Friday, October 19, 2012

A Sister and her Shoes

A pair of Aiesha Pettis's shoes
A few years ago when I began organizing our first "style and politics" exhibit, I wanted to include a feature on shoes. When I asked around about what black women students I should talk to, a few people looked at me strange. The question about shoes wasn't odd, what was strange, some thought, was that I didn't know the apparently obvious choice of the person I needed to consult on the subject.

"Everybody knows about Aiesha and her shoes," someone told me, referring to Aiesha Pettis, who was in fact one of my former students.

Aiesha and I had talked frequently over the years since she arrived at the university. Somehow though, I had missed the detail that she has such a high level of expertise when it comes to thinking and talking about shoes. Then again, she had taken a first-year college orientation course with me, and the subject of shoes never came up.

When I interviewed her for our first style exhibit, I quickly became aware that Aiesha's interests had been hidden in plain site from me for years. Influenced by her mother's vast collection, Aiesha had been developing her own shoe holdings for many years. In the course of a month, it's unlikely to see Aiesha wearing the same pair of shoes twice.

Her collection is substantial, but not necessarily flashy. If you don't have some level of knowledge about women's shoes, you might overlook the diversity and significance of Aiesha's shoe selections. Like me, you could under-appreciate the degrees to which she's styling.

Related posts: A Notebook on style

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