The message is in the details.
Encoding Poverty, Backwardness, and Dependency in US Military Imagery
Bare feet. Ever since I was a small child, I have been made aware of how not wearing shoes was symbolically loaded with ideas of poverty, backwardness, primitiveness, or being low class. Images of barefoot people in newspapers and magazines almost always showed villagers in Africa or the Pacific–or Hippies and West Virginians in the US. Stores in Canada routinely posted signs: “No shoes, no service”. Bare feet were, at least for a long time, quietly yet mightily stigmatized in much of Western culture. Like all things “primitive,” this form of bareness symbolizing underdevelopment and an inferior culture (or lack of culture, and lack of development), could also be romanticized: bare feet in the grass, on the sand, symbolizing freedom and child-like innocence, and thus nostalgia for things of the past. Bare feet could also symbolize the exact opposite…
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