Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Shoe Canon

Shoes. I've been thinking about shoes. Such potential for fetishizing, and you know how I love a good object of fetish (oh please, won't I ever shut up about my fetishes?)

I wrote many months ago about my favorite clothes through the years. I thought I'd add an endnote to that post, about the shoes that have held special meaning for me.

Here are the ten seminal pairs of shoes from my personal Shoe Canon:


1. The orthopedic shoes of my childhood. I got to choose every year until I was seven or eight from the three colors available: navy, burgundy, and brown. Simply dreadful. Why orthopedic shoes? I was quite pigeon-toed. And guess what! I still am. I like to think of it as a delightful quirk.

2. My aunt's black suede grommeted platform shoes. She had tiny feet, so I could play dress-up in them without falling over. I think the contrast between my clunky orthopedics and these marvels of glamor made me think that life, or at least shoes, would not always be so drab and defeating...

3. Patent leather tap shoes with wide grosgrain ribbon ties. I adored my tap instructor, George. He was about a million years old and had been in vaudeville, and could still tap the hell out of a floor.



4. Ballet slippers. I remember the excitement of sewing the little pieces of elastic across the instep.

5. Black Capezio character shoes, my first heels. Same now as they were in 1983. Let's be honest, they really don't look all that thrilling, do they? It's hard to imagine what I saw in them, but back then the faux leather and ingenue heel screamed possibility.




6. Macdougal Alley Skimmers. When I just googled them, what did I find? The only reference online seems to be a comment I made ages ago on someone else's blog: "The '80s for me are typified by a quintessentially NYC fashion: the MacDougal Alley Skimmer. Capezio flats in about eighty colors; many girls I knew collected them like girls in the '50s collected cashmere sweaters." My one lone pair was electric blue.

7. Steel-toed motorcycle boots. In college, I thought they made me look tough and sexy. Who knows, maybe they did, but it's up for debate. Though I could certainly kick frat boy ass if I needed to...

8. The hiking boots that I wore every day in Israel, when I wasn't wearing sandals. Those boots took me across deserts and up Masada. I absolutely destroyed them that year.

9. Sarge's army boots: when we first fell in love, he was a drill sergeant in the Army Reserves. Once a month, he'd leave college to do a drill weekend at the nearby Fort. I loved to watch him polish those boots in preparation; he was a brilliant, meticulous, patient, and dextrous polisher. I knew it was a very good sign.

10. Hedgehog's first shoes: Irish linen slippers with a linen button on each. So ridiculously expensive, so difficult to tuck her fat little feet into them properly. So lovely.



I asked you about clothes in my old post, let me ask now about shoes, about the special, meaningful pair in your personal history.

So, nu?

32 comments:

Brian Miller said...

it was a sad moment last year when i had to bury my leather sandals...i had them for 12 or 13 years...there were so many memories contained in the tatters that were left. i have yet to find their match. now i settle for my chucks, but one day i will find worthy sandals again.

Jimmy Bastard said...

Off-white plimsolls... They were hand-me-downs from the charity box at St. Josephs, and they were punched with a hole in each side so that they couldn't be sold on for food.

My mother used chunks of stale white bread dipped in brylcream to polish out and fill the tiny indentations on the toes.

It was the first sense of pride that I had ever felt about clothes or shoes. I still have them in a box at the auld place, though it's been a while since I've seen them.
They still keep my feet firmly on the ground.

nick said...

Oh I adore Hedgie's first shoes, so pretty!

As for my own, most of my shoes have been typically boring male brogues, but I just love my tough leather walking boots! They feel so sturdy and dependable and comfy in the roughest conditions.

Suzanne said...

I love number 7 and 10. I know. Only you will understand. I had a shoe fettish for years, but then gave it up...cold turkey.

muralimanohar said...

Shoes? You know, for me being a Pisces (rules the feet), I am remarkably cavalier about them. I really think it's because we were always too broke to get any I cared about, so I closed my heart to them. I refused to live in deprivation my whole life..if I am not lusting after them, I am not being deprived of them, right?

But, if I have to name some...at the height of the jelly shoe craze, I acquired a pair of sandals, in a pearly lavender, which were unlike any other jelly sandals or shoes I have seen, and not even much like other REGULAR sandals. They were graceful, and unique, and I loved those things into the ground.

And the year I became engaged to my now-dh...I had a pair of high top Converse, in green. 'Nuff said. Those things came off my feet in shreds.

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Hi Leah,

As a kid, I remember my first pair of Converse All-Stars. I hustled to save the money; I felt so proud putting them on the first time. In my teens, I started with Florsheim's and upgraded to Stacy Adams. Today, I would go with Florsheim (dress shoes) and MBT shoes for casual wear.

I did buy a pair of hand-made sandals (I won't say how long ago from a Hippie street vendor. Although I stopped wearing them outdoors, I kept them for sentimental reasons until a few years ago when my wife finally reasoned that it was time to cease and desist.

U

Hunter said...

A few favs:

Black and white checked slip-on Vans.

High top Vision Street Wear skate shoes.

Three-eye Doc Martens (before everyone else was wearing them).

Blue suede Hush Puppies.

These days my "stepping out shoes" are a pair of chocolate oxfords.

Now I'm off to do some manly stuff to balance out this comment...

The Unbearable Banishment said...

Mrs. Wife use to work for Kenneth Cole. She was project manager of his website and got deep, deep employee discounts. Because of that, I had more pairs of shoes in my closet than a straight man should. She use to bring me prototype shoes that were made in my size. Unique, one-of-a-kind pairs that were never mass produced. She had our first daughter and quit working. My shoe wardrobe has since deteriorated.

savannah said...

*sigh*

i can't even begin to talk about my favorite shoes, sugar. ok, one story, the MITM was in italy (on business) and found the most perfect pair of t-strap lowheeled shoes for me. they were cadet blue suede and went perfectly with the paisley wool challis dress he bought. everything fit perfectly. i wore those shoes until they literally fell apart. just thinking about them makes me smile. xoxoxo

MJ said...

Mistress MJ fetishises both women's AND men's shoes.

You can be assured that NONE of them are Crocs!

faycat said...

What about the Sissy?! Just kidding.

BTW, I am wearing motorcycle boots right now. With a dress. I haven't gotten past that particular style. And I think one of the most significant pairs of shoes I've ever had were my first pair of steel-toe Doc Martens, in 8th grade. It was right at the point that I stopped caring about fitting in.

Pat said...

I remember a beautiful pair of gold high heeled sandals - the uppers were see-through so they looked like glass slippers. I wore then once on stage playing a vamp in a Coward play. It was the Mitre Theatre which was quite small and intimate so everybody heard Lady Page say 'Look at those delightful shoes Pat is wearing. So lovely.'
You had to be there!

Megan said...

Giggling a bit at Hunter - EVERYONE who wore docs claims to have been wearing them 'before anyone else.'

;)

I'm going to go google some images and I'll get back to you!

The Idle Devil said...

Love the shine on those patent leather shoes. Platform heels, in which I celebrated financial independence (no more pocket money required for shopping!). My first pencil (sorta) heels for dancing (salsa classes). Pink slippers with white flowers across the straps (bought them for the monsoons and dirtied them thoroughly). Not too many...hmmm...I dont think I'm much of a shoe person.

Abi said...

Shoes! Yay! I loved hearing about your special shoes..

My most special pair were shiny black patents with an ankle strap which I thought were the best shoes ever created in the Universe. I was about 3, and I had just started nursery, I tried so hard not to grow out of them but I failed :( then my mum put them into the dressing up box at the nursery for the children with smaller feet so I'd squeeeeeeeeeze my feet into them every morning and give myself cramp.... teeheee

Random Chick said...

I absolutely loved my pair of "real" moccasins my parents bought for me when we went to Arizona. I think I was about 8 years old and wore them with EVERYTHING. They finally fell apart at the seams. I miss them.

Leah said...

I had a feeling these would be a good read! Thanks for sharing. I really do like to know more about people and the littlest things--like shoes--can reveal so much, in the nicest possible way.

Brian: It is honestly hard to say goodbye to beloved shoes! I usually take a picture before I let go of things like that...I know it's maybe a little weird and compulsive, but hey, that's me.

Jimmy: I knew you wouldn't disappoint me with your shoe tale! As I know well that you're a man who owns some of the most luxe shoes available, this is really quite poignant. You are just lovely.

nick: aren't those pretty shoes? I found a photo of the exact pair I bought for her. And you might be surprised to know that I don't consider "typically boring male brogues" boring at all--perhaps it's the word "brogues"?

Suzy: you're all about the flip-flops, aren't you! And I would be too, if I lived in Southern California...

Murali: I think your reasoning is pretty good, actually. And your pearly lavender jellies sound like a little bit of magic.

U: there is nothing like a special new pair of shoes to make a kid feel proud--especially if they've saved up for them on their own! And your handmade hippy sandals sound intriguing--I am trying to imagine them.

Hunter: don't worry, all your shoes are very testoterone-laden! If it's any consolation, Sarge has a total thing for shoes--many of the most manly men do, as it turns out ; )

And ya know, I still like Doc Martens. I don't think they ever really lost their luster.

UB: how cool are one-of-a-kind shoes? I do dream of owning a pair myself--they can certainly be had for a price. You are so so lucky to have had your fling with the shoe fairy!

Sav: that is soooooo sosososo romantic. I would just swoon if Sarge bought me a pair of shoes like that, and a dress too? It sounds beautiful, from your description.

Leah said...

MJ: men's shoes, women's shoes--all ripe for the fetishizing. One could even fetishize Crocs, in a pinch--sort of like bukkakke, per the disgust level!

Faycat: Ah, Sissy. Actually, Sissy has a special place in my heart, just because you me and Liv all had them...

Motorcycle boots worn with dresses...that will never ever go out of style.

Pat: oh, Pat, what a story! That is fantastic. The shoes sound dreamy, just dreamy. I wish I had been there...

Megan: not me, I wore Docs with the herd. ; ) I mean, it was a limited herd, but a herd nonetheless. I loved my Docs. I still do. I think they're like motorcycle boots, never out of fashion.

Leah said...

Devil: I love your descriptions of your shoes. There is something enchanted about the pink shoes with flowers, for the monsoons. Even the fact that they got totally dirty is rather romantic!

Abi: what a sweet and bittersweet little shoe tale! However could you stand to see the other children in your precious shoes? No wonder you tried to squeeze them on every day!

Random: Moccasins! I had a pair when I was about that age too, and I too adored them. They were so soft, and the beadwork was so so pretty...

mago said...

Sorry. These leather thingies that cover my feet? ... bff ... yeah, are leather thingies covering my feet.

Baino said...

I loved this although your shoe collection is more like my daughters. I'm a shocker. I like rubber thongs, comfy leather flats or short boots and have a pair of Asic Gels that have turned a nasty shade of grey! I'm with you on hiking boots though. I don't have a pair at the moment but I am intent on buying some . . not that I hike, they're just super comfy. And I didn't have biker boots but I did have a pair of what the Brits call "Bovver Boots" round toed with those little hook things to keep the laces in place. I walked the length and breadth of England when I was about 21 in those boots they too died at the end of the trip.

Ronda Laveen said...

You had me at black patent and wide gross grain ribbon and ballet slippers. Still love them today. Still love the smell of them (new) today. Don't want to wear them at all anymore. Just want to look and sniff. And the Capezio's? Oh, baby. In know what you mean about the hint of promise.

mapstew said...

Shoes! I just hate shoes, hate wearing them, and I sure hate shopping for them. Though like the Sarge, when I was a competition piper we had to get the shoes shining to high heaven so as not to lose points, and I made sure mine were the shiniest! And me buckles and buttons too.

If only the climate here was condusive to bare-feet walikng!

Karen ^..^ said...

I can't really tell you my FAVORITE pair of shoes, as I'm not much of a shoe fetishist after my dog chewed ONE of every single pair of shoes I every owned back in '94... But the most important pair that sticks out in my mind, is a pair I got from my sister as a hand me down.

Every year, we'd have to go shoe shopping before school. We went to Buster Brown, for the ugly maroon oxford shoes for Catholic School. My sister was being fitted for her pair, and I turned to Gran and asked her if she thought Maureen's old pair from last year might fit me this year. She said yes, but had such a look of pride on her face, that I pushed on, and told her I didn't need new shoes, that I'd just wear hers. When I got home, I shined them and shined them, trying to get them as shiny as Maureen's NEW shoes. I missed that beautiful leather smell of new shoes, that intoxicating aroma that tells a young girl that she has something BRAND new, even if it's ugly Catholic school shoes.

I never got a new pair of school shoes again after that. That was the thanks I got. I would have done ANYTHING for that woman's approval.

Bummer...

Leah said...

mago: just leather thingies??!! Ah for shame!

Baino: I had to look up bovver boots--I guess Doc Martens are these too. I love them, so tough and sturdy. Although I always had trouble walking any distance in my DMs, the steel toe would get in the way of comfort...

Ronda: yes, what is it about dancing shoes, and Capezios in general? All the theater shoes. They are sort of suggestive, I think.

map: barefoot is always best. I too go barefoot as much as possible; in the summer I rarely put my shoes on at all!

Leah said...

Karen, that's awful! New shoes are the stuff of life. And you were trying to be a good girl!

The maroon Catholic school oxfords sound pretty much exactly like my orthopedic shoes. The bane of my existence, everything about them except the shine and the new shoe smell...

willow said...

I had the most wonderful pair of simple 3 1/2 inch, thick heeled black leather pumps, with red tartan plaid lining back in the
'70s. Oh, how I loved those shoes.

Leah said...

Willow, those sound just perfect. Especially the tartan lining!

kylie said...

i really like this post but i need to think about fave shoes.....
i cant remember any

just bob said...

When you wrote shoe canon, I thought you were firing footwear into the Bronx. Then I realized it was canon and not cannon.

Leah said...

kylie: you clothes horse you, if you think of any shoes be sure to tell me.

Bob: Well, I've got a shoe cannon too. It gives me something to do with my worn-out sneakers...

Karen ^..^ said...

I figured I'd write a blog post about it. See how you inspire me?