Saturday March 27, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Shoelace

On this Day:

In 1790, the modern shoelace with an aglet was patented in England by Harvey Kennedy. However, trying to determine when the first shoelace was invented is a knotty problem. 

It is as difficult to determine the exact history of shoelaces as it is for shoes. Archaeological records of footwear are rare because shoes were generally made of materials that deteriorated readily. The Areni-1 shoe, which has been dated to around 3500 BC, is a simple leather “shoe” with leather “shoelaces” passing through slotted “eyelets” cut into the hide. The more complex shoes worn by Ötzi the Iceman, who lived around 3300 BC, were bound with “shoelaces” made of lime bark string.

As for shoelaces in the sense that we know them in modern times, the Museum of London has documented examples of medieval footwear dating from as far back as the 12th century, which clearly show the lacing passing through a series of hooks or eyelets down the front or side of the shoe and being tied in a knot rather than hanging loose. Indeed the code of the Knights Templar banned the wearing of shoelaces as a vanity that was “abominable and pagan”.

A popular myth states that Gurkha soldiers, fighting for Britain, crawled along the ground, feeling the laces of the soldiers they encountered. British soldiers employed straight- or bar-lacing, while Japanese troops employed a criss-cross pattern. Criss-cross laces could therefore mean the difference between life and death. The importance of correct lacing was thus emphasized to British troops. Whether true or not, there is an account of Gurkha soldiers checking the boots and laces of soldiers they encounter in the dark to find if they are friend or foe.

There are many shoelace accessories. There are hooks to help lace shoelaces tightly. They are especially useful for skates where tight lacing is important. Shoelace covers protect the laces, especially in wrestling. Shoelace charms are decorative, as are colored shoelaces. Some laces are colored using expensive dyes, other, more “personal” colors, are drawn-on with permanent markers. Some dress codes (especially high schools) will specifically exclude color laces and charms. Lace-locks hold laces together, eliminating the need for tying. There are shoelace tags, sometimes called deubré, with two holes or slots through which the shoelace is passed. These are worn on the section of shoelace closest to the toes, in other words the last lace, so that the image or writing on the tag is visible (per Wikipedia). 

First, a Story:

Three shoelaces are walking together when they come across a bar.

A sign in front of the bar reads: “No shoelaces allowed”. 

The first shoelace says, “No sign can stop me!” and walks into the bar.

The barkeeper notices the shoelace, and says, “Hey! You’re a shoelace!  No shoelaces are allowed in my bar!” And he grabs the shoelace by the neck, and throws him out.

The second shoelace says: “No sign can keep me out of that bar!” as he marches into the bar. The barkeep notices the second shoelace and grabs him by the neck, and throws him out of the bar.

The third shoelace ties himself up as many times as he can, and proceeds to throw himself on the ground and rolls in the dust and dirt over and over and over. Finally the shoelace gets up and makes his way into the bar.  The barkeep says: “Hey! Aren’t you a shoelace!” The third shoelace replies: “No, I’m a frayed knot.”

Second, a Song:

Dodie Stevens (born Geraldine Ann Pasquale, February 17, 1946) is an American rock and pop singer. She is best known for her 1959 song “Pink Shoe Laces.” It debuted at #96 on the Billboard Hot 100 when Stevens was one day short of 13 years old, and eventually peaked at #3.

Stevens was born in Chicago, Illinois. She and her family moved to the San Gabriel Valley in California when she was three. She soon started taking singing and dancing lessons. In 1954, at the age of eight, she recorded her first song, “Merry-Go Merry-Go Round.” The song was performed on the Art Linkletter’s House Party TV show and was issued on Gold Star Records under the name Geri Pace.

The president of Crystalette Records, Carl Burns, happened to see her in a local show called Strictly Informal. He gave her the name Dodie Stevens and the song “Pink Shoe Laces”. Although Stevens did not initially like her new name or the song, she recorded “Pink Shoe Laces” in 1959 for the Crystalette label, and the song was picked up by Dot for National distribution. It reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, selling more than one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. Following the song’s success, Dot Records signed her to a recording contract. Her first Dot recording was “Mairzy Doats” (Dot 16002) in 1959. In the early 1960s, she had several minor hit singles on Dot, including “No” (Dot 16103) and “Yes I’m Lonesome Tonight” (Dot 16167), as well as “Merry, Merry Christmas Baby” (M. Sylvia / G. Lopez) (Dot 16166), which continues to enjoy airplay during the Christmas season. Dot also released Dodie’s cover of the Patsy Cline hit “I Fall to Pieces” (Dot 16200) in 1961, and a remake of “Pink Shoe Laces” (Dot 16389) in 1962. 

Stevens appeared in the following films:

Hound-Dog Man (1959) as Nita Stringer

Alakazam the Great aka Saiyu-Ki (1961) as DeeDee the Monkey

Convicts 4 (1962) as Resko’s sister

Stevens married at the age of sixteen and moved to Missouri to live on a farm. A few years later, she had a daughter, Stephanie. Soon thereafter, in 1966, she ended her marriage and resumed her singing career. In 1969, she once again appeared in the Billboard charts, peaking at #117 pop, #57 country, with “Billy, I’ve Got to Go to Town” (an answer record to “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”), recorded under the name Geraldine Stevens. She took additional vocal lessons and in 1972 began appearing and recording with Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’77. In the ensuing years she toured as a backup singer with such recording artists as Loretta Lynn, Frankie Avalon, and Boz Scaggs, and for twelve years with Mac Davis. In the 1990s, as Geri Stevens, she toured with Fabian and her own company “Dodie Stevens and The Pink Shoe Laces Review.” Recently, she has performed with her daughter Stephanie and appeared at oldies concerts across the country. She also teaches singing and stage performance out of her studio in San Diego County.

“Pink Shoe Laces” has appeared in the game LittleBigPlanet 3 and the television show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (per Wikipedia).

Here is Dodie Stevens performing “Pink Shoe Laces” from 1959.  I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“All my life I have apparently been tying my shoelaces wrong, there is a much more mathematically beautiful way of doing it, that I was shown by Bill Nye – with Neil deGrasse Tyson looking on.” – David Hewlett

Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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