Ghillie – a shoe with distinctive loops and cross-lacing.
Spring is nearly here, time to get your ghillies on.
Why? A marvellous synthesis of function and fashion; ghillies are comfortable, feminine, balletic (but far from flimsy) and they look great with skirts and trousers.
And more than just another pair of shoes; they’ve huge heritage and flair:
Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries there was a massive ‘land-grab’ of sorts across Scotland and the northern borders – traditional holdings, feudal territories and regal estates splintered and fell to opportunistic robber barons and warlords. And so developed the clan system, to protect their wins and spoils. Life was defined by honour and bravery and lived on the move – through bogs and rivers and bracken and heather, scaling the highlands or scrambling the lowlands.
To go with the tartan kilt that determined the man’s clan, a shoe was needed with form and function. And so came the ghillie. Early versions were made of deerskin; cut and shaped to the foot, pierced with holes and then laced.
This practical design proved long-lasting on treks across rivers, creeks and marshes. The holes let water out – so the wearer avoided problems like trenchfoot. They were also tongueless so they would dry more quickly. And the long laces, wrapped and tied around the ankle, prevented the shoes from coming off when being pulled through the mud.
and Highland Flings:
After the battle, came the celebrations and likely borne was the Highland Fling. A vigorous dance requiring delicate balance and precision; it’s history is a heady mix of folklore, cultural influences and need for national identity. Performed in 4/4 time, it consists of a series of intricate steps performed on one spot. Especially the light step- in which the dancer hops on one foot while moving the other foot in front of and behind the calf.
Today the dance is regularly performed at the Highland Games held throughout Scotland. But ghillies became the preferred style of dance shoes for more practical and aesthetic reasons. The soft shoes suited the ballet-type steps and had the strength for vigorous dancing as well. And dancers wanted to wear something typically Scottish, and so continued the shoe style of their forebears.
and then Fashion Item – from the 20th century on, ghillies have been a footwear statement for all types of wearers;
1930s Posh Ghillies: Favoured by The Bloomsbury set, the social group who liked to think of themselves as hard-working, free-thinking and gifted intellectuals; epitomized by best-selling novelists Virginia Woolf and Nancy Mitford, the modernist painters Vanessa Bell and Nina Hamnett, and ballerina Anna Pavlova. Along with the unravelling of social propriety amongst the upper middle classes and the formal etiquette of dress, they often wore ghillie shoes.
1940s Sporty Ghillies:
1990s Platform Ghillies:
The moment Model Naomi Campbell fell on the catwalk – in a pair of Vivienne Westwood 9″ shoes
Today we’ve every kind, from Sandal Ghillies
to Sneaker Ghillies:
Asymmetric Ghillie Sneakers are coming for 2017 Spring/Summer
Featured Image: Gucci A/W 2015