predicts illness, while shiny shoes predict happinness and romance. Dusty shoes can indicate travel.
Notice what the shoe in your dream represents for you, personally, to gain insight into its meaning.
Do you ever dream of shoes?
Do they have a positive or negative meaning/symbolism for you?
In Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries heels on shoes were always colored red
This is one of the most comprehensive and well-written books about symbols. I was impressed by the variety of symbols that are examined in this book and I highly recommend it!
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