Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Shoes as Self

I'm going to DSW today, which means I have to clear about an hour of my schedule. You think I kid. I do not. For me, going to the Designer Shoe Warehouse (not Da Sale Warehouse or Da Shoe Warehouse as my brothers used to truly think it was called) is an exercise in finding a persona.Yes, these shoe marketeers have got me right where they want me.

Shoes are safe. In a world where fat is reviled and youth is coveted at all costs, there are very few shoe options out there that are veboten to my slightly plump, slightly scarred, not-quite-as-young-as-I-used-to-be self. No matter how much extra weight I've found, my shoe size stays the same. Even if I'm squeezed into something up top that I have no business trying to still pull off, I know that the right pair of favorite shoes will still make me look and feel comely, if only from the knee down. The right pair of shoes can not only change an outfit, but change a mindset.

Speaking of mindset, I truly believe you can infer a lot about a person based on their shoe choice. For instance, a young woman teacher wearing pumps or kitten heels all day at work has almost certainly been teaching less than two years. We veterans grow out of that phase quickly, and our feet thank us for it. A guy wearing Toms is almost certainly confident, loyal and happy. Just ask my husband, who lives in his madras pair three seasons a year. The sandals wearers in any weather over sixty degrees are innate optimists here in Chicago, while the boots-wearers in early September have a deep and emotional connection to their favorite pair; they love the style without the hassle and are practical. My favorite thing to do when I am bored at a large meeting is to look around the room at people's shoes. If you look at a person from the ankle up, you often get a total surprise by the time you arrive at the top: the face doesn't always imagine the chosen shoes in ways you think. Footwear may be the true window of the soul.

Which leads me back to my current DSW conundrum: I need new formal shoes. Previously, I had been rocking my sister's prom shoes. Gold stiletto sandals that matched almost everything. I'm not sure what this borrowed pair said about me: thrifty, with a penache for tacky? Formerly athletic calves with a slight ladylike inclination? I know I'm never going that high again with shoes (not if I'm paying for them, anyway) but I loved the gold because I could use them with multiple dresses. What am I going to choose to reinvent myself as, now that I have successfully worn out my last persona? Classy lady? Vintage vixen? Practical Patty?

To heel or not to heel- that is the real question.  

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