Oh I used to be disgusted
And now I try to be amused.
But since their wings have got rusted,
You know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes.
Red shoes, the angels wanna wear my red shoes.
Lyrics from The Elvis Costello Home Page
There area a lot of red shoe devotees out there – some of them more angelic, some less so.
Pope Benedict XVI is rather partial to red shoes. His Holiness does not, however, wear Prada though (as some reports suggested) but the traditional Papal shoes made for him by Novara cobbler Adriano Stefanelli.
Red shoes have always had a powerful symbolism but for most shoe devotees this is irrelevant – we are drawn by an invisible thread towards the rich colour and the sheer joy of seeing such warmth on our feet.
There are some shoe lovers who would (if they could) wear nothing but red footwear.
For Jodie McEwen aka Red. On Purpose the colour red is as instrinsic to her life as her love of footwear. Her wonderful blog is here. She is regular contributor to various Australian parenting publications including Web Child, Essential Baby and Sunny Days Magazine.
She is not on Twitter yet folks so nudzh her here to join up so that we can nudzh her over there.
You know you have a shoe fixation when all your birthday cards have shoes on them. Your coffee mug, key ring, compact and stationary are all stamped with delicious little images of stunning footwear that you carry around and look at from time to time. It was clear to me on attending one particular open house that this was indeed the house we were supposed to buy. It had a wine glass charm clipped to the pantry door, and on it was a tiny red shoe. And yes, we did buy the house.
Shoes happen to be my chosen poison. Amongst all the responsible, maternal, wifely and somewhat wobbly bits, deep down (well, just below the surface is probably more accurate) there is a shoe princess trying desperately to get out. That little wanton part of me says ‘Stuff it. I know kitten-heeled, pointy toed knee-high boots are not really practical for the school run, but damn it, I’m going to wear them anyway because I like them.’ Trying to balance what I like against what I need is one of the shoes challenges I continue to face.
I’m blaming this shoe ‘thing’ on my genes. The responsibility falls directly on the shoulders of my cherished saintly mother, as far as I’m concerned. When I look back over my life, I often remember it by the shoes I was wearing at the time. So perhaps a retrospective will help clear my vision, allow me not to meet someone new, look at their shoes and make a snap judgement about them.
It starts here. The seed of my love of beautiful shoes, with red being my especial favourites. What hope did I have when this is the bench mark my mother set for me when I was all of twelve months old?
I learned to walk in those little beauties, and haven’t looked back since. From the shoes, you understand. Not necessarily the walking business, which can be rather tiresome at times. Yawn…
They are hardly even scuffed, which is almost miraculous for first walkers. What is also incredible is the fact that my Mum kept them for 20 years, and gave them back when I was expecting my first baby. And yes, I did try to force my baby’s chubby feet into them, but my offspring have considerably larger hoofs than I did as a toddler, so instead, they sit on my desk at work where I can gaze at them at will.
As a three year old, my lofty ambition on life was to be a bride. Or Princess Diana, at a pinch. It was the 80’s, you see. In my formative years, I would force my younger brother to dress up in mum’s old dresses and act the part of the bridesmaid, while I pranced about in lacy negligees, a net cloth over my head and of course, perilously high heels. My preferred weapon of choice was these splendiferous snakeskin creations.
Mum was always petrified I would break my neck in the five inch wooden platforms, but I didn’t, and I don’t even recall a bad stumble. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for a certain Ms Campbell. Maybe she should have put in the hard yards in her preschool years like I did.
Meandering through the landscape of my shoe cupboard, there is a gap from the early 80’s through to the late 90’s. This could be blamed partly of the wasteland that was fashion during that era, and also on the fact that I lived at home with my parents and four others siblings and there simply wasn’t space to keep all the footwear I accumulated through those years. However, disregarding the Dunlop Volleys, Apple Pies and awful white synthetic court shoes that I probably wore, time marched quickly on. Thankfully. I grew up, finished school and set off to the motherland like any good little Aussie to work for a year in the UK. Scotland, actually. Just in case you couldn’t guess.
I wore my Docs to ceilidhs and danced like a dervish until the wee hours of the morning, stripping the willows and doing gay Gordons. My Scottish friends and hosts were often touched that ‘the little Aussie lassie’ wore some crazy red tartan boots.
It was during my time in the UK that I met Him. Mr Smitten. So we got together, came home, got married and started a family. Just like that.
Due to pregnancy hormones, my feet grew a size when I was carrying my first baby and they never went back. It was a sad day, until I realised the silver lining in the cloud. It meant I would need to buy more shoes. Lots more shoes, as none of my old ones fit any more. Sadly, my super Scottish tartan Docs that I bought for just 5 pounds had to be relinquished. They made their way to ebay, where I sold them to a girl who promised to appreciate them for what they were.
As a new Mum there was very little glamour in the shoe department, in fact, very little glamour in any department at all for a while. Shoes became something that were functional and had to encase my somewhat puffy feet. The only things that managed the task were those stretchy black elastic-y flats that were everywhere in the early part of the millennium, and I’m happy to have closed that chapter of my existence. See, no photo of them. Moving swiftly onward…
As wife to one and mum to three, our days settled into a rhythm (most of the time, anyway) and I started to enjoy the life that I had. I came to accept the fact that I was physically incapable of pushing a pram in heels and that chasing children around the park or the beach would require flatter footwear. That’s ok. I can work with flat, I just can’t work with boring.
So I found red joggers, gorgeous red Django and Juliette square-toed strappy thongs that even made my wide feet look good, cute ballet flats, Mary Janes with newspaper print, red gladiator sandals and all manner of quirky shoes. My clothing was fairly practical, but my shoes were my statement. I was happy in my season of mothering young children, and didn’t lament the fact that I didn’t own any gorgeous high heels to make me feel like an Amazon anymore.
And then, just up over the cusp of that hill in the distance, loomed something rather big. I was going to turn 30. I knew what I wanted to do. A fancy 1920’s-1930’s flapper party, with amazing food, live music, great outfits and of course, the perfect pair of shoes. I pored over sites on the net, found pictures of all the Halston dancing shoes of the era, drooled over said pictures, at times to the detriment of my keyboard, scrimped and saved and planned my 30th birthday party.
But what would I wear?
I found them 6 months before my birthday, and I knew I had to have them. The colour was perfect. The fit was stunning. The shapely toe and slim heel were to die for. I hoped I would get a lot of wear out of them. They were even on sale. So I took them home, and squirreled them away at the back of my cupboard not to be worn until the big night arrived.
I showed my prized birthday shoes to a few friends, but they just didn’t understand. ‘What are you going to wear?’ they asked. I pointed to the shoes. ‘But what else? What about your dress?!?!’ I was nonchalant. ‘Oh, I’ll get that closer to the time.’
‘You’re supposed to buy the shoes to match the dress!’ they all cried in a mass of worried indignation, like I’d broken some kind of fashion commandment. What kind of logic is that, anyway? I’d bought the important part of my outfit, and would build my look around my shoes. I eventually found a lovely dress, and it worked really well with my little red beauties. It was a fabulous party and I danced all night in my heels, truly the lady in red.
These days, buying lush, high-heeled or glamorous shoes is a fanciful penchant that I’m able to indulge in fits and starts. The passion and the interest is always there, the means to satisfy it waxes and wanes somewhat. And I find that, finally, that’s ok with me. If I could have every pair of shoes that I ever thought briefly in passing that I may like to own, I wouldn’t appreciate them. Discovering, admiring, hankering for a pair of shoes makes them more valuable in the end, because there is a story to having them eventually join your collection. I am very fond of my shoes. You might even say I love them. I wear them all and I will even admit a certain amount of enjoyment is derived from polishing them.
I can now say that I am (mostly) at peace with who I am, both on the outside and on the inside. My shoes help to express a bit about who I am, but I’m not defined by them any more. So bring the flatties, bring the kitten-heels, bring knee high boots, jewel-encrusted Roger Vivier pumps and comfy bright thongs. In the shoe-cupboard of my life there is a place for them all.
PS- These are the ones I currently have my eye on, even though I know I wouldn’t really get to wear them much.