Nice Shoes, Bitch

Candy Stud Pump by Christian Louboutin

She wasn’t supposed to be there, in front of the bagel shop a few blocks from my house. It was ten in the morning and this was the hour for young mothers overwhelmed by large strollers, construction workers grabbing a snack, or post-workout people stopping by with their dogs. I was part of the last group – still in running tights, a ballcap, and layers of sweaty performance wicking. I also had my dog Bonnie with me, who was at that moment giving me her best (and most unseemly) sad-eyed begging routine for a bit of whole wheat bagel. It was crowded. The day was warm and blue. The kids were loud. I was happy.

No, she was definitely not supposed to be there.

And yet she entered my vision and I thought she was lovely. A tall, elegant Asian girl in a soft gray charmeuse blouse with a knotted silver scarf and crisp black trousers. A lush black leather handbag was carried daintily in one hand, while large black sunglasses hid her eyes most mysteriously. She walked with a man in business clothes – they were together, but not together – like colleagues. Clearly he had never noticed a thing about what she (or anyone else for that matter) was wearing. I thought they were bankers or real estate agents or something. They were both completely out of place. I noticed she smiled a little to herself, in a quixotic, Mona Lisa sort of way. I admired her style but thought she was rather done up for the heat of the day. Why not loose that scarf, sister? Then I looked down.

The profile of the spiked toes hit me first. Shiny, sharp, and ferocious, they looked like Medieval maces for the feet; weaponry. These shoes were not to be fucked with in any way at all. One swift kick to the nether regions and that would be the end of that, Charlie. A perfect paradox of messaging, the toes sent out a warning while the stiletto heel sent out a come-hither. And the lacy sides barely peeked out from below the perfectly tailored trousers. I couldn’t look away.

Damn. Those shoes are fucking rad. Who is this girl and why is she here?

Amid a sea of snotty-nosed neighborhood kids, mothers gossiping, and the double-wide strollers steamrolling the sidewalk, she moved like a cloud of cool success and refinement. But those shoes belied something else: something dirty, captivating, and fabulous. No wonder she was smiling. Metal, leather, and lace. Phew! I was thinking this way as a fellow woman. Jesus, what kind of affect would these have on a man? I pity the poor fools.

As she walked further on I noticed the shockingly vivid redness of the signature soles, cementing the level of fearsome that I had anticipated. Dollar amounts started to pop into my head. Do I hear $950? $1050? $1100? With that kind of detail on a Louboutin namesake, who knew how high things would go? She kept walking, and I kept watching. I marveled how daintily she stepped. She was a pro; despite my years of practice I always feel like I still lumber a bit in stilettos, but not this girl. All of her weight was forward on the ball of the foot, which came down gently first, followed closely by the fall of the heel with only the slightest pressure. She could have been in pointe shoes. True, she walked slowly and a bit mincingly, (two things my long strut will not accommodate,) but she was graceful.

She was graceful, and she had a new pair of Louboutins that probably cost close to my monthly rent. I hated this bitch on principal.

She walked like someone newly in-love, except she was clearly in love with her new shoes. She moved pretending not to notice the insane luxury going on south of her own ankles, meanwhile every step magnified the evidence. These shoes were meant for the bedroom, or if worn out of doors at all, a cocktail party. They were definitely not ten-AM appropriate, nor work-appropriate, but she still wore them like any self-respecting woman who’s just spent a small fortune on high-fashion footwear.

Outwardly I seethed with jealousy, but inwardly I applauded the action. Outwardly I was completely cowed, but inwardly I wanted to commit assault and grand larceny.

Yes, I know how it feels to be this girl, but it’s been a very long time. It's a heady feeling to walk like sex on a stick, and its power is undeniable. I too know what that Mona Lisa smile is all about. So, is it the shoes I want or the feeling they'll surely give me? It's a question for lovers - of fashion and of life. And we're all fools in love, no matter how great the cost.

Candy Stud Pumps by Christian Louboutin - $965 at Saks Fifth Avenue

The Great Shoe Wake

I died for beauty, but was scarce

Adjusted in the tomb,

When one who died for truth was lain

In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?

"For beauty," I replied.

"And I for truth, -the two are one;

We brethren are," he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,

We talked between the rooms,

Until the moss had reached our lips,

And covered up our names.

- Emily Dickinson, 1862

I've been planning this funeral for months, years actually. Everything short of wreaths of roses and readings from the Psalms. If I had hardwood floors instead of carpeting I'd be pouring my shot of whiskey right out in honor of my fallen heroes - all six of them, in fact. To be fair, not all of these heroes are entirely fallen. Some are merely in ICU or in desperate need of hospice care just to manage the pain a bit. Is it their pain, or mine? I wonder.

I suppose I should tell you what I'm talking about here: shoes. Very beautiful, expensive, adored, and in another time frequently worn, shoes. Back when I worked in the luxury fashion industry I gathered together quite a collection. I'm not one of those people that builds a collection and then hordes it for myself alone; no, I share it with the world and display my affection (and appreciation) openly. Thus, these shoes have served me well and are now very close to death, if not entirely dead.

In all honesty, some of these do have some life left in them but I am concerned that if they emerge from the cryogenic stasis of my closet that they will disintegrate once they hit pavement. So what to do? How do you honor the life of a much-loved, once-luxurious set of footwear? Do you bury them in the shoe cemetary, burn them and scatter the ashes above Union Square, or perhaps commit sati upon their blazing pyre? I have no idea. But before I do anything, I think I should give them a mention here...

The Lou-Boos above are my very first pair from that illustrious house, and unfortunately I never wear them. This despite the fact that the style was on an episode of Sex and the City back in the day. (One of the few when Carrie was in Paris with Baryshnikov - can you imagine those stilettos on cobblestones? Me neither.) They're about a half-size too big for me and even with the anti-skid sole they are always precarious on the foot - like any second they could potentially go flying and impale the handsome head of a gentleman caller. This looseness makes them more than a little uncomfortable, and while I lament giving them up, I'm afraid they are just using up precious closet space.

These gold Celine sandals are likewise mere space-suckers in the armoire. Glittering, Grecian, shapely, sexy, and strapping, these shoes always garner compliments galore. This is a good thing that my toes appreciate because they hurt like the dickens when worn. Dickens? More like having a pair of rubber bands around your foot just below the arches, cutting off the blood-flow. Despite only having worn these all of three times, the insoles are completely unglued, rippled, and serve as a useles layer on an ultra-thin lower sole. I've been dying to throw these away, but my heart collapses at the thought of putting anything named Celine in the garbage.

Back around 2004-2005 chunky heels were in style and I definitely participated in this trend. Enter the next two pairs: a Mini-Damier Mary Jane and Mini-Monogram Cerise Pump, both by Louis Vuitton. I cannot tell you how much I adored these two in their time. The Mary Janes' straps are connected by small pieces of elastic which are now so overstretched that they could snap at any moment. Meanwhile, the pumps are scuffed, scratched, and stained with the residual damage of many many adventures, at play and at work. Both pairs are as loose as bedroom slippers (even with the heels) but are now beyond wearable. They're just embarassing. As far as disposal goes, these two are my Velveteen Rabbits.

Another oddity is this ultra-fabulous pair from Marc by Marc Jacobs. Entranced by their colorful polka-dots I had to have them so badly that I paid full-price for them, around $250, which was a LOT of money for me back then. (Hey, who am I kidding, it still is!) It wasn't until after I'd purchased them that I found that they were also in an episode of Sex and the City, but I can't remember which one. Retro, fun, and sexy, I still love the compliments I get on these shoes. They're still in really good shape, outwardly, but inwardly there's a few little issues. Okay, so I snapped one of the heels at one time; you wouldn't know it but for the six-odd angry-looking nailheads that the shoe repair drove right through the instep. I would have forgotten this myself if that shoe still had its insole, but it doesn't. They're also barely comfortable after about an hour, so they too go unworn.

Finally, remarks for the best pair of kitten heels that ever came out of the House of Dior. A saucy mini heel and a long pointy shape are paired with lush black leather, making these versatile and easy to wear. At least that used to be the case. The little "Dior" metal embellishment on the right shoe has come unhinged on one side so it starts to swing around as I walk. The overall condition is good though, but these too feel more like slippers than shoes and tend to flop on my feet. They've been re-soled and re-heeled umpteen times, but they're so lovely and adorable! It breaks my soul to conceive of stuffing these kittens into their dust bag and drowning them.

Has anyone else faced a similar predicament? How does one dispose of no-longer-wearable designer fashion? It cannot be restored or recycled or given away at this point, and belive me, no museum would want them. Apart from a sacrifice on the altar of fashion, I'm not sure what to do. Plus, I'm not sure the Gods would care - they aren't virgins after all!

Here's a drink to all my shoes, past, present, and future...

Angels Wanna Wear My...

There is an old saying that goes "red shoes are only for children and whores..." Well, I'm neither one nor the other but I still love me some red footwear! In fact, the statement runs entirely contrary to the mindset of a true fashion-lover; why be so limiting and so judgmental in one single statement? This sounds like one of those mid-century fashion dogmas a la "no white after Labor Day" and "handbags and shoes must match"... Ugh.

When I browse shoe stores I am instantly drawn to the red pairs. Maybe it's because red is my favorite color, or because I'm unafraid of wear it, or because I'm kooky and use my colors as neutrals, but there it is and I can't help it. There is just something about red shoes. Is it because they're sort of childish and impractical? Or is it the taboo of being so vampish and attention-grabbing on a body part rife with fetishistic implications? Or perhaps we were just brought up to love them? 

"Oh I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused. But since their wings have got rusted, you know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes." -Elvis Costello

YSL Rive Gauche, Fall 2003Not one single woman I know would turn her nose up at the ruby slippers, for instance. Talk about the shoes that launched a thousand ships! From the moment the Wicked Witch of the East's striped legs curled up and her shoes found their way onto Dorothy's feet, we all sat up and paid attention to our shoe wardrobes. Sadly, our own collections do not transmit in such technicolor glory, but every pair of red shoes we own lends itself to this fantasy. By the way, did you know that the magical slippers in the Wizard of Oz were meant to be silver, like in the book? The legend goes that Louis B. Mayer paid a visit to the set and realizing the power of the new technicolor format, he made the slippers ruby instead. Mr. Mayer, if you only knew...

Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of this classic film and to celebrate it, twenty fashion designers have been invited by

Warner Brothers and Swarovski 

to design  recreations of the famous ruby slippers. I'm never a big fan of these kinds of "redesigns", especially where they concern something so classic and iconic - it's just never as  fabulous as the original. But, when I read about this

in last week's

New York Times,

I started to think about the far-reaching influences of the ruby slippers in particular, and red shoes in general.

Jim Fixx's Onitsuka TigersOf course there's blue suede and black patent, but the most iconic shoes are the red ones. It makes sense since most every culture in the world uses red for celebrations and as a symbol of luck and happiness. It is thought that as humans, the color red encourages us to action and confidence, while it protects us from fears and anxiety. Add all of this to the power and confidence inherent in a well-made, beautifully-designed pair of shoes and you come up with a heady cocktail indeed.

But it's not just "fashion" shoes that are iconic; Jim Fixx launched an athletic revolution with his cherry red Onitsuka Tigers on the cover of The Complete Book of Running- a seminal work in the world of personal fitness. Think about it, without those sleek red beauties, would there have been Jazzercise or Jane Fonda Workout or spin class or bootcamp? I grant you it's a reach, but I'd be willing to bet that a lot of the world's current health and well-being is owed to a pair of red sneakers from 1977. 

And then there's The Red Shoes. This stunning Powell and Pressburger film from 1948 has probably inspired most of today's professional dancers and performing artists. Based upon a Hans Christian Andersen story about a girl who sees some red shoes in a shop window and has to have them, only to learn too late that the shoes are possessed and she will never be able to take them off again. Or, as Boris Lermontov explains in the film:

""The Ballet of The Red Shoes" is from a fairy tale by Hans Andersen. It is the story of a young girl who is devoured with an ambition to attend a dance in a pair of Red Shoes. She gets the shoes and goes to the dance. For a time, all goes well and she is very happy. At the end of the evening she is tired and wants to go home, but the Red Shoes are not tired. In fact, the Red Shoes are never tired. They dance her out into the street, they dance her over the mountains and valleys, through fields and forests, through night and day. Time rushes by, love rushes by, life rushes by, but the Red Shoes go on."

A metaphor for one's commitment to their art and passion, with more than a soup

ç

on of a warning from Doctor Faustus. The story presents a choice: do you choose art, or do you choose life? As Lermontov sternly tells one of his dancers: "You cannot have it both ways. A dancer who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love can never be a great dancer. Never."

Christian Louboutin Feather Ankle-Wrap D'Orsay for Fall 2008So what is a girl to do? On the one foot, red shoes are powerful and glamorous while on the other foot they're troubling and leading the wearer into mischief. The beauty of this connundrum is that red shoes carry both messages; they're beauty and beast in one. Totally intrepid and not for the passive wearer, they demand attention, action, and daring, even if that daring can cause some problems. Above all they require a certain amount of commitment to oneself and one's fashion prowess. You want to wear the red shoes - you don't want them to wear you.

Red shoes make me happy. It's all of the messaging and metaphor of innocence, sex, art, glamor, and life rolled into a single pair of shoes. But more than that, they seem to just smile at you from the shoe box as if to say "you know when you put me on you're going to have a fabulous day..." A box of promise just waiting to happen. Isn't it nice to know you own a pair?