We probably need to start talking about shoes.
I love shoes. Shoes are my most favorite item of personal attire/adornment. I love shoes more than jewelry, scarves, or other kinds of accessories. But some consider my taste in shoes to be a little unusual. I love and own a lot of brightly colored shoes (mostly sneakers), but almost all my dress shoes and leather casual shoes are black.
When I was packing up for my move from Washington DC to Portland in 1997, I gave away 60 pairs of shoes — mostly dress shoes, but also two pairs of Reeboks — to a local women’s shelter. It was at about that time that my dress shoe size had gone up from 8.5 to 9, so most of those dress shoes didn’t fit me anymore anyway. The only pair I had any emotional attachment to were a pair of bright red pumps I first wore in 1985 for my law school graduation. I did bring with me a few pairs of size 9 dress shoes, most of which I have not worn since unboxing them here in Portland, and a couple of them are pictured below.
These woven leather pumps saw a lot of action the last year or two in DC. I bought them at Hecht’s (which is now Macy’s, like almost every other department store in the US). They were reasonably comfortable but I kept them under my desk at work and commuted in a pair of Ecco flats. Amazingly, I still own those Ecco flats. You’ll be seeing them here soon.
These Cole Haan pumps actually have some historic value. I bought them at a Nordstrom Rack somewhere in suburban Washington in the early-mid 1990s. I believe that these were among the earliest attempts by Cole Haan (after being acquired by Nike) to apply Nike Air technology to make dress shoes more comfortable. That was the main reason I bought them, although they had beautiful classic lines and reasonable heels and I loved the way they looked too. I’m afraid that in reality they really weren’t all that comfortable. Putting a thin airbag under the ball of the foot is better than nothing, but the real trick in making a high heeled shoe comfortable is in engineering the shoe so that the wearer’s body weight does not push her feet forward and down. When your toes slide forward and scrunch into the front of the shoe, you aren’t comfortable. The most comfortable high heels I ever wore were the first generation of Easy Spirit dress shoes. I had Easy Spirits with 3” heels that were a dream to wear all day because of the way the inside of the shoe was engineered. There was excellent metatarsal arch support plus the ball of the foot rested in a little cushioned cup, leaving the toes with some wiggle room. It was a nice trick.
These faux suede slipons came from Coldwater Creek, I think. I’m not sure why I bought them, except that they were marked way down. Although I never wore them, the faux suede is wearing off the toe on the left shoe, so I’m sending them to Goodwill.
These Easy Spirit loafers came from Filene’s Basement in DC (not the real Filene’s Basement — that’s in Boston — but the chain store that licensed the name). They were very comfortable and I really liked the way they looked. I am pretty sure I wore these shoes to my very first day of work at Nike, August 11, 1997. (I could tell you everything I wore that day, including what bra I wore — my original ID photo showed one of the straps peeking out from the neckline of my t-shirt, and believe it or not, I still own that bra too). That evening I went to the employee store and bought a few pairs of sneakers, and although I know I wore these loafers a few more times, they fell out of favor.
I need to begin this last section by stating that in general I have never been a designer label whore. I have nothing against most of the major designers, but their products have been largely out of my price range, and also ill-suited to my lifestyle. The one exception I would have to mention is Prada. Not all Prada — I speak in particular of the fabulous black nylon twill bags (of which I confess I own several) and the loafers.
Sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s I was shopping with a couple of friends at Arthur Beren, a fabulous shoe store in San Francisco, and tried on a pair of black Prada loafers with a toggle apparatus on the vamp, somewhat similar to the last pair of shoes pictured above. I fell in love immediately. I wanted to buy them but they were quite expensive, and as an employee of the company that owned Cole Haan I could not rationalize it, but I loved their look, so when I saw these toggle loafers at J. Jill for less than $100, I decided to go for it. (I don’t buy or wear knockoffs but these are not close enough imitations to trigger my concerns.) I wore them a fair amount but they were just different enough from the image of the original I had in my head that I felt a nagging desire to keep looking for the real thing. By now a year or two had passed and, like all good fashion houses, Prada had moved on to the next thing. So I decided to create a search on eBay and wait to see what would happen. Sure enough, sometime in the next year, someone listed a gently used pair of black Prada toggle loafers in my size. But they were in excellent condition, and they were affordable. So I nabbed them, and never wore the J. Jill loafers again.