The Excessively Long Shoes Vonnegut Saw Coming

Flip-flop around as an individual.

Paulina Lenoir

Central Saint Martins graduate Paulina Lenoir has a problem with the daily commute. As she sees it, we’ve let efficiency overtake individuality while we ride the piss-soaked subway or avoid a howling street preacher. We disrupt our natural rhythms to get to our air-conditioned office as quickly as possible when we could enjoy another few minutes sweating at a crosswalk.

As Wired reports, Lenoir offers a solution to the droning monotony of the urban working life: really big shoes.

Lenoir’s grad project is a pair of “excessively long shoes [that] are a way of consciously imposing a slower pace on oneself.” The wearer plods down the street in Lenoir’s shoes, making his own way through the world as others speed around him. Although he’s still going to work, Lenoir writes that he “can transcend the ordered structure created by the urban environment by becoming aware of how we are succumbing to externally imposed rhythms.”

Lenoir preaches individuality in the explanation of her work. Certainly, the shoe wearer is unique among a crowd. There is, however, a strange, dark irony to the project that recalls Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian short story “Harrison Bergeron.” In “Bergeron,” extraordinary individuals are externally disabled to create a seemingly egalitarian society. Lenoir’s creation (not intended for commercial release) feels a lot like the chains forced on ballerinas in “Bergeron.” The paradox of individuality here is that it’s a detriment to self-expression.

But really, he just looks super funny waddling up some stairs.

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