It started with the ruby slippers movie. Most people remember the movie as the Wizard of Oz. I however, have always called it the ruby slippers movie. Why? Because I coveted Dorothy’s magical ruby slippers. It had little to do with the magical qualities of clicking the shoes and finding myself in Kansas or Peoria and everything to do with red, sparkle, bows, shiny and nothing I would ever be allowed to wear as long as my parents faculties hadn’t gone the way of the Hula Hoop and spun out of control.
I remember shoes I have worn like most people remember important dates, places traveled and people who walked in and out of their lives. I remember my first pair of suede gumdrops because I was finally allowed to buy a pair of red shoes after seemingly years of black, brown and white shoes as utterly boring as a city sidewalk and a marble with no cat’s eye. For the uninitiated, gumdrops were a slim, tie, oxford-type shoe that came in the colors of what else? Gumdrops.
I remember milestones by the shoes I wore and I remember sad and happy times through my choice of footwear. I remember ugly saddle shoes in high school that were indestructible (I did try to kill those things) and I remember my first pair of thongs (yellow rubber ones) before some idiot decided to call them flip-flops and then unceremoniously dubbed string underwear thongs. I remember my white Keds when they were called gym shoes, even if you weren’t in the gym. My red cowboy boots were actually called “cowgirl boots” which I thought was stupid so I refused to call them that. I detested sexism from a young age, evidently.
I loved loafers, even though my parents said they had no structure or arch support and looked sloppy when walking. They were always insisting on taking us to Jack O’ Day’s sensible shoe store on Western Avenue in Chicago where they actually measured your feet and then stuck your feet in a xray machine that I’m sure did more harm than shoes with no arch support. I eventually had a job where I wore high heels all the time and obsessed over matching every outfit to my shoes. No, I did not buy the outfit first.
I had divorce shoes which I burned after wearing and a sad pair of black sling-backs that I wore to my mother’s funeral that I couldn’t bring myself to wear again. I had reporter’s boots that I wore for years chasing fires and stories in bad weather and I had my editor flats that I wore for many more year’s working as a newspaper editor standing for long hours every day. I had my door-knob shoes that I only wore in Las Vegas (the heel looked like a small round door-knob I swear) and my one pair of both Prada and Manolo Blahnik‘s if I felt the need to impress myself (because seriously no one else was going to know who I was wearing). I had happy shoes for my kid’s weddings with rhinestones and sexy kitten heels for dancing. I had ankle strap heels to make my short stature look “better” but actually they cut me off and I ended up looking shorter. I even had see-through shoes but those were odd and not in a good way. I had date shoes that only looked good while sitting with my legs crossed (spike heels now called stilettos) and not walking, and pregnancy shoes that I could barely see when I looked down. My extreme pointed toe leather boots made the Florida TSA agents laugh, they called them cockroach killers stating the pointy toe could easily fit into tight corners. I guess I made their day although I didn’t get the joke, I was merely being fashionable.
I wore Adidas sneakers to play with my kids and try my hand at tennis and hiked Colorado in North Face hiking boots. I went rafting in Teva river sandals and played tourist on countless cobble stone streets in Birkenstock, Keen and Chaco walking/sport sandals. I never did get into the Crocs plastic shoe craze but I fell right into line with the ugly but comfortable Uggs boots. I know the most comfortable flat on the market is Me Too and the most comfortable flip-flop on the planet is Sanuk, made out of yoga mat material that withstands miles of warm weather walking. I am a walking encyclopedia of shoes and my closet bears witness to this fact.
I rarely buy shoes anymore as I don’t need them, plus, I am getting older. I don’t want any shoes hanging around that don’t have a memory attached. My shoes were purchased over the years for a lot more reasons than walking and looking good, although I didn’t know it at the time.