Morton's Toe: The History Of Humanity's Weirdest Symbol Of Beauty
Is your second toe longer than your first? Well, so is the Statue of Liberty's, Venus de Milo's, The Vitruvian Man's, and heaps of other famous orthopedic representations all throughout art history. You may have what is known as Morton's toe, considered by many ancient artists and cultures a high mark of beauty, dominance, and intelligence.
The Morton's toe was named after Dr. Dudley Morton, who studied this curiosity during a career spent arguing that most foot issues come from one's toes rather than weak or fallen arches. According to Dr. Morton, if you had anything weird going on with the metatarsals, then you could blame that for corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, or pretty much anything else wrong with your feet. He became a household name after writing Oh Doctor, My Feet!, which was written in layman terms for the average blue-collar civilian returning to work after the Great Depression and toiling for long hours on their feet in crappy shoes and clunky high heels. He often referenced the second toe in his books, and eventually, that long toe was named after him.
However, before Mr. Morton came around bashing this toe in the '30s, it was known widely as the "Greek toe" because of its prevalence in Greek culture and art, specifically sculpture. But why? Who proclaimed it a beauty symbol, and why did it become so prevalent?
Basically, the Greeks had a major thing for the "Golden Ratio," which is found throughout nature and thought to represent perfect harmony in aesthetics. The Golden Ratio was created by Euclid, who basically invented geometry in Greece sometime around 300 B.C. The Morton's toe represented this mathematical nuance for them. It was an easy way to portray an interesting quirk of human anatomy while acknowledging this geometric relationship, which could be recognized as a nod to mathematicians and appreciated by art enthusiasts for its intentional balance. The Greeks found it to be beautiful, and its place in their art was very intentional. It set them apart from the Egyptians, who focused more on scale and accuracy than aesthetics.