It’s time to write about something VERY important. This article strives to answer an age old question, and it is being penned by one who is in the know. What is it with women and shoes?
I can only speak for myself when I say I have loved shoes since I was a little girl. At the age I realised I was obsessed with mugging neighbourhood dogs for pats; I copped my first whiff of a shiny leather pump. I was about three or four and I was a goner. I loved my mother’s shoes and my ballet shoes and my teacher’s shoes and any shoe I could see……. It had begun.
When I was seven I was bought a pair of black, patent leather Mary Janes. (For the footwear ignorant, basically that’s a shoe with a strap across the arch of the foot). I wore them obsessively. To school, to church… I would have worn them to bed if I’d been allowed. They are forever immortalised in a black and white photo I still have. As well as the beloved shoes I was clad in my favourite dress. In hindsight, it is clear I was doomed to a life of footwear shopping and an overstuffed closet.
When I outgrew the Mary Janes I was crushed. I wasn’t bought another equivalent pair but, along came some white patent wedges with coloured flowers on them. I chose them at the shoe shop in a lather of excitement. By this time I was ten. They were groovy man! Brady Bunch worthy. I’d sit with them peeking out from under the hem of my flared pants and admire them. These loved favourites met an unfortunate end when I was running in the playground and face planted. They got wrecked (and it didn’t do much for the palms of my hands or my knees either). A strong lesson in why physical exertion can never come to any good.
I was not a confident child, although I attempted to portray myself as such. Looking at that B&W shot reminds me of how awkward I really was. I also believed myself to be rather plain and, truth be told, I did go through a protracted FLK stage. That was the magic of the shoes. Didn’t matter what was going on at the head end, the foot end looked great. My first school dance I went with the group of ‘dateless girls’. Actually let’s get on track. Every school dance I was one of the dateless girls. I was fifteen and I had a pretty dress, questionable hair and no confidence. BUT…. I had been given new red, shiny, high heeled shoes. I looked down at those shoes every time I wasn’t sure what to do or say. (ie : all evening). It’s about the only thing I remember about the formal, apart from having a crack at dancing to Kenny Loggins and realising I did not have the moves.
A beautiful pair of shoes is beautiful whoever wears them. Good day, bad day or fat day the shoes still fit and they’re still beautiful. Just slipping on a pair of heels changes my psyche. They’re like a form of armour. They make me taller. (Very important at my altitude). They are visible to me as I wear them. As women we know our legs look longer, butt looks higher, clothes look more stylish in a heel. I think for me, the bit of confidence I gleaned from the pretty shoes of my youth has translated into a sort of mental trademark. If I have on great heels I am fortified to face the world. Ready for battle. A designer high heel equals a readiness to deal with the day. Louboutined up and not to be messed with.
I do have girlfriends who are not shoe obsessed, but I have to say I think more of us ladies are shoe oriented than not. It is often the lament of a woman who has an injury or whose feet have hit their lifetime limit that she cannot wear high heels. I dread the day my arches give up the ghost. I’ll be one trademark down and gazing morosely at quite an admirable stash. (I’ll never be Imelda but I can hold my own).
The day I visited Manolo Blahnik in NYC was a landmark moment in my life as a shoeaholic. It was like being a kid in a candy store. An expensive candy store mind you. The thing that struck me was how exquisite the shoes were. Shamelessly so. You weren’t just buying something to walk around in. You were buying something that defined who you were from the ankles down. Therefore vastly improving what the world perceives from the ankles up. “There is an element of seduction in shoes that doesn’t exist for men. A woman can be sexy, charming, witty or shy with her shoes.” (Christian Louboutin).
In the end, asking what is it with women and shoes is a little like asking what is it with boys and cars. It seems to be innate in many of us from an early age. For me it’s a little bit of armour and a little bit of owning something beautiful. Beautiful heels have most certainly been a rite of passage from awkward girl to polished woman. In the words of Manolo Blahnik. “You put high heels on and you change”. I for one can’t argue with that. 🙂