Objects of Desire: Color-blocked shoes

Jackie Mantey, Columbus Alive

Fashion has always been a good gauge of where a society's mind is going next. Take the miniskirt. When designer Mary Quant sent it traipsing down British city streets in the 1960s, it made conservative society pee a little in its long, pleated pants. Quant designed the mini, though, for women who had to run to catch a bus to get to work. Enter soon after: a tsunami of second-wave feminism.

I've been thinking about this history lesson while shopping for spring shoes. There are color-blocked high heels and men's dress shoes everywhere. It's a splashy change from last spring's modest, efficient nude shoe trend.

What does it mean?!

Color blocking makes me automatically think of the neo-plasticism artist Piet Mondrian. Even if you don't recognize the name, you've seen his work. Mondrian made those black and white grid paintings with primary colors in various blocks of the grid.

Mondrian's austere but hopeful paintings were all about opposing forces balancing and resting upon each other. With no obvious place for viewers to rest their eyes, his color-blocking technique referenced the internal investigation and maturation we all do when we recognize that the appearance of things is always changing. Everything is in flux.

Maybe color-blocked shoes' popularity over last year's nude shoes hints at our collective psychology getting back on its feet after some pretty righteous kicks to the nads during the recession.

We are considering living on the edge again, but with a cautious optimism. We'll take all that color, but please keep it in blocks, where we can still have some kind of control over it.

Or maybe they're popular only because they're really good-looking shoes. Either way, I hope to see a lot of them around town this season.

Objects of Desire is a biweekly column that explores items Columbus shoppers crave. Follow Jackie Mantey on Twitter at @Jackie_Mantey.