Illustration by Ruben Toledo
Urban Spring. It’s a time marked as much by the outcroppings on women’s feet as it is by the buds on the trees. I am not immune to the desire for my feet to look like delicate flowers, but with size 9′s attached to some “powerful” legs, I’m also realistic about my possibilities.
I went through a period about six years ago, where I decided not to wear heels anymore. It involved me being at a heavy metal concert accidentally wearing high heeled boots, as I’d gone to the venue straight from work. I remember looking at the mosh pit thinking, “Oh my god, if this gets out of hand, I’m going to be trampled.” There was so much beer on the floor that the idea of running for cover without some non-skid soles seemed impossible. That night, I went home and consigned or donated all my heels. All I could think was, “How many scenarios are there where wearing heels puts me at risk?”
About two years ago, right around the time we were getting married (surprise, surprise), I changed my mind. It all started with the pale gold Stuart Weitzman pumps I chose over my John Fluevog boots to wear with my wedding dress. (A nice Jewish boy for a nice Jewish wedding, right?) As much as I wanted to pull a Betsy’s Wedding and score one for feminism, when you look at the dress you can maybe see why I ultimately chose some classic pumps:
Which brings me back to spring fever, and my current experiment. I’ve rid myself of a few pairs recently, and surprisingly none of them were heels. I find it interesting that I want so badly to make high heels work for me, when they only marginally fit my lifestyle. I know I’m not alone in this, since there’s even a blog called Biking In Heels, and she’s from Cambridge no less. So what is it that makes me desire traditional femininity as much as I do modern liberation?
Linda Grant tells a story in her book The Thoughtful Dresser about a display of relics at the holocaust museum at Auschwitz. In the midst of this pile of shoes, meant to represent a day’s worth of camp prisoners, there was a lone, red high heel. Not only that, the shoe turned out to be an authentic possession of an actual camp victim. Grant’s synthesis of this is on point:
Whenever I have bought expensive, painful, unnecessary shoes, I have thought about her, the now anonymous woman who arrived at the camp wearing the shoe (and its partner) or carrying it in her luggage. She was not anonymous then. She had a name, a life. Freedom, in its way, was the right to buy expensive luxuries, to own nice things. Fashion exists, whatever you think about it. It’s everywhere, even in the gruesome relics of an extermination camp.”
Is it not hilarious that I was worried about a mosh pit and muggers, while this woman wore red high heels to meet her death? Granted, they didn’t all know what they were in for, but enough people knew it was unlikely to be good. These shoes clearly either brought her joy, defined her status, allowed her to feel more human, or all of the above. And all of which are crucial when your humanity is being stripped from you.
The book was a very quick, super read, and I recommend it to anyone who wants an insightful, lovely take on why we get dressed. It definitely prompted me to embrace my inner RuPaul, yet also accept that my definition of glamour will not be someone else’s – especially as I get older.
Speaking of getting older and practical considerations, my big problem is that I can’t wear pumps without them literally falling off my feet when I try to walk at any length. I finally got serious about this and enlisted the help of Google, which led me to Kelly at Alterations Needed, a great style blog which has quickly become my new favorite. Specifically she has a great post about how to comfortably wear high heels.
I took her advice and bought Foot Petals’ Tip Toes. And while she didn’t mention these in her post, I also bought the Amazing Arches, since I need all the arch support I can get. (Getting older, remember?)
Between Linda Grant’s inspiration and Kelly’s practical tips, I feel like I can take as much or as little femininity into spring as I damn well please. Which is a nice seat of power to be in. If you see me at a concert though, expect Keds.