A Glimpse of Grace and Elegance: The Shoes of Oscar Peterson

Jazz legend Oscar Peterson was born on this day in 1925.  In 2008 the Bata Shoe Museum had the honour of inducting his shoes into our permanent collection when they were donated to the museum by his widow Mrs. Kelly Peterson.  During the induction,  jazz pianist Robi Botos performed some of Mr. Peterson's music and Mrs. Peterson spoke about the significance of these particular shoes to her late husband.

"Twenty-seven years ago Oscar Peterson played a concert in Sarasota, Florida. It was my good fortune that I was managing the restaurant he chose for dinner after his concert, and so I met him. One of the first things I noticed, after his charm and grace, were the gorgeous suede shoes he wore.

I soon learned that he wore those shoes only when he performed, and after performances when he went to dinner. These shoes have been his favorites, and when they got too worn he world go to London, to Foster & Son, to buy his next pair. I had never seen shoes like these before, and I was struck by the clean lines and elegance of them. They exemplified the dignity and grace with which Oscar always carried himself, and the excellence of his playing.

If the shoes could talk, the stories they could tell! They have traveled around the world, always protected with shoe trees and shoe bags, brushed when the suede got dusty. Carefully put on before concerts. They could tell us about all the stages in all the concert halls, and all the bandstands in all the nightclubs where Oscar Peterson performed. They could tell us about the stomping rhythms they propelled, and the gentle caresses of the pedals as he played those sensitive ballads. They could speak about the music that resonated and that resonates still. It is my hope that people who come here to see these shoes will have a glimpse of the grace and elegance with which Oscar always carried himself. It is my hope that they will hear some stories whispered, and that they will hear echos of his music always."


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