Yes...these are the ones...Sheesh! I've been looking at my posts, and so many of them have been so self-indulgently...well, non-style-oriented, that I felt I needed to get back to some fashion. And while nothing current is really racing my motor, I thought I'd dig out one of my favorite old stories...
This post was originally written about a year ago, about a real evening I was having with my friend Lee... This is a true story, every word, and it's so good that I've dug it out of the archives to share with the current P&C crowd. Okay...so P&C wasn't even around a year ago, but I was doing some writing, and it was good! This one is actually about some really great shoes - the kind I can't wear lately, so it's indulgent just to think about...
On Friday night I was sitting in Gold Alley, just outside of Bix, having a cocktail with a close friend. People were gathered for the after-work drink, and since it was a nice night for February, people stood, drinks in hand, on either side of the narrow alley. On the opposite side, a group of friends enjoyed each others company, and soon a fabulously chic couple approached and were welcomed by all.
“Look at those shoes she has on…” my friend said to me. The woman in question was wearing incredibly steep stiletto heels, very bare – just a toe strap, and for that extra bit of sex, a strap of leather circling the ankle. Either the shoes were steeper than her usual, or this woman was a bad heel-walker – she could barely make the five steps from the cab to her friends without showing her shaky, uncertain footing to the entire street.
“Well, she can hardly walk in them.”
“Yeah – but look at them!”
“Yeah, they’re hot, but someone should have told her they’re the kind of shoes one only wears at home.”
“YEAH! With NOTHING ELSE on!”
“Exactly!” We both laughed. “I have a pair of shoes like that – my first *real* high fashion shoes I bought at a sample sale when I first started with the company. A pair of John Galliano corset-pumps. Remember those? They lace up the toe? So hot.” Ah yes. My John Galliano corset-pumps in sultry soft black leather with a delicate, skinny, little sharp heel. Sex on a stick. I went on to tell my friend the story of the shoes. The John Galliano pumps were in size 9 ½ and had been worn by a model during a fashion shoot, and due to the scuffs, could not be sold. But they could be sold to me at an employee sample sale for only $40.00. I admitted that I was afraid of them at first – they were so high, such skinny little heels, so vampish, I didn’t know quite what to do with them. I was new at my company and this had been my first sample sale, and my first pair of uber-expensive shoes (albeit purchased at considerable discount.) I think I may even have blushed at the thought of not only having them in my closet, but actually putting them on and wearing them. Our in-house fashionista-shop-aholic giggled at my uncertainty about the Galliano corset-pumps.
“You know,” she whispered to me with a conspiratorial smile, “they never even need to leave the house!” At the time the idea made me blush even harder, but I was younger then, and didn’t know so much.
Somehow or other, this shoe-y anecdote led to another and another, and I fondly remember some shoes I had purchased when I was studying in France, almost ten years ago. The first was a pair of Sketchers sneakers. Yes, I will admit to owning and wearing Sketchers in my student days – I’m not above it. (I also had Airwalks when I fancied myself a “skater girl”, but let’s leave that out, shall we?) Well, these Sketchers I bought in London, somewhere on Carnaby Street but I don’t really remember. They were lavender, but opalescent lavender, and very shiny. Sneakers were huge in the late 90s, and I saw these and had to have them, my “Euro-Club Barbie” sneakers.
Obviously, being the girl that I am now, and was then, I shopped a great deal when I was a student in Paris. I knew where to find stuff, like the best selection of vintage leather jackets on Rue du Temple. The Temple area is the part of town where one shops for either vintage clothes, club clothes, or drag queen clothes. It was at this time when the trashy club girls at the Sorbonne were wearing these crazy sneaker-pumps one could purchase in the Temple area. Huge sneakers with big wedge heels. All the girls were wearing them. I thought they were the ugliest things I'd ever seen.
I met a good friend while I was there, Lora, who introduced me to all of the sophisticated Bohemian things I truly needed to learn about while living in Paris. Things like hashish, great sex, clubbing, and Miles Davis. For hours we would sit in each other’s rooms and talk about culture, politics, our friends at home, books, music, and men. All while smoking endless Marlboro Lights, drinking wine, and listening to “Ascenseur pour l’echafaud” – even to this day, I cannot listen to that album without being completely transported. Lora and I had a friendship of the kind that develops in these kind of study-abroad situations. Deep, rich, fulfilling, and intense. She knew me so well, while hardly knowing me at all. The shopping was therapy for me, she could see it, and she disapproved. Lora had also seen the sneaker-pumps in the Rue du Temple and warned me that if I ever came home with a pair, she would be slapping me on the first flight out of CDG so fast my head would spin. "If those ever start to look good to you, it's time to go home!"
It was a difficult time for me then, I was sad to be away from my friends, and I was going through a heavy-duty 20-year-old dose of “what does it all mean?” while lodging in a large, empty, old dorm room of the Cite Universitaire. (Lora dared me to pull myself out of my funks *without* going shopping…sometimes it worked.) I grant you, this dorm room was larger than my first apartment, but never so warm. It did look out on the Parc Montsouris, but it was full of drafts and street noise. I do think of it fondly though, just as I think of our fellow dorm residents from around the world. There was Mehdi – an Algerian living across the hall from me with a collection of hookas that were put to good use on the weekends, and also Lora’s neighbor Kuaku – an utterly stunning African man who nearly puts Taye Diggs to shame. Kuaku was from Central Africa, although I don’t remember his country, but he had also lived in London, and practically everywhere else. Lora also had an in-dorm boyfriend at the time who lived the coolest of cool lives: photographer by day, DJ by night. At one time on a rainy day he asked me if he could take a nude photo of me. He said he got inspired, me, the rain, he couldn’t resist. Of course, Lora would come with me for moral support. I thanked him, but demurred. It was a strong will I had to resist a charming French photographer, asking to take sexy photos of me. One of the biggest regrets of my life. Why wouldn’t I want pictures of myself, naked, in the middle of a parc in Paris at age 20? Like I said, I was much younger then, and didn’t know so much.
Anyways, back to the shoes. I visited London and of course went to Carnaby Street and got my Euro-Club Barbie Sketchers. I also went to Underground Shoes and purchased an absolutely TO DIE FOR pair of funkadelic London swinger shoes. Picture it: stacked four-inch heel with a slight flare at the bottom, a half-inch platform, and a lace-up Oxford style…and, wait for it, they’re pony leather, in a zebra print. So fabulous. (This was a good few years before Austin Powers too, so it wasn’t like everyone was buying them then.)
I still have these shoes, by the way. They’ve made it though the past years tucked safely in their original Underground Shoes box. They’re so outrageous and utterly precious (and not to mention slightly small) that I never wear them above once a year.
I returned to Paris just before flying back to the States, and quickly went to Lora’s room to show her my new shoes from London. Instead I found Kuaku. I was so excited about my new shoes I had to show him…
“Look Kuaku, I bought them on Carnaby Street!”
“Well, I could tell you bought them on Carnaby Street…”
“What do you think – aren’t they great?” I asked him, whole-heartedly and eagerly waiting for some kind of validation on the outrageous shoes from the beautiful African.
“Well, Ann Marie?” He began in his sweet accent, “Well, they’re zebra…” I waited a beat and considered what he was saying. He held one of the shoes in his hand, staring at it in semi-horror. I didn’t put two and two together to realize that he probably thought I’d killed his childhood pet from the bush and made a pair of shoes out of them. Being the oblivious and insensitive budding fashionista that I was, I replied with:
“Yeah! Aren’t they fabulous!”