“I love worn shoes as well as new ones, perhaps even more, because they show you that they have been of use to someone.”
Spoken like a true shoe-fetishist, you might be surprised to learn that these words were written by a Danish zoologist 1957 in acknowledgement of his shoe collecting hobby having run a little wild!
Søren Ludvig Tuxen was a prominent researcher within the world of insects, and spent years studying exactly that in Iceland in the 1930’s, when one day he was given a pair of traditional Icelandic shoes, produced through an almost forgotten native craftsmanship. And from then on, Tuxen’s obsession was spurred! He supplemented all his subsequent trips for insect collecting around the world with another quest – the collection of shoes.
Through persistent perseverance, Tuxen managed to establish a collection of more than 250 pairs of shoes from around the world, and as he writes in 1958 in a letter to William Boehmer, a teacher at a Seminole Indian Reservation in Florida, he invested a lot of energy into this endeavour to the point where: ”…my hobby(…) is being more than a hobby after all, so now I call it my ethnographical interest. Since I wrote you my collection of shoes and other foot-wearing in the world has increased immensely”.
Taking great pride in being referred to as the “sko-filial” (“shoe pusher”) of the Danish National Museum, Tuxen, with his collection, mirrors the diversity of the human cultural world through a single item we can all relate to despite differences in appearance – footwear. Some of the shoes were taken off people’s feet by Tuxen himself, others have been bought on markets, and yet others have been made as gifts for Tuxen in demonstration of traditional native craftsmanship and knowledge.
As we know, Museums have no things to present without the hard work of collectors, so, in tribute of the most dedicated shoe fetishist known to Moesgaard Museum, ethnographica.net will showcase examples from Tuxen’s shoe collection on a weekly basis, hopefully reaching other shoe enthusiasts out there!
// Ciara Coogan
Photo of S. L. Tuxen: © Natural History Museum of Denmark. With thanks.
Shoe collection photos: © 2007 Photo/Media Department of Moesgaard Museum.
Byline portrait: © 2015 Line Beck, lbmfotografi.wix.com