The ugly shoe Com­fort over fashion


Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - WORDS JOONJI MDYO­GOLO

be­cause only women who don’t have to bother much with phys­i­cal labour can tol­er­ate wear­ing heels all day. Hol­ly­wood stars, as our mod­ern-day ver­sions of aris­toc­racy, wear their high­est heels for brief moments on the red car­pet, and we – the com­mon folk – want to mimic them. Ex­cept, in­stead of pos­ing on red car­pets, we hob­ble from train sta­tion to sta­tion, taxi to bus, and car to of­fice be­fore we head home to ease our heels off and give our aching feet a rest.

It’s for this rea­son that the high heel makes some fem­i­nists de­spair. Why do seem­ingly smart women want to crip­ple their feet by walk­ing in shoes that are dam­ag­ing? It seems that the higher up the lad­der women go, the higher their heels get.Are we teach­ing young girls that to dress for suc­cess you have to squeeze your feet into ver­tig­i­nous heels? Fem­i­nist writer Caitlin Mo­ran was once asked (by Stylist magazine) if there was one thing, above all else, that she would take as an in­di­ca­tion that fem­i­nism was suc­ceed­ing. ‘When a woman goes up to col­lect the Os­car for best ac­tress in shoes that aren’t killing her,’ she re­sponded. ‘Ni­cole Kidman in flip-flops. That’s my end-point.’

The first high-pow­ered woman to change the game re­cently was Michelle Obama, who al­ways chooses low pumps and kit­ten heels, even for dressy and for­mal oc­ca­sions. Through her wardrobe, she shows that style and com­fort can meet. How­ever, it’s sig­nif­i­cant that it’s not the First Lady’s sim­ple and sen­si­ble (but still chic) sense of style that has caught on. It is the down­right dowdy shoe that’s be­ing repli­cated on the streets.It’s an in­di­ca­tion that there’s some­thing tongue-in-cheek about the present trend, but also that ugly shoes are be­ing worn to make a state­ment: my shoes don’t need to be se­cretly, com­pro­mis­ingly com­fort­able; they can be openly, em­phat­i­cally so.

Per­haps fashion-for­ward women are tired of diss­ing Crocs only to go home and slip their feet into them when no one’s look­ing. There’s a silent agree­ment among wom­en­folk: packed away in our wardrobes are all the com­fort­able slip-ons and fluffy flats that we dream about while we’re tow­er­ing over ev­ery­body in pinch­ing stilet­tos at work and at par­ties. Now that stars and mod­els have been seen about town in the shoes we usu­ally keep hid­den, our cup­boards might start to re­ar­range them­selves too.

Are we ready to fol­low suit? I ad­mit to the world that ev­ery win­ter, as I look for that cov­eted high-heeled an­kle boot, one of my stops is al­ways the Aerosole shoe shop.Yet I’ve never bought a pair be­cause I’m afraid they might be judged for look­ing frumpy and not sexy enough. So I find my­self, again, at a shop whose shoes I know will hurt and most likely won’t even keep my feet warm. Who knows how long the ugly shoe trend will last. But it feels good to fi­nally come clean, be­cause in truth: the ugly shoe never re­ally went away. It’s been sit­ting at home, where no one will see us wear­ing it and ac­cuse us of be­ing com­mon.

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