My Shoes for Today are Invisible

For today:

What shoes are you wearing?


I know. This is where I get all braggy about working from home. I did have some on earlier — a pair of red TOMS — when I took the fat cat on a backyard adventure.

I’ve never been a huge fan of shoes. Ironically, this leads me to spend more money on them than on any other item of clothing. My once-per-year Zappos spree is researched thoroughly beforehand: I want shoes that are awesome, but not trendy, comfortable, but not frumpy and especially, they need to hold up over a couple of years at least.

I haven’t bought shoes in a store since 2005.

Part of this has to do with my feet being large. I wear a size 11, which is no problem for running shoes and hiking boots, but seriously limits options for more fashionable footwear. Especially in New York, for some reason. People run smaller there.

Like astrology, I have never understood the point of whatever shoes are the most popular. A year or two ago, everybody was wearing those “gladiator” type sandals. Why? Also, those ’80s-style booties with shockingly high heels. Seeing those things pounding the pavement leave me with precisely the same feeling I have when I’m in the grocery store and I hear Katy Perry singing her one song.

It’s not hate, or even dislike. It’s befuddlement. I would never in a million years look twice at shoes like that, and yet, hundreds of thousands of ladies apparently feel differently. What is the reason for this? It’s not nurture: When I was growing up, my mother had so very many pairs of shoes that my grandfather built a special cabinet for them.

On second thought, it probably is nurture. Breakthrough! All those boring hours spent among the shoes in department stores, watching my mom try on pair after pair of identical tan huaraches? That is why I buy shoes online.

Once, also in 2005, I was purchasing my very first business suit at Banana Republic in Soho when the saleswoman asked what shoes I was planning on wearing. “I have black loafers with a one-and-a-half-inch heel,” I replied. “No, no, no. You need to get a pair of high heels with pointed toes for your interviews!” she said. “They’re so much more professional.”

Professional? To me, they look contrived. (Because, um, nobody’s toes end in a point.) I would feel like a poseur wearing them. That’s maybe the least helpful feeling when embarking on several weeks of interviewing. Just because you feel like a whore doesn’t mean your feet need to look the part.

I eventually got a job that didn’t require me to wear the suit very often, let alone pointy-toed heels. It was there that I learned that most ladies are very observant regarding other people’s shoes. This was an enormous revelation. To this day, I rarely notice what shoes other people are wearing.

In New York, women who work in offices typically have one drawer or cupboard dedicated to work shoes — fashionable heels that are too expensive and too uncomfortable for the rigors of commuting. They wear comfortable shoes, like flip-flops or sneakers, to work, at which point they change. Friends who live in other, cleaner cities have spoken of a reverse phenomenon: They wear their fanciest shoes until they get to their desks, where they pull out the flip-flops they wear until it’s time to go out to lunch.

What is this Mr. Rogersian impulse to change shoes?

The only time I could ever be bothered to play musical shoes was in winter, when it actually felt liberating to pull off snowboots and replace them with flimsy, shiny things that would have disintegrated in two seconds had I worn them outside.

My one dedicated pair of “work shoes” were aubergine and made entirely of synthetic materials. They were ugly as shit. I threw them into the trash on my last day of work. Good riddance.

My shoe apathy eventually became part of office lore. I would often walk obliviously into meetings with mismatched shoes, non-mates that I had shoved on under my desk in a hurry. I would begin to speak earnestly about something or other, only to be interrupted by a shout of laughter.

I don’t miss having to wear shoes, but I do miss causing that kind of office hilarity.


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