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Why I always wear cuban heeled boots

You can tell a lot about someone’s sensibilities based on their footwear decisions. Whether it be celebrities wearing sneakers and suits to the Met Gala, the extensive sneaker collections of NBA players or college students on their way to Angell Hall at the University of Michigan, footwear tells you who someone is, whether they consciously realize it or not.

Shoes serve as both a quintessential element of anyone’s personal style journey and an undeniably pivotal element of any wardrobe. My footwear choices have always been very conscious. I see the shoes I decide to lace (or zip) up as an extension of myself, my interests and my idiosyncrasies. “Choices” is a word that I apply liberally here: Almost every day, I wear the same pair of black leather Cuban heeled boots from 2006 that I purchased from a secondhand store a few years ago. Cuban heels represent a transitory period in my life — a period when, for the first time, I found myself experiencing some semblance of comfort and agency when dressing. This change in my attitude toward dressing is a microcosm of a paradigm shift in my life during which I began to develop a distinguishable identity — something that tells you who I am — in my stylistic journey, but more importantly, in my personal one. 

One of the beauties of dressing is that it is an art form. In a history class last semester, the professor introduced us to Carl L. Becker’s concept, “Everyman His Own Historian.” This is the idea that everyone, no matter their social status, contributes to the grand construction of history. I’d like to modernize Becker’s idea and apply it to the practice of personal style. Instead of “Everyman His Own Historian,” let’s neutralize the phrase’s gendered nature, appropriate it for our needs and say, “Everyone Their Own Artist.” 

While the artists we frequently discuss display their work on runways at Paris Fashion Week, the artists we engage with in actuality are those we walk past every day on the street or randomly encounter in lecture halls and other public spaces. Applying the modernization of Becker from earlier, when I decide what to wear, I’m engaging in artistic dialogue. The Cuban heels of my boots represent a certain elegance that I hold very dear, the slimness of the shaft characterizes a sleekness that works in tandem with the elegance of the heel and the leather is reminiscent of my favorite fashion shows from the early 2000s, which influenced my perception of myself and my style. Art seeks to make sense of the world that creates it. Encapsulated in artwork are not only the values of the artist but also the values of the society that helped shape the artist. The fact that I take influence from fashion shows held over a decade ago in a country I have never been to is a symptom of the internet — an important element, for better or worse, of the society I grew up in, which has therefore shaped me.

You don’t need a degree in fashion design from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp to engage with and understand the deeply universal language of art, just like you don’t need a doctorate in medieval and early modern studies to engage in the ever-evolving narrative of history. Everyone tells their own story. I tell a small part of mine with the clacking noise my worn-out 18-year-old boots make as I walk into class and, through that practice, I am, knowingly or not, being my own artist — even if all it took was zipping up a pair of boots.

Daily Arts Contributor Rose Iorio can be reached at [email protected].

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