Buying shoes is good for the soul
My view ‘‘Those look fabulous!’’
‘‘Is the heel too high? For a garden wedding?’’
‘‘Do you think I can wear these all day at a wedding in Bali – I’m worried my feet might get too hot.’’
‘‘Walk around the shop for a bit and see how they feel on your foot. I really hope there’s a pair of those left in my size!’’
Want to meet more people? Spend time at Taylors Shoe Fest, the local shoe retailer’s famous annual sale. Strolling in early last Saturday morning, I bonded with three new friends as we shopped for shoes for weddings, shoes for casual wear and shoes for a husband who remained in the car until the options were considered good enough for an in-person tryon.
I enjoy buying shoes. Somehow there’s none of the angst involved with shopping for frocks (will it make me look frumpy or, worse, like mutton dressed as lamb?), pants (will I be able to do the zip up?) or, Lord help me, bathing suits (will I be able to look at myself in the changing room mirror long enough to see if it fits?)
Shopping for shoes is nigglefree retail pleasure. There’s no awkward undressing involved, retail assistants help out in almost every shoe shop from the cheap and cheerful to the most posh and expensive and fit is obvious the moment you slide your foot inside.
I remember the first time a new pair of shoes made me feel completely happy. I was eleven years old and my mother bought me a pair of chocolate brown Mary-Jane’s with a low Cuban heel, my first heel ever. A narrow strap with a gold buckle crossed the instep and the toe had a pretty pattern punched into the leather.
I wore the new shoes out of the shop, my childish and scuffed tan lace-ups wrapped in brown paper under my arm. I felt elegant, fashionable and confident. And right there, in the street outside the shoe shop, was the boy from school I had a huge, heartwrenching crush on. My confident and fashionable feet walked straight up to him and we had what seemed to me to be a very promising conversation, of a kind we’d never had before. Then and there, I was hooked on the power of shoes to transform me from a shrinking violet into someone entirely the opposite.
The next week at school I bowled him out during a softball game, a defeat he took quite badly and our budding romance was over. But my love of shoes has never wavered.
Towering cork platform sandals, perfect-for-work block heeled, stompy tan cowboy style boots, bright pink Nike runners, red and white striped canvas espadrilles from San Sebastian, flat sandals with fine silver straps from Florence, high heeled red patent pumps, periwinkle blue dancing shoes and delicately heeled evening sandals with slim, black suede straps – my personal list of shoe happiness is long. Perhaps it’s a sad insight into my personality, but I can date an old photo from the shoes I’m wearing and remember exactly how I felt at the time.
However, I amnot a wannabe Imelda Marcos – no matter how rich and how varied and adventurous your social life, you only have two feet and therefore can only do justice to a limited number of pairs. Having said that, every woman should own a pair of what one of my dear friends calls ‘‘limo shoes’’ – the kind of shoes you wear to walk from the limousine to the bar. So far, short journeys of this sort are an aspiration rather than a reality for me, but nevertheless, the principle holds true.
The search for the perfect shoe is exacting. I often come home empty handed. To make the grade, shoes have to be perfectly comfortable the first time you try them on. Don’t listen to a retail assistant who assures you ‘‘they’ll stretch.’’ They won’t and your feet will ache after less than ten minutes wear.
Shoes must be joyful as well as comfortable. This doesn’t necessarily mean brightly coloured, although I defy anyone to feel down and dismal when wearing red shoes. Everyone needs a pair to wear on grey days for a guaranteed mood boost.
Great shoes don’t have to be expensive. I’m still searching for a pair of yellow flats as good as the pair I bought from Number One Shoes for $15 a few years ago and wore until they disintegrated – which took a surprisingly long time.
Last Saturday was a good shoe buying day. I emerged from the sale with three new friends and a pretty pair of high-heeled sandals just perfect for a garden wedding. They ticked all my shoe buying boxes: comfortable fit, value for money and potential to deliver joy. I felt very cheerful indeed.