Today is a good day to celebrate shoes – leather and rubber shoes in particular. Because today we commemorate the day in 1945 when the US government announced the end of shoe rationing.

In the Second World War, many things were rationed in various parts of the world, due to production delays, lack of raw materials, etc. As it happens, one of these was shoes (here’s a nice story about the WWII shoe rationing in the US). Apparently, serious rubber shortages at the time meant that rubber shoes were in very short supply, and the military’s leather requirements (for boots, jackets and more) resulted in limitations also being placed on leather shoes.

Having more than one pair of rubber work boots in the home must have been quite a luxury in the early 1940s.
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From 1942, rubber boots and rubber work shoes were rationed – you had to apply for a new pair at a rationing board, and if your application was approved, you had to turn in your old pair. And only work shoes were allowed – no sports sneakers could be purchased. Similarly, rationing of leather shoes started in 1943. Each person (adult and child) was allowed up to 3 pairs of new leather shoes per year, bought using special rationing stamps.

And then, on 30 October 1945 – a happy day for shoe lovers! – the rationing was lifted. Men were again able to buy as many pairs of work boots as they liked. Shoe addicts were no longer bound by the painful limit of three pairs of new must-have’s a year. Children could get all the shoes they needed to accommodate their growing feet. And athletes could burn through as many pairs of sneakers as they wanted.

I for one would have easily been able to carry on as normal during the great WWII shoe rationing – shoes are practical things, after all, and surely don’t need replacing until they fall apart, do they? And, in most cases, they’re not even good for you – as I’ve mentioned before, you’re definitely better off going barefoot when possible. So the whole shoe addiction thing is a bit of a mystery to me.

After 1945, those who cannot say no to a pretty shoe could again shop to their heart’s content.
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In trying to add a bit of science to this post, I thought I might be able to find some research on the topic of shoe addiction, but alas, that seems to be a field of study that’s still wide open for psychologists and cognitive scientists. And it’s not as if there’s a lack of outspoken test subjects out there – just Google “shoe addiction” and you will be swamped in millions of blog-posts and other articles from self-confessed shoe addicts. From the average girl next door who would happily forego food for a week to afford another special pair of shoes, to Danielle Steele, who apparently owns in excess of 6000 pairs (quite an interesting addiction, by the way, for a writer who, one would assume, should be spending a significant amount of her time in front of a keyboard…).

So, where do you stand on the shoe debate – are they an undeniable passion or a necessary evil?


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