Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Talking Australian : Shoey and the lexicon of grog

Formula 1 champion , Daniel Ricciardo likes to celebrate his victories by drinking Champagne from his shoe. Now dubbed a 'Shoey celebration, the owners of Formula One (F1) have trademarked the term, ‘Shoey’ as the podium celebration of drinking champagne from a shoe. Daniel Ricciardo is an Australian and has got his celebrity friends, Sir Patrick Stewart and Gerard Butler to join him for a shoe full of champagne after winning races.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), F1’s branding department Formula One Licensing was granted a trademark registration to the word ‘Shoey’ in 2017, in 25 countries including the United States, Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom . The registration is only for one category but does cover flasks, glasses, bottles, mugs, sculptures and figurines. Many expect ‘licenced’ shoe-shaped beer steins and drinking trophies to be on sale over the coming months.

Daniel Ricciardo is not the first sportsman to celebrate by driking from his shoe, and that accolade goes to fellow Australian, Supercar rider, David Reynolds when he won the first non-endurance race of his career in 2015. Another Aussie, MotoGP rider Jack Miller was clearly impressed and he too celebrated his first premier class victory in 2016 by drinking champagne out of his shoe at the Dutch circuit of Assen.

Downunder, drinking beer out of your shoe is a ritual party trick known colloquially as, a "shoey", and the boys from the Big Brownland have taken it to a new high on the victor’s podium. To do it right. the shoe needs to be full beer, usually the contents of a tinny (can). Tipping the shoe up to the mouth and with head tilted back he throat open, a quick half breath before quickly swigging the grog to the back of the throat. Just before the beer hits swallow then gravity takes over. The alcohol essentially pours down your throat.

The shoey gained widespread popularity in Australia, after celebrity twin surfers, Dean and Shaun Harrington were seen drinking 'Shoeys, The pair were associated with the surfing and fishing brand, The Mad Hueys, and as the brand increased in popularity more and more young people began to emulate the twins.

Shoey and other scoling pranks however, are not a new phenomenon nor just the prerogative of larrikins and adolescents, but have been practiced by many civilisations.

In Ancient Greece, most Athenian houses had a symposium, an annexed, circular room, which held a number of upholstered podiums set against the walls where guests lay prone and played kottabos. The floors were sloped to make cleaning easier. The most common variant had recumbent players attempt to topple a precariously balanced cup (or plastinx) by filling it with wine. They had to do this by flinging wine from their own cups, using their right hand only. Players would call out the name of an intended paramour and the outcome would foretell their pursuit of love.

During the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC - 771 BC), in Ancient China, jiuling (drinking games) were initially introduced to regulate social drinking by providing alternative behaviours or etiquettes to accompany consumption of alcohol. These included simple games like dice, finger guessing and a variant of rock, paper, scissors called tiger, chicken, worm, board. Each could be readily adapted to incorporate alcohol and this led inevitably, to the social toast we have today. However, it also had the opposite affect and more indulgent drinking games like ‘spin the bottle,’ was played until no one could stand up. Often the consequence of more sophisticated jiuling by the intellectual classes, was dire.

By the Middle Ages, beer drinking games in Europe were sometimes used to settle disputes and provided a safer alternative to duelling. Special drinking cups, i.e. puzzle jugs were sometimes conjoined, and had numerous spouts which forced the players to work out which holes they had to cover to successfully drink from the vessel. The forfeit for getting it wrong was to be drenched in small amount beer much to the the amusement of on-lookers. With increased urbanisation and the development of tavern culture new variations such as ‘passatella,’ had players armed with knives, sit opposite each other consuming alcohol, pausing only to exchange verbal insults. This frequently let to fights sometimes with fatal consequences.

By the late 19th Century drinking champagne from a lady's slipper was the height of decadence and sophistication and a practice most often seen in high class brothels. It was reported in 1902, at the Everleigh Club, in Chicago, after a dancer's slipper fell to the floor, a member of Prince Henry of Prussia's entourage picked it up and used it to drink champagne.

The Bierstiefel is a German boot-shaped beer glass said to have been created by a Prussian general in an unnamed war who promised his troops if they were victorious in an upcoming battle, he would drink beer from his own boot. Instead , after seconds thoughts, the prudent general ordered a glass imitation to be made and they celebrated their victory drinking for a Bierstiefel. Boot shaped drinking vessels have been discovered to date from antiquity and drinking from a soldier’s boot has become a traditional initiation ceremony (or hazing) which is still practised to this day. During the First World War, in the trenches and prior to engagement, soldiers passed around a leather boot filled with beer and shared a drink for luck. The soldiers would also flicked the boot before and after taking a drink from it. The Bierstiefel is closely related to the English “yard of ale. ” Former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke held briefly the world record in 1953 for the fastest consumed yard of ale when he was at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

In more modern times, skolling, a term from the Scandinavian ‘Skol’ to toast, describes binge consumption of alcohol, usually beer, but not always. This is seen by many as part of a ‘coming of age ritual,’ and holding your drink is widely regarded as the mark of an adult. Consequently, it is practised universally among adolescents and younger adults. In no short measure (sic no pun intended) it was post-Push Australians in 60s London which gave the world the vocabulary of binge drinking. After Barry Humphries created the characters Buster Thompson, then Barry McKenzie in his comic strip about a "randy, boozy Australian rampaging through Swinging London" in the satirical magazine, Private Eye, the cult following of the film version ensured the modern lexicon of binge drinking was born.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Salute (Trailer)

Talking Australian: Peter Norman and Cathy Freeman : barefoot protest

The Mexico City Olympics were staged against a surreal and tumultuous 1968. Social change and general unrest at the continuation of the Vietnam War and race riots and student protests formed a tragic backdrop for the assassinations of Malcom X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. A planned boycott by black athletes failed but the atmosphere was charged with protest as the Games were televised and broadcast live to the US. The Black athletes were determined to show solidarity and wore no shoes around the Village and when Tommie Smith (Gold) and John Carlos (Bronze) took their place on the winner's podium with Australian, Peter Norman (silver) for the 200m.

Smith and Carlos, closed their eyes, bowed their heads, before raising a black-gloved fist during the playing of the 'Star-Spangled Banner.' The raised fist and glove referred to defiance in the weight of racial servitude and the shoeless stance was a symbol of humanity and statement of poverty. Smith wore a scarf around his neck as mark of 'Black Pride'. The dignified brave barefoot protest was met with outrage from officialdom and Smith and Carlos were expelled from the Olympics. Both athletes kept their socks on. To this day the simple action of two barefoot men has become an iconic milestone in the history of civil rights. Muhammad Ali described it as 'the single most courageous act of the century'.

After the final, Carlos and Smith told Norman what they were planning. It was Norman who suggested Smith and Carlos share the black gloves used in their salute, after Carlos left his pair in the Olympic Village.

This is the reason for Smith raising his right fist, while Carlos raised his left. On the way out to the medal ceremony, Norman saw the Paul Hoffman (US Rowing Team) wear a Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) and asked him if he could borrow it. Norman wore the badge on the podium.

Despite the ensuing scandalous, aftermath, the three athletes remained good life long friends.

On September 25, 2000, Day ten of the XXVII Olympiad, the Australian athlete Cathy Freeman captured the hearts of the biggest crowd ever to attend an athletics event when, after winning gold in the 400m performed her lap of honour, barefoot. She carried with her both Aboriginal and Australian flags to thunderous applause. Cathy walked barefoot to the edge of the stands where she tossed the two-sided flag into the adoring crowd. Previously the Aboriginal athlete had been criticised by officials at 1994 Commonwealth Games, when she took her victory lap, carrying both the Aboriginal and Australian flags. The theme of the Sydney Olympics was Reconciliation and Cathy became an indelible Australian hero.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Talking Australian: Fake News and Alternative Facts: The Melbourne Cup, Cafe belles and High Heels

“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

It's Melbourne Cup Day on the 7th November and long after the media reports on the winners the media is full of pictures of the drunk incapable women usually in high heels making their pathetic way home or to the beleaguered emergency services. Now it does happen but why when reporting misbehaving cafe belles, high heels must always be included. After all it is not the shoes that are intoxicated but those who choose to wear them. The shoe police are quick to condemn the evil heel despite their being little or no independent evidence to support their claims.

In the absence of independent evidence, the health risks of wearing high heeled shoes per se is overstated. Complications arise from the limited research available because most studies involve static analysis; small study groups and research from sponsored sources. The body is kinetic (moving and three dimensional) and not static, hence other compensatory mechanisms may play a role which help prevent universal outcomes for everyone. Published studies tend to involve small numbers and are rarely repeated which makes it difficult to put much store by their findings. Finally, many studies are sponsored and or conducted by interest groups with a vested interest in the outcome. This makes it problematic to co-relate study findings and ill advised to extrapolate to the general population. This does not stop it from happening and no one can refute prolonged wearing of footwear unfit for purpose or ill-fitting will increase the risk of a critical incident but high heels are not necessary the primary cause of major injuries in the vast majority of cases.

Kinetic studies have shown elevated heels can increase mechanical advantage or push-off power (ankle plantarflexion) during walking. There also appear to be significant biomechanical compensations in the pelvic region to counter balance any critical alteration on the centre of gravity of the body caused by wearing high heels. The same mechanism is seen in pregnancy when there is a marked increase in body mass causing changes in deportment. Studies from Oxford University have shown no evidence to support cafe belle footwear (high heels) does lasting harm to the knees. When Harvard Medical School compared “knee torque" of high-heel wearers to low heel wearers they discovered the latter had greater torque across the knee. Heel height and knee torque alone however, does not account for added wear and tear (osteo-arthrosis) but all parties agreed, heel height may be one possible contributory factor in those people prone to osteoarthritis. Studies here in Australia, have shown close co-relation between heel height and balance in older populations and this may contribute to falls in some older adults. Other studies from Italy have suggested wearing higher heels can improve continence training by increasing pelvic floor tone. Now these are small studies and their findings lack the same legitimacy as those oft quoted research data to complement the argument high heels are detrimental. In truth the jury is still out.

Vested parties, in the name of the common good construct convincing narratives connected by either false causal links (alternative facts), or no a causal link whatsoever. Part of the allure is the information is presented by an 'expert' in a syntactic structure (radio interview or newspaper article). which implies strongly there should be meaning within, whether there is or not. The claims are further legitimised by common sense (i.e. personal bias), strengthened by compelling anecdotal evidence. Health foreboding based on no evidence is sadly typical of today’s ‘fake news.’ In the end, if unchallenged this passes for truth. If we examine the story in more detail we might see a moralistic condemnation of cafĂ© belles i.e. Lady larrikins (ladettes) misbehaving in public.


Some historians believe the fashion for high heeled shoes arose as a modification of the chopine (the original platform). Shoe makers carved out the forefoot section of the platform and created a heel. This made the elevated shoe easier and safer to walk in. Elevated shoes had been known from early Hellenic times however this new phase of fashion was the first-time shoes were associated with the female gender. The true heel as we know it today was not introduced until the middle of the twentieth century when technology and design fashioned the stiletto heel.

In the sixteenth century, height challenged Catherine de Medici (1519 -1589) wore heeled mules when she married the King of France. She had moved from Florence, the centre of fashion and flair to Paris, and as was the custom took with her the costumes and customs of her heritage. Heeled shoes became an instant success and the fashion remained in vogue throughout her lifetime. Many experts believe this was the true beginning of fashion because it was the first time ever a costume lasted the life time of an individual. By the beginning of the 17th century, and after her death heeled shoes for ladies, became passé but high-heeled shoes became popular with men as well as a trademark of sex workers of the time. Men wore thigh length boots sometimes heavily decorated at the thigh and attached to the doublet by suspenders. Louis XIV (1638 -1715) became fanatical about them and banned anyone other than the privileged classes from wearing them on penalty of death. The Sun King was of short stature and may have preferred the borrowed height heels could give him. The heels of men's shoes often were painted with miniature rustic or romantic scenes. Different shapes were experimented with including hourglass heels. Also during this time men's shoes were ornamented with silver buckles. The Louis Heel was invented by Louis XV (1715-1774) was splayed at the base with a wasted section, which is still used in modern female fashion. He also introduced the white shoe to match his hose but red heels survived until 1760. The term "down on your heels" is thought to relate to the habit of the rich towering over the poor.

High heels for men were considered in vogue during the 17 & 18th century. Prior to the French Revolution (1789 until 1799,) contemporary medical reports described the changes in posture associated with wearing high heels. ‘Medical gaze' was firmly transfixed to women and ignored men completely. Women of distinction no longer wore heeled shoes preferring the new style of heel-less pumps and some authorities believe this was a veiled attempt to moralize by misogynists. This has recurred throughout modern history and often corresponds to women in the workforce. Heel heights lowered after the French Revolution and when the new socialist government ran short of money and men donated their silver shoe buckles to the cause, if they wanted to keep their head.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Talking Australian: Kiwi: The Australian Brand That Brought a Shine to the World

Kiwi: The Australian Brand That Brought a Shine to the World by Keith Dunstan (Allen & Unwin) is a new book which details the history of Kiwi boot polish. The son of a Scottish immigrant, William Ramsay, , started the Melbourne company in the early part of the 20th century. He named the product after his wife, “Kiwi” Annie, a New Zealander, and the recipe became a better-kept secret than the atom bomb. In 1914, the product was so popular the company issued a product movie featuring Diggers and boot boys. Despite fierce competition boot polish became synonymous with the name Kiwi.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Talking Australian: Rodney Ansell and the legacy of larrikinism

Australian, Rodney Ansell died in 1999. To many his name means very little but the 44-year-old bushman was the inspiration for Paul Hogan's famous character, Mick Dundee. Tragically the Territorian met his maker in much and the same way as he lived his life, i.e. on the edge and he was killed during a shoot-out with Darwin police. Like Ned Kelly, the larrikin was part of Australian folklore but where did the term Larrikin, originate from.

The origins of the word larrikin remain unclear but many etymologists believe it came from a mispronunciation of "larking", as in ‘larking around ‘. It was first used in Australia in 1870, and referred to a group of wild, adolescents, from inner urban areas of Melbourne. It took another ten years before the term larrikin was officially used in police records. Defined as anti-authoritarian, the larrikins were compared to the London "Loafers"; New York "Hoodlums” and San Francisco "Corner Boys".

A characteristic of the youth culture was their dress. Described by the press in 1870 as "youths with a hang dog look and careless in attire" they were the great grandfather of juvenile delinquents. Contrary to their contemporary put down the original larrikin dressed in quite spectacular style. They would appear in the street wearing long frock coats made from dark or black material. The jackets were tailored with tight waists and velvet collars. Quite Spanish in style, the long fingertip jacket was similar in cut to Edwardian drapes, later adopted in the 1950s by the UK Teddy boys. Trousers were either bell bottomed or cut very tightly. The larrikin wore either a slouch or small round (like a bowler) hat which had to be black. To complete the outfit, they wore high heeled boots with extremely pointed toes. Loud silk ties and jaunty waistcoats would complement their sumptuous attire.

Larrikins were usually accompanied by young female companions called Cafe Belles. The girls were gaudily dressed to attract attention and in public displayed much irreverence by being loud (unlady-like) and smoking (usually associated with prostitutes). Larrikins were idle lads who often became involved in petty street crime much in the same way today's street kids can drift into crime by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There is no historic evidence larrikins were anything other than "naerdae wells" or “jack the lads". Whereas their North American counterparts i.e. Hoodlums and Bowery Boys (Soaplocks) eventually became the crime families we now recognise today as the Cosa Nostra (or Mafia).

The terms Bodgies and widgies were used to describe the youths of the fifties in Australia. Bodgies were the boys and the girls were known as Widgies. Again the origins of the terms remain unclear but the behaviour and clothing styles bare remarkable similarities to Larrikins and cafe belles albeit they were parted by almost a century.

Bellanta M (2012) Larrikins: A History St Lucia, University of Queensland Press
Manning A.E. (1958) The Bodgie: A Study in Abnormal Psychology A.H. and A.W. Reed, Wellington.

Reviewed 23/03/2016