The fish tank as decorative art has, at different times, enjoyed wide popularity, with aquariums as wall murals and even toilets. But fish tank as shoes? Back in the '70s disco era, fish were briefly subjected to physical injury and death (as well as humiliation, along with really bad music) when someone came up with the idea for the disco fish platform shoe. One could plop a live goldfish into the platform sole or heel, which was composed of clear acrylic or Lucite.
Myth or Reality?
While many are convinced this was an urban myth, I had a friend who owned a pair of these. (Which largely explains why she soon became my ex-friend.) The legend comes from the fact that no seems able to produce an actual pair of these shoes or even a picture of them from their brief heyday in the 1970s. The lack of evidence could be because the shoes were not mass-manufactured.
Disco fans sought them out at small, boutique specialty stores. The shoes were not, as some of the myths purport, sent from the factory with the fish already sealed in the heel. Obviously, if that were the case, the fish would be pretty much guaranteed to die within the day for lack of oxygen.
Instead, the clear platform heels or soles were either removable or had some kind of flap at the back that lifted so that the wearer could fill with whatever he or she wanted. People report filling the heels with teddy bears, gumballs, marbles or crinkled colored tissue paper.
A few chose live fish, even inserting colored gravel and water plants for the whole aquarium effect. Theoretically, you would return your traveling fish to its aquarium after your evening of revelry. Realistically, it would have been a miracle if your fish survived the night.
Some former disco club-goers even remember seeing shoes break open and spill their contents on the dance floor. Not surprisingly, animal rights activists were up in arms about this (thankfully) short-lived trend, which resulted in the deaths of many goldfish from all the jostling on the dance floor.
Reliving the Glory Days
The legend has lived on in the entertainment industry – the joke (as it were) often being that the heel-bound fish end up dead. Tony Randall apparently wore them in a 1970s TV show. Also in the 1970s, in the cop thriller TV series "Starsky and Hutch", the jive-talking character Huggy Bear wore them in an episode. They appeared in the 1988 Keenan Ivory Wayans’ movie I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. Even the Simpsons featured the infamous Disco Fish Shoes, worn with flair by the Disco Stu.
Now's Your Chance
Well, guess what... the disco fish tank shoe is making (eek!) a comeback! You can actually purchase these from Amazon.com and other sites that feature costume shoes. However, I am happy to report that the live goldfish have been replaced by fake ones. They even come with a fake green water plant.
I am sure the goldfish of the world are breathing a collective sigh of relief knowing that they will no longer be needlessly subjected to untimely deaths, to the strains of "Do the Hustle."