the posture of an era

Legendary street photographer Bill Cunningham is an observer of subtle shifts in the city’s seasons and moods. On his walks and bike rides around town he takes pictures that together constitute an archive of the ephemeral: style.

In his January 23 dispatch from the streets he discusses the way footwear, in this case the high-heeled ankle boot, can define an era. He points out the 7-year life cycle of the fashion trend, which go hand in hand with shifts in the relationship between ankle-boot-wearing women and their urban environment.

Being one such ankle-boot-wearing New York lady, I appreciate Bill’s sensitivity to the huge difference a shoe makes in posture and movement–in the way I travel through city streets, in my body’s lines of flight. He picks up on the crossed-leg posture that seems to come with the shoes. While I’m not a leg-crosser, the way I stand, my attitude, the way I imagine the potentials in my relationship to other walkers is certainly shaped in no small way by the sort of shoes I wear. One might say that choosing shoes for the day is a way of selecting a mood, a way of approaching the town, and my fellow urbanites.

Style and fashion–the fabrics, cuts, shapes, and the ‘postures’ that come with them are as much archives of urban experience, as any documents down at City Hall. Maybe even more so!

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