I have my mother to thank for my approach to footwear: if it isn’t practical, I don’t buy it. I remember being a kid and desperately wanting to be like the girls who owned runners that lit up, sparkled, or came equipped with roller heels. Whenever I begged for trendy shoes, mom’s response was the same: “No. They’re just not practical.”
Instead, I wore reliable, arch-supporting Nikes that proved ideal for my recess-time adventures. Mom’s unwavering commitment to sensible shoes made me crazy then but her fondness for pragmatic footwear burrowed deep into my brain. Today my shoe collection is almost all black with a maximum height of one inch. Coordinating shoes with an outfit is almost a non-issue, I rarely pause to consider if my feet will be in agonizing pain after a few hours. My wardrobe is categorically boring and I like it that way.
That is, until my accessory belief system was shaken to the core by the rise of the furry sandal. It started last summer with Rihanna’s FENTY bubblegum pink pool slides. When I first laid eyes on them, they struck me as immeasurably ridiculous. They reminded me of that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie violently vetoes a fluffy ensemble for her book cover because they’re not “respectable.” Carrie’s problematic “high class hooker” comment aside, I knew a pair of shoes that jazzy had no place in my minimal, neutral-dominated closet. What happens if they get wet and do you have to bathe them like tiny Chihuahuas? They just weren’t practical.
Somewhere between spotting them on the runway at Miu Miu and seeing the Brother Vellies Marabou Lamu slides Instagrammed for the millionth time, I thought again of Carrie Bradshaw’s hissy fit and something shifted. Why shouldn’t Carrie, a published author, be taken seriously over a pair of soft kitten heels? They were frivolous, sure, but did they impede her ability as a writer? Unless they were created with brain activity inhibitors, no.
I wondered if I, like Carrie, was terrified of not being taken seriously. A few things loomed in my head: the countless eye-rolls I’ve gotten from expressing interest in beauty or fashion; the moments I’ve resented my body and wanted to minimize any attention drawn to it; most of all, my closet full of nearly colourless, printless, generally safe clothes and shoes.
The connection between all those things was startlingly clear. For so long I’ve dressed to be taken seriously and in doing so I’ve overlooked all the glittery, colourful, and fuzzy options out there. Feathery shoes might not be utilitarian, but they’re unapologetically confident. By wearing them, I am asserting my right to be into fashion while being an intelligent, complex and sensible human being.
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