Bata Shoe Museum is literally a museum of footwear. I made jokes of the museum probably smelling like feet but Paul nor Julienne laugh. Well, Julienne did a little but only because there was a presence of another company so I shut up.
It’s an 8-minute drive from Casa Loma. We stopped by a sleek grey modern-looking building. Paul said by learning about the shoes we learn about Canada’s culture. How can he say that with a sober face?
Julienne and I entered the building and into a semi-permanent exhibition. We paused and looked around. It’s an elaborate, clean and artistic display that is almost scientific in positioning. Another glance at the sign says it features Native North American Footwear. It was something I’d never expect for something that only features shoes. Julienne tugged my hand with barely controlled 8-year-old enthusiasm, her ingrained love for shoes rising.
I don’t want to sound like I’m stereotyping but it’s obvious that women love shoes. Not only do the native women make them, they do elaborate fringed, beaded and tufted designs because they like how pretty it looks. They have a tough job sewing animal skins together with dried sinew yet they do it because it’s pretty and they wear them. Cherokee women favour black buckskin because the dark pigment brings out the colour of the beads. Lakota women could have made practical shoes but they sometimes make moccasins have fully beaded soles.
“There are some things I’ll never understand,” I told my wife, “Who needs fully beaded soles? Didn’t dirt get stuck between the beads and get harder to clean?”
Julienne just gave me a look that can dry a wet dog before walking off to another exhibit. I rolled my eyes and followed suit.
Next we visited an exhibition about how the founder collected shoes around the world while accompanying her husband in a business trip.
I bet you rolled that sentence around your head one more time. I guess collecting old, used footwear can also be art.
I blandly looked at a crummy piece of cowhide used to be someone’s slipper. Quaint.
“But,” my darling wife argued, “Imagine it having stepped on African soil. It suddenly becomes interesting.”
The wooden clog of the Dutch makes more sense. It was said to be made from a less absorbent wood that is perfect in working with wet, spring soil.
Another thing that was memorable was the boots of the last Mongalian ruler’s first wife. It has a brown background with artistically loop rainbow-blending colours. Julienne and I stared at it for a while trying to figure out how did they do that. We never did.
Too bad the Sneaker Exhibition isn’t ready yet. I would have loved to see that. Correction, the inner teenager would have loved to see that. He’d probably worship them and become a priest of soles.
Julienne didn’t laugh at that one too.
We have also seen another semi-permanent exhibition, “All about Shoes: Footwear throughout the Ages”. Now I understand why Paul said about learning shoes, we learn history. I cannot shake off the image of metallic prawns that are the armour shoes worn in Germany around the 1490s. My mind also kept generating sassy remarks at the old-fashioned shoes that look silly at this time. Such as the button boots that has to be buttoned all the way to your mid-shin. Imagine minutes consumed by buttoning one shoe. How about a pair of them?
All in all, I did have fun in Bata Shoes Museum. In their own way, they are artistic and interesting. I have the most fun trying to figure out what the shoes are for, like the French Chestnut Crushing Clogs. I did have a fleeting urge to try it. But I repeat; it was only fleeting.