[2.5 min read]
I don’t remember having any dress up shoes, nothing plastic and pink with sparkly or feathered embellishments. What I recall about trying on my mother’s heels to walk around was homing in on her boots. So my obsession with boots started pretty early.
I hadn’t started school when Nancy Sinatra recorded the hit song “These Boots are Made for Walking.” It was full of so much sass and attitude that it was a favourite of mine. At home we referred to it as ‘boots’ and anytime it came on the radio, someone up turned the dial while I stomp-danced round the house.
This soon morphed into me wearing my mother’s leather boots to move to Nancy’s anthem of refusal to be the underdog. The boots I borrowed had a small heel and a pointed toe, the kind to be worn with the stirruped ski pants popular in the sixties.
My mother felt it was very important for a child to wear well fitted shoes while their feet were still growing, so I was always taken to Clarkes to be measured for width and length for my school shoes. Towards the end of primary school, however, I began to long for shoes which followed fashion. In the mid 1970s everyone wore platform shoes, with squared puffy toes. Often in outlandish colours or graced with gaudy embellishments. I often tried on my older sister’s shoes, wishing her feet were my size so I could borrow them.
One trick I had fun with involved my shadow. In autumn and winter, when the sun is low in the sky, every shadow appears elongated. While waiting outside my friend’s house, I’d lift my feet off the ground, admiring the shadow versions of my school shoes that seemed to have fabulously high platforms, like the pop stars and models wore.
My final year at primary school, on our back-to-school shopping trip, I persuaded my mother to ignore school rules regarding outdoor shoes and allow me to select from a glorious array of trendy shoes. I left the shop with a beautiful pair, more plum than brown which I could not wait to wear. Their solid black rubber soles were quite heavy, making my walking clumsy until I got acquainted with them, but I loved them enough to wear them at weekends too. I don’t know what my mother said to make my headmistress turn a blind eye, but wearing them my final year, I felt ‘a la mode’.
My secondary school had even stricter rules regarding height and colour of shoes so I was unable to get away wearing anything attractive with my uniform. Desert boots & Kickers became fashionable during my school years, footwear which looked quite appropriate with long socks and kilts.
I changed to a day school for the sixth form and was able to wear my own clothes, at last my shoes could reflect my taste. The new romantic style of the moment meant scouring charity shops and market stalls, as well as mainstream shops, for items to provide an individual look. My favourite shoes were a pair of courts in gunmetal grey with stiletto heels, much more flattering against bare legs in summer than white shoes. I purchased low-heeled black shoes in a new shape, with a raised feature at the back of the shoe. Unfortunately this feature was impractical. If I wore them any distance, the rubbing caused me to bleed into those shoes. Decades later, I still have bumps on my heels which my feet created in self-defence!
What about the ones that got away? Shoes or boots that were so beautiful that I had to buy them, but later found them impractical: some too high, too tight others just didn’t work with my wardrobe. Sandals with a heavy rope wedge, their every strap rubbing a blister. Knee high cowboy style boots in black with crippling heels that once I started walking I’d feel so unbalanced I couldn’t stop. I owned the cutest black high-heeled ankle boots, a mixture of smooth leather and suede with flashy gold eyelets which made my feet cramp, and brown flat boots with a sheepskin turnover at the ankle – these had a sole so shiny I couldn’t wear them without slipping over.
Now I’ve reached an age where I can’t trust my knees in combination with high heels, so I won’t buy more, yet I’m struggling say goodbye to my beloved footwear. My beautiful linen peep toed shoes with two leather straps always remind me of vintage luggage. Brown suede boots which lace up to the knee with a stacked heel have had to concede defeat against the comfort of a brogue or trainer. Nowadays for my shoe boxes, I am eyeing the sports shoes in search of comfort combined with quirky.
This reminiscence is written for the prompt ‘shoes’, the seventh in Mrs Fever’s summer writing meme Musings in Memoir where looking back is encouraged. Why not follow the link to see what others have submitted.