Archive for: October 2010

Topic: What gives with women’s shoes?

Cindy Thinks

Ally Thinks

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it…but when I watch the commercials for DSW my heart begins to race and I find it a bit difficult to breath.  I don’t know if it’s that jazzy/Latin style music they play, or the flashing of various styles of shoes appearing on my TV screen.  But I truly begin to hyperventilate.

It’s not something I’m proud of.

Maybe I’m sick.

Maybe I’ve developed low blood pressure due to shoe intoxication.

I don’t know…and I don’t care.  I just want to rush out to DSW (or any other store selling shoes) and see what magical shoe wants to jump off the shelf into my arms for that day.

But that is now…and it’s important to know that I wasn’t always so excited about shoes.  When I was much younger, I cared about boys, not shoes (I had no idea at the time how incredibly linked the two were), and…I didn’t do outfits.  I did jeans and T-shirts and usually grabbed whatever shoes were closest to the front of my closet so that I didn’t have to exert much energy to find them when running out the door.

Then I got a job.

And, I began to interact with people who seemed to get up in the morning and put their clothes on in a “meaningful way”…including their shoes.

I was fascinated.

I remember shopping for my first grown-up work clothes in catalogs such as Newport News and Spiegel and they would show brightly colored two piece suits with matching colored high heel “pumps.”*  A turquoise suit with turquoise pumps…a peach suit with peach pumps.  It was a virtual sherbet sundae of working woman clothing…and I couldn’t wait to eat it up.

(For those who are unfamiliar with the classic “pump” style…it is a simple design that has endured over decades, promising to elongate the leg, slim down even the thickest of ankles, and guarantee any number of foot ailments due to years of squeezing five toes into a narrow pointed section of leather at the bottom of a 45 degree angle.)

I quickly learned that shoes came in other styles besides turquoise or peach colored pumps and couldn’t seem to get enough shoes into my life (or into my closet).  I started buying shoes in every combination of shapes, heel heights and colors.  Some worked.  Some didn’t.  But through it all, I began to develop a knack for figuring out which style of shoe would best compliment each piece of clothing in my close and how to build an “outfit” using shoes as the anchor piece.

I was in heaven!  I was struttin’ down the street in classic loafers with rolled up jeans, or wowing business associates with subtle yet classy pumps (no more turquoise for this lady!) or tempting my man to take me out (and back home for a “lovely” night) with a pair of drop dead stilettos that made my legs look like they came out of my shoulders.

Each pair of shoes had a specific purpose that was expressly stated when combined with the appropriate outfit.  As I walked into a room, you would instantly know what I was saying…like,  “take me seriously at work” -or “I may be a mom, but I’m still a sexy momma!” – or – “let’s walk on dirt”…you get the idea.

It was a great system and I loved the challenge of figuring out what shoe would best express the purpose at hand.

And then…I developed bunions.

On both feet.

And had to stop wearing 99% of the shoes in my closet.

I experienced my first ever serious shoe slump.  Following surgery on both feet at the same time, I was relegated to a pair of large, clunky, foam filled, Velcro closing, open toed “bunion boots”…for 6 WEEKS!

As I sunk into a deep shoe withdrawal depression, my doctor explained that at the end of the 6 weeks, I should have at the ready, a pair of …(it’s hard for me to say these words) … “sensible shoes.”

I had no idea what he was talking about.  It took me the full 6 weeks to figure it out.  Finally, I found a pair of shoes I could walk comfortably in for the next year.

And, they were kind of cute.

No…not really.

They were wide, and brown, and flat and boring.  But they didn’t hurt.

It took 12 months, 3 weeks and 4 days before I was able to get my feet into a new cute shoe.

You would think that during this time (including the years of pain leading up to the bunions and resulting surgery) I would have been cured of my serious shoe addiction.  But no.

Instead, it taught me an important lesson…that with both patience and perseverance, I could search out new styles, heel heights and colors that could still be DROP DEAD perfect, but…with a bit of moderation (that would mean no more 4″ heels), they didn’t actually have to cause any more bodily harm.

I WAS FREE AGAIN!  Free to once again start buying cute (and sometimes still comfortable) shoes.  Free to re-embrace the challenge of building great outfits while allowing my shoes to state the purpose of my day as I walked into a room.

And free to let the joy and excitement creep back into my life as a new DSW commercial aired on TV.

I have a love/hate relationship with shoes.

I love cute shoes.  Pretty shoes.  Ridiculous shoes in ridiculous colors with ridiculous pointy toes that cost a ridiculous amount of money.

I love to put them on and look at them on my feet, see how they peek out underneath extra long skinny jeans, make my extra large feet look tiny.

I love to paint my toenails a pretty pink and see how cute they look against my favorite pair of black strappy sandals.

I love shoes with heels that are 3-inches, I love wedges, and I love adorable flats in fun colors and patterns.

The love stops, though, when I actually have to stand up in those ridiculous shoes and, you know, walk somewhere.  Suddenly, those adorable shoes with the pointy toes go from things of beauty to horrible torture devices.

When I was a kid I always thought I’d grow up and be able to walk in heels.  I’d hit a certain age and it would be easy.  It’s in my genes, for god’s sake!  But alas, here I am, 25, an “adult”, and I still look like some disabled duck waddling around when I put heels on. I don’t look like some confident, sexy woman who could strut around New York City with Sarah Jessica Parker.

I blame this on the fact that I outgrew my mom’s shoe size at a very early age.  When I could fit into her size 7 high heels, I had no interest in shoes.  By the time I wanted to practice walking in pretty shoes like my mom wore, I couldn’t cram my size 9 feet into them.  I can only assume that I missed some vital point in my adolescence that has left me lacking in this department of my “womanhood”.

(Though, now that I think about it, it’s not a skill exclusive to women.  Have you seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” recently?  Tim Curry dancing in those stilettos puts me – hell, most women – to serious shame.)

I try to be pickier about what shoes I purchase.  (Not having a steady income really helps with that.)  I try really hard not to get shoes that are even slightly uncomfortable when I try them on in the store.

(Sadly, I totally still fail.)

Part of me wants to say “fuck it” to all of the annoying and uncomfortable shoes in my closet.  “Screw you” to the ones that gave me blisters that required me to shell out 4 bucks for 3 Band-Aids at the hotel gift shop while on a trip earlier this year.  “See ya” to the ones that caused me to sit on the side of the bathtub, weeping after an evening out, pouring warm water over my sore feet.

But, alas, I can’t let go.  They sit there, strewn across the floor of my closet, hanging on the back of my bedroom door in one of those organizer things from Target, or underneath my bed.  They stare at me, and I just can’t get rid of them.  Yes, they hurt, but that incredibly irrational voice in my head says “But they’re SO PRETTY!!”.

(Yes, that voice sounds a lot like my mother.)

So I save those shoes until I forget how bad they’ve hurt me.  I save them because at some point I’ll put on some clothes and realize that those devil shoes are required to make the “perfect outfit”.

When all is said and done, it’s tough for me to decide what my philosophy is when it comes to shoes.  Either life is too short to wear shoes that cause you pain, or life is too short to wear ugly shoes.

That voice in my head (Hi mom!) tends to scream the latter at me.