Shoes I Have Known and Loved

My friend Kelly, who blogs about fashion, feminism, and other quasi-girly stuff at How I Learned to Wear a Dress, asked this question on her blog’s Facebook wall:

At what point did how shoes look (and how they looked with your outfit) supersede how they functioned?

Oh the memories.

I was, at one time, a devoted shoe hound. For one thing, no matter how hippy or busty you are, shoes fit fairly reliably compared to pants or a dress. If you’re a size 9, you buy a size 9, with few exceptions. There is no plus size section of the shoe department, and few women have shoes in multiple sizes waiting in their closets until they can get into them.

Shoes are also less of a commitment. Feeling a little puckish today? Lace up your combat boots—no need to go the whole nine yards and get the pegged jeans and shredded Clash t-shirt out of storage from your parents’ basement.

Besides, function is a relative term. When I was young all my shoes were functional — I went drunk rock climbing in the dark wearing crazy pointy-toed white ostrich-skin pumps without any trouble. My youthful feet could make any heel, any toe, any platform work.

It’s kind of like how no clothes are ugly or ill fitting when you’re 19 because you are just bursting with sexy, “Corinna’s going a-maying” nubile hotness regardless. (How else could American Apparel be so successful?) When I go to Ragstock or another shop staffed by young urban hipsters, the cashiers are flaunting it: “Look at me! I’m wearing an ironic Cosby sweater and corduroy pants the color of moldy mustard and I still look sexier than you could with a $1000 and a personal stylist!” At some unconscious level, they’re playing a game of fashion chicken that they can’t lose: see how many ways can I violate traditional aesthetics and still look freakin’ awesome?

And so I loved shoes from about ages 12 to 30, and then there was a dramatic decline, for familiar reasons:

1) My feet grew after pregnancy and most of my collection had to go.
2) I never wore anything or went anywhere that required cool shoes.
3) Years of going barefoot (and pregnancy) meant that my feet could no longer squeeze pointy-toed shoes even if I bought them new.

I am not too sad about this, just as I am not really missing 19. But I can still relish the memories, from the 4-inch wooden stilettos I wore to tour Niagara Falls with my parents and grandparents when I was 12 to the tall black cowboy boots I wore with tights and short jean cutoffs for much of grad school. Those were good—if, in the case of the stilettos, somewhat messed up—times.

Besides, shoe trends these days perplex me. Setting the functionality of high heels aside, is there a more boring shoe than the high-heeled pump? Putting a 5-inch heel, or toe platform, or shiny patent leather on it is like tacking up pictures of your cat and George Clooney in your office cubicle. Sure, it’s a little more interesting than the bare fabric walls, but you’re still in a cube. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

These are the shoes I have my eye on now: they’re like my old LL Bean lined duck boots (circa 1987) meets Converse high tops (circa 1985) meets my cowboy boots meets Sorel. Like all of those old shoes, they go with anything, but especially they’ll go with the snow.

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About mina

Like a rock: sometimes hard, sometimes crumbly, occasionally brilliant, sometimes dense.

Posted on October 19, 2011, in body, letting go, love, shoes. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Needing to wear size 11.5 shoes, but only able to find size 10 shoes, made shoe ownership a trial for me. I wore whatever I could get my feet into, regardless of my square toes and very narrow heels. If I could get my feet into them and stand without screaming in pain, I wore them. It didn’t matter if they were wrong for the outfit.

    Now, in my old age, there are lots of size 11s out there. I can wear them if they have open toes or open heels. I absolutely refuse to try pointy toes (see square toes above). Now I have two pairs of dress shoes, one for summer and one for winter. Now I have a pair of athletic shoes that look like huge white marshmallows on my feet, but are very comfortable for walking. And I have Earth sandals that are like Heaven on my feet. And I still don’t care whether they match the outfit, because it’s still hard to find “trendy” or “fashionable” in my size, and I gave up worrying about it long ago.

  2. Pregnancy changed things for me too. I couldn’t wear really high high heels anymore. But I am still a shoe hound.

    I was the first girl, in my provincial middle school, to wear converses. I wrote band names all over them – like Ministry and Echo and the Bunnymen. The next year converse came out with “girl colors” (pink and teal) which made them acceptable to the other 12 and 13yo girls at my school. But I like to think I was fashion forward. 🙂

    I remember saving up my allowance, for weeks and weeks, to buy knee high leather boots. They were $80. But, before I could buy them I met a tiny gray dwarf bunny that was on sale, with cage and accoutrements, also for $80. I bought the bunny and named it Boots. I ended up buying cheaper boots at a later date.

    My most prized shoes are my Doc Martens. They are ass-kickingly awesome! I also feel extra cool when I wear them.

    And Mina, I have some winters boots that are almost that cool. They are the Sorel Caribou – http://www.sorel.com/winter-boots/women,default,sc.html?sz=1&start=3

  3. Annamelle, I am in love with your story about Boots the Bunny.

    I may have posed the original question on my blog, and I was being snarky, but the truth is I wonder what makes us care less about how we look. We find partners, have kids, pay mortgages, shop for tires, bring the cats to the vet, etc., and dressing in anything other than functional becomes a chore. Why don’t I care anymore? Is it just because life is busier?

    Obviously it’s about priorities, and looking “good” costs money, but I also think we genuinely care less about ourselves when all the rest (even the good stuff) is in the way.

    OH, did you see my post today about the shoe museum? (http://howilearned.net/2011/10/20/it%E2%80%99s-not-a-shoe-obsession-it%E2%80%99s-research%E2%80%A6and-sometimes-i-also-get-to-laugh-at-people/ )

  4. I still like getting putting together a good outfit. Somedays I feel like Little Edie “This is the best costume for the day.” 🙂

    Often, the most interesting part of my costume is a t-shirt with a quirky print and an eye-catching bracelet, or a jaunty hat. Sometimes it is something that other people might not notice, but it makes me feel special, like my red hoodie that always makes me think of Red Riding Hood. I like to add little something special to the day, even if I am the only one that knows .

  5. I have size 12 feet, so I feel badly for all the cows that have to give their lives for my one pair of shoes. Of course, the shoe makers must also feel for the cows, because size 12s are almost impossible to find. That said, imagine my surprise to find a pair of combat boots in my size that actually make my feet look small! But wait for it… the other shoe will drop, they have an almost 4 inch heal.

    Whatever. I bought them anyway and when I wear them I’m 6’3″. Sigh. Shoes have definitely lost their appeal.

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