High style at the Bata Shoe Museum

Monday, January 7th, 2013. Filed under: Architecture ArtSmart Roundtable Canada Lefthandedness

Time for ArtSmart Roundtable, a group of travel bloggers sharing a passion for art and cultural destinations.  This month’s topic is the Best Museum You’ve Never Heard Of. For me that would be the delightful Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.

Venetian Chopine, late 16th century.

I came of age in Bata shoes. Indigo suede ankle boots with rust stars on the ankles (we called them sh*tkickers) were paired with a velvety Napoleonic jacket for my Oliver-esque waif look. When my mother gave me money for back-to-school shoes, I came home with crushed wet-look heels with eight skinny straps across the front. More suitable for the Moulin Rouge than middle school but, amazingly, she didn’t make me take them back. I trekked nearly a mile in them for the first day of Grade 8, wearing a paisley baby cord dress (made by mom), juliet cap (crocheted by mom on request), magenta suede bag and matching dog collar. For a shy kid, I made zero attempt to blend in. Lefthanded me marched to a different drummer, almost always in a pair of sweet Bata kicks.

The Bata family and their shoe manufacturing company had origins in Czechoslovakia. So why a museum in Toronto? Anticipating World War II, Thomas Bata and his wife and partner Sonja relocated to Ontario in 1939, bringing 100 families along to restart manufacturing. The Bata Shoe Museum was founded by Sonja Bata in 1998 to house her extraordinary personal collection of historical footwear.

Today the museum is an internationally-recognized centre for research which maintains and displays a collection of over 13,000 artifacts spanning 4,500 years. The collection includes ancient Egyptian sandals, Japanese snow-stomping fumidawara, silver paduka from India, beautifully beaded Native North American moccasins and glamorous 20th century shoes by Elsa Schiaparelli, Salvatore Ferragamo, Vivienne Westwood and Roger Vivier.

Chestnut crushing clog, 19th century, France.

Historical and celebrity memorabilia in the museum’s permanent collection includes Robert Pattinson’s brogues, the Dalai Lama’s Bata flipflops, Queen Victoria’s slippers and Napoleon’s socks.

The museum’s Star Turns mini theatre provides a soundtrack to the permanent exhibit and features Elton John’s platforms, Elvis Presley’s loafers, Ella Fitzgerald’s velvet pumps, Justin Bieber’s Supras and John Lennon’s Beatle boot.

From Cinderella and Puss n’ Boots to my own middle-school style statements, shoes are much more than an indicator of status, occupation and culture. They’re the stuff of fairytales, fantasy and art.


We all store things in shoe boxes! Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama was inspired by the idea of a shoe box in his design for the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto.

The Bata Shoe Museum is located at 327 Bloor Street West, just a block west of Toronto’s shopping ‘mink mile’.

A vintage Louis Vuitton shoe trunk holds 30 pairs of Downton Abbey era footwear in a temporary exhibit devoted to the 1920s.

The Bata Shoe Museum holds 4,500 years of footwear fashion and history.

Look for the ArtSmart Roundtable at Facebook.com/ArtSmartTravel and check out these posts by other Roundtable members:

Christina – The Copley Library Galleries http://daydreamtourist.com/2013/01/07/copley-library/

Jeff – The Stibbert Museum in Florence, Italy http://www.eurotravelogue.com/2013/01/Stibbert-Museum-in-Florence-Italy.html

Kelly – University Art Galleries http://www.travellious.com/artsmart_roundtable_university_art_galleries

Jenna – Palazzo Strozzi: The Coolest Museum You’ve Never Heard Of  http://thisismyhappiness.com/2013/01/08/palazzo-strozzi/

Leslie – The Museum of London http://cgtravelsblog.com/?p=2807

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