A guest post by @hazelblackberry
“It used to go like that; now it goes like this.” – Bob Dylan, 1966
The first time I started this post, I started it a completely different way. I changed my mind. It’s a shame because I developed this hilarious motif of me as a blossoming flower which then got linked to a Triffid. Haha! Oh.
Anyway, this is how I’m starting it now:
“…I am not all that fussed about shoes. This is because I cannot walk in high heels and don’t understand how anyone can; thus I don’t understand the fetishisation of them.” – Hadley Freeman, The Guardian, Monday 16 April 2012
First of all, if you don’t know Hadley, go straight to The Guardian’s website and read her entire back catalogue of Ask Hadley because she is like, totally brilliant, and then come back here.
Go on. Off with you.
Well if I’d known you were such slow readers…
While I adore and revere Hadley, and slavishly adopt her every throwaway comment as my mantra, this statement of hers leaves me cold. Like Hadley, I have never learnt to walk in high heels and I marvel at how anyone can. (Though if you want some good advice on getting there, check the guest post by the marvellous @shrydar on this blog for some hot tips.) My highest heels are about a towering two inches and whenever I wear them I feel like a galumphing fool. Still, I wear them because I get so many compliments.
And, really, this is where, unlike Hadley, I am fussed about shoes. People notice them. They’re not an adjunct to an outfit, they’re an integral part of the infrastructure, binding one’s look together into a stable edifice. When someone compliments me on my shoes, it’s as rewarding as being complimented on my jewellery or clothing – I feel that someone else, even for a moment has noticed and appreciated my style, my individuality and my flair. Okay, so they glanced down, said “nice shoes” and walked on – I can infer from that what I damn well like, okay?? And no, you can never – never – conclude that I ran after them, breathless, panting, wondering if they’d like to catch up with stylish, wonderful moi for a discreet cocktail or two at a suitable time and date in the not too distant future oh you’re married, oh, oh my god, haha, I totally mistook you for someone else!
So shoes matter. As the eye sweeps over us, we tell a story to the world and a memorable ending is just as important as a captivating or arresting (excuse me, Mr Officer) beginning. In much the same way as some songs peter out as though the band either did not know how to end it, or couldn’t be bothered – I’m particularly looking at you, Custard – so an unsuitable or thoughtlessly applied shoe will cause an otherwise carefully contrived look to…to…not quite happen.
And, yes, I did say “contrived” look. What’s wrong with contrivances? Whether it’s casual off-the-beaten-track traveller girl or sporty chick or dynamo office profesh, every day we’re presenting ourselves in the way we want to be seen. Even the “I don’t care” pair of sloppy tracky daks accessorised with greasy hair plainly says I don’t care, especially if paired with bare feet or old thongs. Sloppy tracky daks, greasy hair and some sparkly high heels, however, screeches “either mentally deficient or deranged and possibly armed”. You see?
The other, implicit part of Hadley’s statement, with which I also do not agree, is the idea that to care about shoes, shoes must be fancy. No, I say, nooo. A thousand times no. I said it a thousand times. I didn’t type it. The plainest shoe can still be stylish or pretty or, quite simply, apt.
Can I just chuck in here – not acksh a q as I’m going to go ahead and chuck it in – that just as important as the way we want the world to see us, is the way we want to see us. Whenever we’re assembling clothes, shoes and whatever accessories for an external view, we’re also reconfirming to ourselves that yes, this is who I am.
(We’ll avoid the heavy philos of pretending to be something you’re not.)
The thing is this: who I am, who you are, changes according to when it is, where we are, who we’re with, how we feel. It’s not inauthentic or any of that crap; it’s thoughtful and good judgement. It recognises that, like a dazzling stone cut by a master gemcutter, we have many facets. Yes? Yes. So glad you’re with me.
Logical conclusion: many non-Sybil-like personalities require many non-Sybil-like shoes. Unless, of course, Sybil had a fahbulous, darling array of hoofwear, then we might be able to consider a closer alliance. But I’m getting off the point. What I wanted to say was this: many aspects to me, many many many shoes to capture that. And, uh, the odd item of clothing to go with it.
So, what kind of shoes do I have? I’ve got flats in many colours (none made by my mama), I’ve got knee high boots, flat riding boots, strappy sandals, thongs, sneakers, comfy hiking boots, Birkenstocks, ballet flats, patent leather, orange, teal and red shoes, even the dreaded Mary Jane’s – because I think they’re cute.
And what do my shoes say about me? That I can be sporty, outdoorsy, fun, practical, sensible, a bit elegant, sassy, very confident, naughty and niiiice. (And that I may be trying to hang on to my childhood a little longer than strictly necessary.)
And just who do I think I am? I reckon I’m all of the above, at one time or another. And, what’s more, no matter who I am, I’m pretty bloody terrific.
(Good thing Pete Townshend wrote ‘Who Are You?’ long before this ever saw the light of day. He’d be all, like, “Whoah, total lyrical rethink required here.”)
And on that note: what’s on the floor of your cupboard?
Who the fuck are you?
She has even more shoes than me or at least buys as many.
Shoes do not maketh the woman but they sure as hell give her a strut.
Walk on girl and shake that tail bone!