Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's A Stilettos/Teva World

This post is about shoes, but it is only metaphorically about shoes.  Style-shy people, bear with me.

If you've shopped for women's shoes in the last, oh, seven years, you've maybe noticed something funny.

Super-sexy shoes?  Check. There are outrageous heels all over the place, usually with delicate straps for maximum impracticability.

"Comfortable walking shoes"?  Check.  I guess "Tevas" are so 1990s, but Birkenstocks are still around, and companies like Nike are all over this market.  Oh right - it's CLARKS now:

But if you want something in-between -- I mean, something kind of comfortable and kind of stylish -- you're pretty much SOL. 

Amazingly, when it comes to women's shoes, you're more likely to find UNCOMFORTABLE casual shows than you are to find comfortable dressy ones.  Have you noticed this?  Style trends like the narrow-but-wedge-shaped heel and the open-no-strap-concept both make shoes less dressy and less sexy and at the same time less sturdy and less comfortable.

Wedge heel: discomfort without the high style.

No backstrap and wedge heel together!
To me this is like full-calorie beer that sucks. "Tastes bad!"  "No, it's more filling!"

So this thing about shoes has been driving me crazy for years.  Luckily I have a few pairs of shoes that have moderate but shapely heels and nice elegant straps and I just bring those to the shoe guy to get fixed over and over and over and over.

But it was only today that it struck me, that this isn't just a problem with women's shoes, it's the same problem with everything in modern life.

It's like there are only two ways to live:  total loser and Jay Gatsby. 

If you don't have a job, you can sleep on your parents' sofa and drink beer and complain, and you can daydream about and plan for the day when you become the big cheese.  Then when you go to work you have to find that ticket to the top.  Then if, god forbid, you lose your job, it's like you're catapulted back from aspirational-land to loser-land.

People in aspirational-land are devastated to be sent back to loser-land, and rightly so.  But it didn't have to be like this.  If you lose your job as some kind of cubicle management guy, and you need money to feed your kids, you might consider working at something else, like a waiter, or sales-clerk, or -- god forbid, janitor or something.  But in the modern world, those jobs suck.  So doing them is a kind of super-double-demotion.

Those jobs suck because we've made them this way, steadily eroding the protections, the money, and the respect that made those jobs -- and could make them again -- completely reasonable respectable jobs. 

I feel like a person who loses an office job should be thinking to himself, Jeez, why are all the ordinary jobs so crappy?  and why does a person who does them get so little respect?  But no one seems to think that.  They just all freak out at being in what they take to be loser-land instead of aspirational-land.

It's the same thing with people owning and renting houses.  I mean, it's sad if you lose your house because you can't afford it, but honestly, it's not the end of the world.  You can rent an apartment, just like lots of people.  I did this for years and you know what?  It's totally fine.  It's only because we've set up home-ownership as some kind of sine-qua-non for American middle class life that this feels like some kind of caste-lowering tragedy.

You can be a Stiletto in this world, or an ugly comfort shoe, but I'm sorry, there's nothing in between.


Christopher Grisdale said...

Nice post.

Do you remember when Kate Moss made rain boots stylish? I think it was her, anyway.

Fashion is a funny thing.

Patricia said...

Hey, I thought rain boots were timelessly cool : )