Soles, shoe prints and forensic evidence, part 2

It seems as if the country is still gripped by shoe prints and forensic evidence. Today, as I was out getting lunch, I was approached by a University of Auckland Forensic Science student to take part in a research study. Funny really, because I am nowhere near Auckland.

This Master’s student was collecting shoe prints of people walking past for a research study entitled, ‘Determining the evidential value of a class match in footwear evidence.’ (I have trouble just understanding the title). By collecting all these samples of people’s shoe prints and soles, it can provide information on the shoes and frequencies of shoe styles worn by people in a certain area.

Shoe print collection in action

I was of course keen to participate. The student used inkless shoe print kits to collect data. All I had to do was step on a yellow chemically coated pad. I have no idea what kind of chemical it is coated with. Then, I stepped onto a special chemically sensitive paper, and my shoe print magically appeared in black on the white paper. It took all of 5 seconds, with no mess and no ink on the soles of my shoes. It was fun and very CSI.

Close up of an inkless shoeprint kit. Photo from http://www.copquest.com/43-6750.htm

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Soles, shoe prints and forensic evidence, part 1

I knew the country was mesmerized by a murder trial when I heard the case being discussed while at my hairdresser’s. Recently in New Zealand, there has been great public interest in a murder trial. On 8th July 2010, a 31-year-old farmer Scott Guy was shot and killed in the driveway of his farm. His brother-in-law Ewen Macdonald was charged with his murder, but on the 3rd of July 2012, he was found to be not guilty.

The trial was largely based on circumstantial evidence. I was fascinated by the evidence presented in court, especially of shoe imprints found by the body, allegedly made by the killer. The shoe had a distinctive wavy pattern on the sole and police spent months trying to find out what shoe had made the shoe print. Police trawled through tens of thousands of entries in an Australian footwear database, FBI database and also a Canadian database to match the shoe print with the shoe. I was amazed that such footwear databases even exist. I thought this was the stuff of fiction and TV crime shows like CSI. I also couldn’t believe that it was actually someone’s job to spend hours going through databases to find a shoe print match.

Another aspect of the shoe print evidence that interested me was the method used to determine the killer’s shoe size. The prosecution said that the shoe prints were made by a size 9 Pro Line dive boot, and the accused owned a pair of those boots. I know that determining shoe size is difficult, and instead of measuring the length of the shoe imprint, the defence counted the rows of wave patterns on the sole to determine that it was made by a larger shoe, bigger than a size 9.

When you think of all the millions of different shoes that exist in the world, I question the accuracy of matching a shoe from shoe prints alone. My recent LA Gear sneakers have quite a distinctive design on its sole and yet the soles of my LA Gear sneakers were an exact match to a pair of Chinese AIR skate shoes that I also own. (Not Nike Air, not Airwalk, not Dr. Martens Air Wair – just Air). I couldn’t believe it when I first saw it and I carefully checked each sole imprint, and they were both a complete match. I actually suspect possible intellectual property infringement on the part of the Chinese label, maybe using a sole design from LA Gear. What other explanation could there be?

The soles of my LA Gear sneakers were an exact match to a Chinese brand of skate shoes called Air

Shoe designers need to realize that the soles, or what’s under a shoe, is just as important as what’s on top. For instance, red soles are the signature of Christian Louboutin shoes, and Caterpillar boots have the brand CAT on the soles. My Camper shoes have a very distinctive sole and also have the brand name on the soles.

Camper shoes with distinctive sole pattern and brand name on the soles.

I have a pair of Candy shoes with flying butterflies on the soles. Wearing that pair of shoes always makes me feel happy because I know I have butterflies on the soles of my feet.

Close up of flying butterflies on the soles of my Candy shoes.

Shoe prints leave an impression when people walk in sand, mud or when it’s wet. Unique shoe prints can be just as identifiable and distinctive as a brand or logo.

Camper Twins Shoes

The Volvo Ocean Race ends in Galway, Ireland in July 2012. This is a gruelling round-the-world yacht race that started over 8 months ago, stopped in 10 countries, covering 39 000 nautical miles. I don’t pretend to know anything about yachting or sailing, but one of the yachts in the race (the Team New Zealand yacht) is sponsored by Camper. Camper is a Spanish company with many interests, like yachting, restaurants and hotels, but it started with shoes.

The company Camper was founded by Lorenzo Fluxà in 1975, but the origins of the company started a century earlier. Lorenzo’s grandfather, Antonio Fluxà was a skilled cobbler and in 1877, Antonio sailed to England to find new and innovative ways of industrial manufacturing. When he returned to Mallorca, he opened a shoe factory and introduced the first machines used to manufacture shoes. Antonio worked with leather and the best leather craftsmen.

Camper is the first brand of shoes to show me that shoes do not have to be a mirror image of each other to make up a pair. People are mostly used to a pair of shoes being made up of two shoes, identical but a mirror image of each other. Camper successfully challenged my concept of ‘a pair of shoes’ with their Twins or TWS range of shoes. These are shoes where the left and right side of the shoes are different from each other, and yet when put together, they still form a pair.

My pair of Camper shoes is made in Spain. Camper has since moved their production to China, so I can’t comment on Camper shoes made outside of Spain as I haven’t bought any Camper shoes in a while.

Camper makes funny, quirky and fun designs in their Twins range. My pair of Campers are in the style of Mary-Jane wedges. The right foot says ‘He loves me…’ with fluttering white daisy petals, while the left foot says, ‘He loves me not’ with a white daisy flower losing some of its petals.

Shih Yen fell in love at first sight with this pair of Camper shoes from the Camper TWS range.

Camper also taught me that it is possible to fall in love at first sight with a pair of shoes. I fell in love with my Camper Twins shoes in a print ad. I went into the shoe shop searching for that pair of Camper shoes. Even the price tag, which was over NZ$300 (or over RM700 – and this was some time ago) did not put me off. I bought the shoes without a second thought.

Yes, Camper shoes are expensive, but they are long-lasting and comfortable and I love the fun and quirkiness of the Camper Twins range.

Ugg Boots

So far I have mainly written about shoes that I love, but I recently realized that I also have a lot to write about shoes that I don’t like. Some time ago, someone gave me a pair of ugg boots as a gift. Ugg boots are unisex sheepskin boots that originated in Australia or New Zealand. There’s debate over which country they came from, but it’s definitely somewhere in Australasia anyway.

Ugg boots were very trendy with celebrities earlier this millennium with the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Moss and Jennifer Aniston wearing them. Oprah Winfrey also raved about them, including ugg boots in her ‘favourite things’ show.

My ugg boots are made in New Zealand. They are very warm, made of sheepskin and lined with fleece inside the boot and around the ankles. They are great for keeping my feet warm, especially as it is now the middle of winter (it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere). However, I will only wear my ugg boots inside the house as house slippers, and I won’t wear them out. The main reason for this is because I personally think that ugg boots are ugly. In fact, I thought ugg boots were short for ugly boots, but to be honest I don’t know the origin of the word ugg.

Ugg boots by UGG Australia, similar to my own New Zealand-made pair.

I think ugg boots are unflattering and make your legs look fat. The wool and fleece used to make ugg boots naturally makes the boots look fluffy and big. Ugg boots come in different heights – ankle length, calf length or knee length. No matter what length of ugg boot you wear, they will make your feet and legs wider than they really are.

There has been controversy and court cases over whether the word ugg is just a generic word or whether it can be copyrighted. In Australia and New Zealand, ugg boots are widely considered to be a generic word. However, Deckers Outdoor Corporation, a US footwear company, based in California bought the UGG Australia brand and successfully registered it as a trademark, sparking controversy. For example, should a person be allowed to trademark the word ‘high heels’ or ‘sneakers’ or ‘decaffeinated coffee’? Because this is effectively what Deckers has done with the word ‘ugg’.

My own ugg boots are just a generic no-label pair. However, since I was in Australia recently, I thought I would write about the UGG boot. With capital letters, UGG becomes a registered trademark, as opposed to lower case ‘ugg’ the generic boot.

Australian made UGG boots. Genuine UGG boots have the UGG label on the back. These boots are made with merino wool, and the fleece can be rolled up or down.

If you are looking to get UGG boots, it’s better to get ones that are a bit tight, as the wool will flatten over time and the boots will become looser then. But, if you want to wear socks with your UGG boots, then get a pair that’s looser so that socks can fit. UGG also sells special shampoos and conditioners to help take care of the UGG boots. To maintain UGG boots, it is better not to get them wet (another reason NOT to wear UGG boots outdoors).

The usual colours for ugg boots are tan, brown, black and grey. UGG Australia also makes a range of bridal footwear. The white UGG slipper makes completely no sense to me. Why would anyone wear open-toed thong sandals in white wool? Are they for a beach wedding in the middle of winter? There are also sparkly sequinned UGG boots and UGG boots with Swarovski crystal details in the UGG bridal footwear range. Who are these brides who choose to wear UGG boots to their weddings? Are they insane? Or are they getting married in the North Pole?

Would you wear UGG boots to a wedding? Bridal footwear from UGG Australia (Photo from UGG Australia’s website).

Ugg boots are not a style of footwear that I like. Hopefully there will not be too many posts on my blog about shoes that I don’t like.