Did you know that there used to be a “National Barefoot Freedom Week”? It was officially designated for the years 1959 through 1966, inclusive, and, from what I can tell, ran from the Saturday through Saturday that included October 1st.
But before you read further, you need to lower the gain on your irony meters.
National Barefoot Freedom Week really wasn’t well-organized in 1959. There were a few announcements in the newspapers, but not much. But it really got organized the next year. There were lots of articles.
Here’s a little teaser from January 20, 1960, from the column from somebody named Hal Boyle.
1960—Our Celebratingest Year!
America has a tradition of proclaiming and observing special occasions. It is a custom that goes clear back to the Pilgrims and their first Thanksgiving Day. Now every year we find more and more things to celebrate.
* * *
Among the newcomers this year are National Barefoot Freedom Week, International Carillon Day and National Mayonnaise and Salad Week.
But here’s the real kick-off article, from September 29, 1960. Hold onto your hats.
National Barefoot Week Announced
National Barefoot Freedom Week is one of the newest of all the special weeks that are promoted from Coast to Coast.
This week is dedicated to the millions of women and young women who suffer foot discomfort, hence should be interested in enjoying the barefoot freedom which was theirs when children. What grown-up doesn’t recall the pleasant memories when, as a shoeless youngster, he waded the pool, flew a kite, walked through cool meadows.
I already see one problem. The week is supposedly dedicated to women, but it hearkens back to the pleasure that woman had as a little boy.
But it gets better. Continuing . . .
Shoe dealers who are cooperating in the promotion of National Barefoot Week say that millions of work hours – at home, in office, in factory, in the schoolroom – are lost by women and young women who are handicapped by feet that hurt. It is their contention that many shoes are not correctly designed for foot comfort, others are not scientifically fitted. Incidentally they make a persuasive case for the low-heel oxford as opposed to high-style shoes, most of which are equipped with “match” heels that are said to do the feet no good.
“National Barefoot Freedom Week” is all about shoes? Shades of “barefoot running” when they really mean minimalist.
I guess there’s a sucker born every minute, and even back then the shoe manufacturers were hard at it thinking that “shod” meant “barefoot”.
Oh, and what do these “low-heel” oxfords look like? Here’s an example from another advertisement. It’s called “The Platoe”. Ha-ha. Get it?
Here’s how the ad ends.
In connection with National Barefoot Freedom Week, the shoe merchants point out that foot ills are to be left to the trained minds and hands of the doctor; members of the profession interest themselves in the shoe that is designed to prevent or forestall foot troubles.
Thompson’s Store in Bedford is cooperating in the promotion of National Barefoot Freedom Week.
Oh, yeah. Because they can count on podiatrists to proclaim how much a foot needs support and encourage shoe-buying.
By 1962 they’d changed their ad copy to emphasize how much we use our feet. (And I say “ad copy” because these are really just stories provided to the newspapers to fill column-inches.)
According to a recently published statement, the average American takes 18,000 steps a day on feet that contain 26 bones and 33 joints. Active children take about 30,000.
This item, together with such information as the fact that a housewife walks 3-½ miles a day, is being emphasized by shoes stores throughout the country in connection with the Fourth Annual National Barefoot Freedom Week (Sept. 29 through Oct. 6 inclusive). Because the feet are active to such an amazing extent, these stores are emphasizing the importance of perfect fitting and comfort via low heels for women of all ages so that they may enjoy the barefoot freedom of childhood.
Do they even think people see the contradiction here? Shoes are not “barefoot freedom”.
I got a real kick out of one of the ads (this was a real advertisement) touting the Week, and the shoes:
Shoemaker’s magic, plus modern styling, have converted what were once know as “old ladies’ shoes” into modernly-styled, luxuriously comfortable “Miller ‘Barefoot Freedom’ Comfort Shoes”.
Yes, they are selling “old ladies’ shoes” and calling them “barefoot freedom”.
By the way, “Barefoot Freedom” is their trademarked name for their line of shoes. So even the name “Barefoot Freedom” Week was a free advertisement.
The “Barefoot Freedom” line still exists. The Miller Shoe Company was at some point sold to the Drew Shoe Corporation, and they sell an orthotic-like shoe. Here’s one of them, the “Geneva”.
You can see the standard sales jargon, and that they are listed under the “Barefoot Freedom” line of shoes. (My brain still squinches with that juxtaposition.) Well, at least it doesn’t have that ridiculous heel.
But wait, there’s more.
Here’s the “Gloria”.
For that shoe they don’t even have much of a description (but we do find out that it has a solid steel shank—you know, to make sure your arch doesn’t have a chance to flex and actually exercise your foot.)
What really gets me, though, is that I looked up where the Drew Shoe Corporation is located: Lancaster, Ohio. That’s about 15 miles away from where I live. Snort.
But everybody wasn’t buying it back then. Here’s something from the editorial page of a newspaper (The Daily Messenger, Canadaigua, New York) in September of 1963:
Hucksters At Work
And would you believe it . . . September 28 through October 5 is National Barefoot Freedom Week!
(At first that last title threw us almost as much as Measure Your Mattress Month did. But careful research revealed that the purpose of National Barefoot Freedom Week is “to interest women in sensible shoes so they can enjoy barefoot freedom.”)
See . . . It’s all very simple . . . Or is it, rather, just all very stupid?
I find it interesting that “National Barefoot Freedom Week” ended in 1966. I’m guessing that by then, there were so many young people really going barefoot (and the other, older half of the population was pissed at them) that it just didn’t do a very good job of selling shoes any more.
(Actually, I did find some later references, but by then it was just called “Miller Barefoot Freedom Week”, and it was only in paid ads. By then I guess they no longer succeeded in getting the newspapers to write articles about them.)