In July 1980, Warhol was shown the finished proofs for his Diamond Dust Shoes by his assistant Rupert Smith. Smith had originally introduced Warhol to the 'diamond dust' the previous year, although the original diamond dust itself proved too matt for Warhols intentions and was apparently substituted by finely cut glass (see R.E. Krauss, 'The Madness of the Day', pp. 5-17, Andy Warhol: Diamond Dust Shadow Paintings, exh. cat., New York 2000, p. 15). This adds the distinctive sparkle, an engaging ritziness that intrigued the artist. It heightens the contrast between the light shoes and the dark background, lending the work an absorbing, textural feel. The diamond dust appeared to condense onto his silkscreens some of the glamour and aesthetic of the frenetic disco age of the late 1970s and early 1980s, a scene with which he was heavily involved. The shoes were the first series in which Warhol used the diamond dust, but its success in the artists eyes would ensure that it recurred again and again in his works of the 1980s.
Reflecting both his motivation in selecting this subject matter and his enthusiasm for the finished result, Warhol said of his Diamond Dust Shoes, 'I'm doing shoes because Im going back to my roots. In fact, I think maybe I should do nothing but shoes from now on' (Warhol, Jan 15, 1986, The Andy Warhol Diaries, Pat Hackett (ed.), New York 1989, p. 306). In the mid-1950s, Warhol had been a commercial artist, and one of the largest commissions that he had was for shoe advertisements for the I. Miller shoe company. These drawings progressed in a short time from literal renderings of shoes for sale to whimsical fantasy footwear. They began to appear in more and more publications, earning the artist respect, money, prizes and even fame. They became staple cult features for many and propelled the artist into the heart of the art scene. They were an early signature, and so his return to the theme in 1980 in Diamond Dust Shoes, and his recognition of its integral place in his oeuvre, marked an important and emotional revisitation of his own past. He has plundered his own early iconography, and even mythology, presenting the theme that first made Warhol Warhol in a new Disco-infused Pop incarnation.