“It is said that one should never judge a book by its cover, but I believe footwear is a good indication,” pens Daphne Guinness in the opening line of Shoes A-Z by Taschen, and we agree with the sentiment. Shoes are a gateway to personality, the final flourish in making an outfit, and so much more than merely a practical and protective accessory that stands between us and the ground. Historically a symbol of status and always an indicator of taste and a means of expression, the shoes we decide to wear speak before we do.

Shoes A-Z. The Collection of The Museum at FIT, is a dazzling anthology featuring over 400 styles plucked from the museum’s extensive archive. Step into the minds of design legends such as Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin and Roger Vivier, delving deep into four centuries of footwear history. This opulent compendium is host to a treasure trove of original sketches, private photos and never-seen-before archival pieces, tracing footwear across a shifting historical landscape.

The immeasurably subversive Dame Vivienne Westwood was known for throwing out the accepted rules of style and bringing a punk sensibility to high fashion, and her provocative shoe designs were no exception. Here, she serves us a dose of the obscure with these iconic black leather mules, moulded to the shape of the wearer's feet. First spotted on the runway in Spring 2000, this extreme take on a heeled mule is an example of Westwood’s teeter on the edge of good and of bad taste. With contemporary runways seeing a revival of so-called “extreme fashion”, our current obsession with metamorphosis perhaps owes its origins to Vivienne Westwood’s rebellious spirit.

These Comme Des Garçons, pale pink ballet pumps from Spring 2005 give the dainty elegance of the classic slip-on instant contemporary twist, with the wrap of a black elastic strap and glossy patent sheen. An example of the cyclical nature of fashion, and the generational spanning capacity of an iconic shoe these OG Y2K shoes feel bang on trend today. You can read more about our lust for the ballet pump here…

No collection of this calibre would be complete without the sublime creations of Mr. Manolo Blahnik. As the book tells us in no uncertain terms, “no shoe designer is as influential and culturally recognisable” as Mr. Blahnik Beloved by Carrie Bradshaw and Princess Di alike, the signature Manolo silhouette epitomises easy elegance and he is almost single-handedly credited with reviving the stiletto. These outlandish Blahnik boots, adorned with red and orange pressed shearling and Burgundy suede, might be among his bolder creations but none-the-less brilliantly showcase his commitment to beauty, craft and innovation in equal measure.

For the real shoe aficionados, this book will sit in pride of place on their bookshelf treasured like an artefact. For the rest of us, it’s a glimmering and educational journey through the evolution of shoes that you’ll want to dip into time and again, plus it can be enjoyed without giving up an inch of one’s shoe rack.

From practical origins to the profound cultural signifiers of today, and with exciting examples carefully hand-picked from across four centuries, this book brings the museum’s extraordinary collection to life.

Discover more and buy the book here...

By Ella de Peretti