Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sole Searching

It's really all Cinderella's fault. I mean it's really no surprise that most of us have such an obsession with shoes. Barbie might have something to do with it too - I think my first plastic glitter high heels had her name scribbled across the soles. But it was that sparkling glass slipper that turned Cinderella from a scullery maid into a beautiful lady-in-waiting, and even more importantly, that same mystical shoe helped Prince Charming track down his mystery women and turn her into a princess. That's a hell of a job for one little shoe. I'm not sure any pair in my closet at any point in my life has lived up to such lofty aspirations. That's not to say they that most of them haven't done their fair share to make my life a better place, at least in some small measure.

There is a story that my mother tells from when I was a little girl. I don't actually remember the shopping trip in question, I was only around four at the time. We were on a mission to find new dress shoes, my mother and my grandmother both thinking a nice pair of black leather mary janes would be the practical choice. I, apparently, had other designs. Even at a young age, I already knew the thrill of a shoe that was just a little bit special. To that end, nothing, and I mean nothing that I tried on at the store fit. Except for the shiny, RED patent leather mary janes I had my tender young heart set on. Every other pair was too tight, or too big, or they pinched, or squeezed, or something. Most mysteriously, the EXACT same shoe, in the EXACT same size, in sensible, goes with everything black leather, just did not seem to fit my feet quite right. Needless to say I was a conniving little four year, and I got those red shoes. And wore them with everything, fashion statements be damned. It was the beginning of a shoe romance.

Now I am not an over-zealous, walking fashion statement kind of girl. I feel pretty strongly that if you are going for a run, you should actually wear running shoes, that it is perfectly acceptable to wear flip-flops for most summer activities and some fall and winter ones (this is Los Angeles) and that high heels are not at all necessary for a trip to the mall or a casual lunch with friends. That being said, I still wholeheartedly believe that the right shoe can make all the difference to an outfit and the wrong one can do an entire ensemble in. I should note that I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to footwear fashion. I believe in the infinite power of a good strappy high-heeled sandal or a classic peep-toe pump. And for casual days, you can't beat the perfect black flip-flop, or a good old pair of Chucks. I honestly don't get some of the trends. Like the gladiator sandal, which doesn't work on anyone who doesn't have legs up to their armpits, and even then, I really think you still kind of need a toga. Or the "shootie," I think it's called. Something that's a cross between a high-heeled pump and an ankle boot. And sometimes they even have a cut-out toe or a lower part that looks like a sandal and an upper part that looks like a boot. Footwear with multiple personality disorder. I don't get it.

The real beauty about shoes is the way they can make you feel. Shoes are quite possibly one of the best methods of retail therapy available. A trip to DSW is cheaper than a visit to your shrink, well, depending on how many pairs you buy. And the only sole you have to bare is the one that will be sliding into that perfect Charles David wedge, with just the right angle of the heel to make your calf look fantastic and your troubles melt away. Not to mention how the right pair of heels makes you walk. Sexier. Better. Don't believe me? You're not wearing the right shoes. Go shopping. Now.

And if you think guys don't pay any attention to those bits of leather and fabric and whatever-else strapped to your feet, then you (a) need to find a man who doesn't think commenting on your footwear makes him sound gay, or (b) need to tell your man that commenting on your footwear does not make him sound gay, or (c) find a gay man who will happily comment on your footwear because he doesn't care if he sounds gay or not. Though option C guy will actually be the least likely one to tell you if he's turned on by the sight of you in those shoes. He can only tell you if you are breaking a fashion law in seventeen states. And the point of guys noticing your shoes is not whether they go with your dress, something you should hopefully be able to figure out, it's that your selection of footwear tells them something about you, and, quite frankly, can turn them off or on. My boyfriend likes to go to the country bars, where the dancing is the centerpiece of the evening's action. He says he can tell from one look at a girl's footwear whether she is there to dance and have a good time, or there to sit on the sidelines and hope a guy will be awed by her strappy sandals and polished toes and buy her a beer. The moral of the story being that if you want to catch a dance with the hot guy commandeering the dance floor at the country bar, leave the strappy sandals at home. A pair of boots will get the job done just fine. That doesn't mean those high heels should be relegated to the back of the closet, just choose the right shoes for the occasion. And listen to your man. If he's brave enough to tell you that he likes your shoes, make sure to wear that pair when you can. There's nothing better than knowing that those oh-so-high heels with the black straps across the front and the brass buckles will put a smile on his face when he walks through the door.

Over the years I've learned a few things about shoes.
1. If they hurt like hell when you try them on in the store, they're always gonna hurt like hell. And nobody worth their salt likes a date who can't do anything but sit there and look pretty.
2. Close-toes shoes are made for days when you forgot to get a pedicure.
3. Nothing is better than a pair of shoes that look great AND you can dance in them.
4. Men think the red soles on a pair of Christian Louboutins are incredibly sexy. I don't normally advocate spending $600 on a pair of shoes on a regular basis, but it might be worth it to save up for that one special pair.
5. Tennis shoes do not go with skirts. Unless you are playing tennis. Enough said.
6. Gladiator sandals should only be worn by gladiators.
7. Black is always a solid choice and goes with everything, but every girl needs a little red patent leather in her collection too, just to shake things up. Even if you are only four.
8. You can't have too many pairs of shoes. Unless you run out of room for them. In which case you should consider moving to someplace with more closet space.
9. Sometimes, you should leave them on.
10. As great as the pair you are wearing may be, there's is nothing as freeing as kicking them off and just baring your soles.

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