Saturday, April 14, 2018

A brief history of the Twist

After the deeply sexual couplings of rock & roll, the '60's brought a very strange phenomenon i.e. a dance with absolutely no body contact. Permissive society had arrived and there was no need to simulate it on the dance floor. Instead adults adopted the music and style, and moved the 'in crowd' from dancehalls to small clubs or discos. In 1959, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters recorded a song called "Teardrops On Your Letter" with a B side called, "The Twist."

When it began to catch on Cameo-Parkway released a cover version by Ernest Evans under the name, Chubby Checker. The record was an enormous hit, twice in a space of two years (September, 1960 and January, 1962). The Twist became a national phenomenon spinning off countless twist records for Checker and others.

The twist was described as a dance, which required you to initially move the shoes in a left and right fashion as if stubbing out a cigarette, then to combine this with swinging the arms and hips as if an imaginary towel was drying the back. Clothes became more tailored and suits for men were the order of the day.

Wrinkle pickers or needlepoint shoes replaced the cumbersome crepe soled shoes. They were lightweight streamlined shoes with dandy looks yet menacingly dangerous. Winkle pickers were the second generation rockers and very much the property of the early sixties generation. The pointed toes were a reworking of the notorious poulaines of the Middle Ages. These were outrageously phallic and distinctly male.

Courtship took place on the dance floor and ability 'swing right' was caught in many of the contemporary lyrics e.g. Let's dance by Chris Montez and Twisting the Night Away by Sam Cooke.

The 1950's considered the heel of the female foot particularly erotic. Mules were all the rage, and attention was drawn to the naked heel by novel designs. The Stiletto heel was introduced in 1952 and was 4" in height. It was on a classic pump with a pointed toe. Known as the "Cobblers Delight" because the bottom tips needed frequent replacement. The heels pierced floors and were banned in aircraft and many public buildings. Despite their bad reputation by the end of the 50's stilettos were the only shoes a fashionable woman wore. High heels were considered symbols of playful defiance, and heightened sexuality; the shoes became the trademarks of the naughty girl. The height and size of shoes have erotic connotations.

High heels are considered to make even the average bottom look more pert, round and trim. According to experts buttocks protrude by 25% just by wearing ankle breakers. Effects on the posture have been studied and the change in the body's centre of mass causes the back to curve, breasts to project forward, the buttocks to hike up and the legs to look and sexy. The calves and ankles appear shapelier and the arches heave from the shoes. According to psychologist Lloyd-Elliott the length of the leg is an arousal signal. They were less concerned with what the shoe looked like than what it could do for their bodies. Later the advent of seamless stockings without heel reinforcement brought the sling back into fashion.

All at a time when the London-based designer Mary Quant, introduced the miniskirt.

Reviewed 10/02/2016

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