Back in the 1950s when I was little, I loved to play dress-up. Ladies dresses, cosmetics, and shoes were my passion. My fondest part of the whole dress-up fantasy was the plastic slip-on high-heeled shoes. Those miniature knock-offs of adult shoes were always pink with glittery bits embedded in the hard unforgiving plastic mold, but I loved them.
From early morning to suppertime, I’d wear my plastic high-heeled shoes walking up and down the sidewalk outside our home. The shoes made the most delightful clicking sound, a sound that was music to my little ears.
In my mind, I spun tales of stuttering down a Parisian catwalk modeling evening gowns for famous movie stars. The hard plastic shoes click-clacked, click-clacked in rhythm to the music in my head. Oh, what wondrous places imagination can take a child.
While my clothing style changed from dreaming of sequined gowns to wearing blue jeans, my love of shoes remained steadfast.
As a teenager, I purchased a pair of chucky-heeled lace-up shoes, the latest fashion in the mini-shirt era for those of us whose calves refused entry into knee-high white boots.
Shoe trends in the 1960s found females donning sling-backs, flats, stacked heels, Mary Janes, kitten heels, and Pilgrim shoes. Gone were the pointy-toed stiletto high-heels of the 50s. Gone were my pink plastic high-heels.
Comfort and style were what women demanded along with color. Shoes made from non-organic materials flowed from factories. They were cheap, fashion-forward, and fun.
By the time the cultural revolution of the 1970s arrived, ladies shoe styles progressed into the groovy. In my closest were wooden clogs, cork-soled sandals, and moccasins. I was hip. I still longed for knee-high boots, but my consolation was platform shoes.
My arrival in the grown-up world of making a living meant becoming rather mainstream, demanding shoe choices that would compliment my big hair, chucky jewelry, and padded shoulder jackets. I sprained my ankle once while wearing a pair of Candi wooden-soled high-heeled slip-ons. That was the beginning of ankle damage that would come back to haunt my later years.
The corporate fashion of the 1990s found women sporting tailored pantsuits and pencil skirts with white linen blouses. Shoes became very conservative: primarily pumps and primarily black.
But something happened in the 2000s. Women – well, young women for the most part – were fascinated with high-heeled shoes again. Really high, really narrow, and really horrible to wear – shoes from hell, in other words. I guess we could blame “Sex In The City” or “Mad Men.” Yeah, let’s do that because heaven knows TV influences every facet of our lives.
Back to shoes – those slim bits of leather with devilishly high heels look amazing when one is sitting cross-legged with a cell phone poised for action. But try standing or taking a step. Doing so requires one to stick the buttocks out as a counter weight to the forward projecting torso. The misalignment of the spine coupled with the tippy-toed position of the foot leads to a really unhappy body. Maybe not right away, but definitely over time.
I’ve watched women attempt to hustle their feet through airports while wearing what I can only surmise are Jimmy Choo shoes due to the shape of the spike that was masquerading as a heel. Poor dears.
And then there are the costs. Where women once sought inexpensive shoes with high design, women today want high design and expensive shoes, cost be damned.
Several decades of walking to my office in Boston or through an airport or down long corporate corridors wearing high-heeled shoes finds me today with bunions and ankles that bear the scars of hyper-extension.
I’ve abused my feet and now I must pay the piper. Any investment I make these days in shoes is 100 percent for function, as in walking to the bathroom or doing the grocery shopping without twisting an ankle.
My shoes are no longer cheap knock-offs of couture styles or really anything that even hints at having a heel. Oh, no. Today, my shoes are very sensible. I shop where athletic shoes are sold to athletes and senior citizens. I shop where young sales clerks explain that one’s feet must be cradled in expensive anti-pronation inner soles stuffed inside firmly constructed boats, I mean shoes.
At a mall recently I saw a mother and her small daughter. The kid was wearing a bright pink tutu over striped leggings, a faux tiara, and plastic high-heeled shoes. Little tears sprang to my eyes. I smiled and thought, “Enjoy it while you can little girl. Before you know it, there’ll be no Jimmy Choos for you.”
This Mattapoisett Life
By Marilou Newell