Shoe fetishism (also known as retifism from the French novelist Nicolas-Edme Rétif, 1734–1806) involves being irrationally or abnormally fixated on shoes or other footwear to the extent that it may interfere with sexual expression. Although shoes carry sexual connotations in mainstream culture, this is not generally considered to be shoe fetishism.
Shoe fetishists often fixate on extreme shoes which are designed as fetishwear, although fixation on typical high-street shoes, or other types of shoes, is also common. High-heeled shoes are often triggers for foot fetishists. High-heeled shoes or boots help to elongate the calf, protruding the buttocks and creating a longer-legged appearance which is generally considered to be more sexually attractive. They also reveal the sole of the shoe, which becomes an eroticised "second skin" taking on the erotic role of the sole of the foot. Shoe fetishists often fixate on stiletto heeled shoes and boots, where the stiletto heel is eroticised in itself.
This can be seen in a super-stimulus form within the adult entertainment industry, and particularly pornography, where women wear very high heeled shoes. It is not uncommon for actresses in modern pornographic movies to wear stiletto-heeled platform shoes with a platform of 3-4 inches and a heel height of 6-9 inches. Similar sized heels are often worn by exotic dancers and strippers. These exaggerated heels are not practical and are worn for the sexual gratification of the viewer.
The most common image of a dominatrix is of a woman in thigh-length high-heeled leather boots or riding boots. Thigh-length high-heeled leather boots are generally only worn as fetish wear.
There are also entire sexual subcultures revolving around other types of shoe fetishism—sandals, combat/work boots, kinky boots, and sneakers are particularly common fetish-objects. The boot fetish is usually more common amongst gay men, but can be seen among all genders and orientations. Some shoe fetishists fixate on the smell of shoes, either the smell of leather or rubber or the smell of worn shoes, which combine these smells with foot odor. Where the foot odor is very strong, this can be regarded as a form of mysophilia.
One theory of shoe fetishism, as well as of foot fetishism, is that an infant's experience of their mother in many cultures may involve crawling around their feet. If sexual behavioural imprinting occurs during this time, it may lead to the feet or shoes becoming the primary object of arousal.
The British TV series The Avengers often featured fetishistic clothing, and Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman released a single, "Kinky Boots". The Avengers also featured costumes by the fetish fashion designer John Sutcliffe, who at one time designed a "boot suit", which comprised a pair of thigh-length boots, which carried on to join at the crotch, and carried on upwards to become an entire catsuit with a hood.
Some shoes designed for fetish wear can be locked on, so the wearer cannot remove them without a key. This is usually done with padlocks on the ankle straps. These are often shoes with high heels and difficult to walk in. They thus induce a sense of helplessness in the wearer. Such shoes are particularly popular among male transvestites, as they are a way of trapping the man in female clothes.
- Sexual fetishism
- Foot fetishism
- Platform shoe
- Kinky boot
- High heels
- Trampling fetishism
- Ballet boot
- Shoe gag
- Suspender boot
- Tickling boots
- Transmuter boot
- Wellington boot
- The 1960s in shoes
- The History of Footwear—Foot Sex
- "If The Shoe Fits, Worship It": Observations on Shoe Fetish by a Professional Dominatix
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