We are famous world-wide for our red shoes and aren't we all proud of that fact. Being the only school in the Southern Hemisphere with these fabulous shoes certainly gives us a unique point of difference.
The graduating class of 2007 even produced a leavers t-shirt that highlighted our love for these icons "we won't miss our red shoes - Yeah Right"!
In the last month I have asked the school archivist, Barbara Clark, to find out when the red shoes were introduced. She has provided me with the following information.
"Red shoes were introduced by the Principal, Miss Muriel May, immediately after World War II. One perspectuve of the process was that the then new navy uniform with white spots was considered drab and in an effort to persuade the girls to wear it, Miss May suggested that girls might be allowed to accessorise it with red shoes".
In 1999 Elspeth McLean wrote an article for the Otago Daily Times about her desire for red shoes and her various attempts to buy them. Finding it hard to acquire a pair, Elspeth wrote about how a friend of hers remembered seeing Southland Girls' High School students on a tour of Cadburys and how they wore red shoes. This in turn led Elspeth to H & J Smith and finally she was able to purchase the much sought after red shoes.
Elspeth described feeling 'deliciously subversive' to be wearing part of a school uniform when she didn't have to. A comment from a friend across the road one day 'love those shoes' led Elspeth to wonder "if sensible grown women were effected in such a way (to call out across a road), what might the red shoes be doing to these impressionable Southland Girls"? "Were red shoes helping them to become stroppy, outspoken, challengers of authority who are not afraid to stand out in a crowd"?
Lind Braun, (Principal 1986-2002) couldn't resist replying to the question posed by Elspeth McLean under the headline "Red Lace-Ups Build Schoolgirls' Character". Mrs Braun said, "These gorgeous shoes, hated and loved by schoolgirls since the 1950s, for just the reason your columnist suspects. We encourage our girls to stand out, speak up and make their mark. We like uppity women. A leaver once told me that five years of wearing bright red shoes had prepared her to face anything. So your shoes are not only beautiful and distinctive, Ms McLean, they are also character building. And at Southland Girls' High School, character is even more important than the colour of our shoes".
Over the last few years, our girls have developed a less polarised view of our red shoes with many professing pleasure in wearing red shoes. My view is simple. It is better to be noticed than not at all. Our red shoes certainly do this and so some 60 odd years later, we continue to wear our unique red shoes with pride, certain that we do indeed stand out in the crowd.