The Postmodern Shoestring
December 4, 2002 4:06 PM   Subscribe

The shoestring (string and shoe holes) was first invented in England in 1790. But there is nothing so simple that man cannot complicate, and so some calculate the optimal way to tie a shoe, some seek zen enlightenment through shoe-tying, and others craft Shoelace Parables to improve psychological health. Contrarians find their peace by eschewing the tying altogether.
posted by rushmc (11 comments total)
welcome to
posted by jonson at 4:12 PM on December 4, 2002

It's quite wierd to think that there is an entire branch of mathematics almost devoted to studying knots...
posted by PenDevil at 4:24 PM on December 4, 2002

O. Lawless life-changing shoelace tip: bunny-ear, bunny-ear, loop TWICE. Doesn't come accidentally undone hardly ever (from Klutz press)
posted by Ogre Lawless at 4:33 PM on December 4, 2002

Alexander, finding himself unable to untie the [Gordian] knot, the ends of which were secretly twisted round and folded up within it, cut it asunder with his sword.


The secret of the Gordian knot seems to have been a religious one, probably the ineffable name of Dionysus, a knot-cipher tied in the rawhide thong....
Alexander's brutal cutting of the knot, when he marshalled his army at Gordium for the invasion of Greater Asia, ended an ancient dispensation by placing the power of the sword above that of religious mysteries.

Robert Graves, The Greek Myths

Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie.

Jean Cocteau

It's a popular image, the Gordian Knot. I read about it in the White Goddess and went looking for an excerpt. This is what all I found. According to Graves, or so I vaguely recall, it was not about becoming king of Asia but of one's self--an esoteric meditative test--he who untied the knot would realize an epiphany, attain enlightenment. Which is what he alludes to above. According to Graves, Alexander cheated. The first link above would have it otherwise.
posted by y2karl at 5:12 PM on December 4, 2002

Hee hee. A few years ago it was fashionable to walk about with one's shoelaces undone. I'm afraid I've been a tripper and trailer ever since. The thing is everyone will stop you and tell you and, as it's not polite enough to just say "Thank you, I know", you have to crouch down, pretend to tie them and walk on.

A lovely post, of the very funny "Humanity, oh the humanity!" kind. Thanks, rushmc.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:20 PM on December 4, 2002

Excellent. I absolutely hate shoelaces and think they're one of the worst inventions ever, so since about four years ago, I've abandoned them.

Shoelaces are one of those many things that have held on simply because they're the 'accepted way', much like the stick-shift in Europe. Get into the 21st century folks.
posted by wackybrit at 6:59 PM on December 4, 2002

That's why I wear Blundstone boots and shoes.
posted by titboy at 7:23 PM on December 4, 2002

Dammit, I just wasted a half-hour or more trying to dig up exactly that link (re: efficient lacing). Shoulda come over here first!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:51 PM on December 4, 2002

My favorite shoes have velcro "laces". I mean, it's just for pulling them on and running out to the convenience store. Still, until recently, I've gotten the odd snicker from people who think of velcro as training laces for little kids.

We also had an undone-laces fad where I grew up. It seems about as dumb as the hanging your pants halfway down your ass fad.

As for Alexander, it has been said that in the cutting of the Gordian knot is defined the difference between East and West. One imagines that continues to have a certain relevance.
posted by dhartung at 10:11 PM on December 4, 2002

As for Alexander, it has been said that in the cutting of the Gordian knot is defined the difference between East and West. One imagines that continues to have a certain relevance.

What the Hell are you talking about? Alexander tried to fuse elements of Greek and Persian, the East of his time, very much against the wishes of his Macedonian regulars, especially when he assumed the role of God King, and allowed temples to be built to himself. Deified rulers was one concept unfortunately adopted by Alexander, his successors and later the Romans to the detriment of all.

Cutting the Gordian Knot was a nascent God King's response, the arrogance of which was never matched by the carefully ecumenical and impartial, Persian Kings themselves, who were respectful and pious towards all faiths, honored all shrines and did not insist on being treated as Gods, being Zoroastrians themselves--remember, for example, it was Cyprus who let the Jews out of their Babylonian captivity. One imagines these so-called differences between the East and West are merely a piece of content free undemonstrated straw man rhetoric, which makes no sense in regards to the acts or nature of Alexander himsel .
posted by y2karl at 12:24 PM on December 5, 2002

Cyrus not Cyprus...
posted by y2karl at 12:25 PM on December 5, 2002

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