“IT’S GOTTA BE THE SHOES!”
That line was uttered by the always-hip Mr. Spike Lee in 1989. It was a commercial for Nike featuring Spike and Michael Jordan and it really spoke to the power of shoes. Most of us cannot dunk like Mike or perform other superlative feats in our shoes, but what is it about SHOES? Why do they hold such power and evoke such love? As a life long fashion addict and artist, shoes have always held a special place in my heart and are often a subject in my work. I started thinking about why they are so important to me and have decided a few things…
1. My mother has a lot to do with this! She has been a shoe maven her whole life. Like many girls, I fondly recall playing in her closet as a kid, slipping my feet into her heels, clomping around and pretending to go to fabulous grown-up places with fabulous grown-up people. Mom was a die-hard heel girl (and at 82 is only now giving in) and the top shelf of her closet was lined with stacks of shoe boxes, the shoes carefully wrapped in their original tissue like they were made of porcelain. I was a bit of a tomboy, and my usual, daily kid shoes were Keds All Sport sneakers or a ratty, hand me down pair of my brother’s cowboy boots. My mother, being a girly girl, was probably thrilled when I showed interest in “being a lady” as she always called it and allowed me full access to her closet. It was the first place that shoes felt like they had the power to transform me. As I got older, my mother’s eyes would light up whenever I said I wanted a new pair of shoes. Her automatic response was, “let’s go shopping!” Thanks, Mom.
2. Most of us can recall our favorite pair of shoes at any given time in our personal history. They serve as literal reminders of all the steps we have taken in life. A pair bought for a special occasion, those that gave comfort like a warm hug or maybe a pair that represented the style of a particular decade. Mine are cataloged in my mind thusly:
- those 1965 ratty cowboy boots that made me think I was Johnny Quest.
- a very cool pair of white vinyl go-go boots c.1974 that I wore with a green velvet suit with white piping (yes, I did).
- my very first pair of Frye boots from middle school. Heaven.
- a pair of navy suede clogs that I clacked through the halls of high school in.
- a pair of low pointy-toed vamps that were classic 80’s, red, blue and green color-blocked leather. I bartered for them in Georgetown (DC) with my college boyfriend and wore them until they fell apart.
- my first pair of Lucchese boots that cost a fortune, but I had to have. They still fit like a glove.
- my collection of classic, vintage Stubbs & Wootton smoking slippers with embroidered designs that I always snag at a deep discount because I watch their website like a hawk and they feel like butter.
- and lastly, any Manolos, because…Manolo.
3. Shoes have the power to make us FEEL. The joy of putting on a pair of Ugg slippers after a long, hard day might be the quickest way to bliss you’ll ever know. The confidence, power and sex appeal of great pair of heels that can make an entire outfit sing. The reassurance of a pair of sneakers that brought you over a finish line, whether it was running a marathon or running your kids to their million and one activities. The love in the shoes you wore on your wedding day - mine are still wrapped safely in their box, 30 years later. The pride in a pair of sensible loafers or work boots that take you out into the world, day in and day out, to provide for your family. All valid feelings, all from shoes.
Our shoes are much more than fashion. Outside of providing actual function or comfort, our shoes are our partners in our life events. They carry us through our bad days and dance with us on our good days. They may be pieces of leather, fabric, wood, rubber and hardware, but put those things together, properly measured and crafted and you may just have the perfect vehicles to a little more joy in your life. You may not be “like Mike”, but you could be the best version of yourself, which is not bad either. Cheers to the shoes!