Friday, April 18, 2014

My "Thing" About Shoes

Lib in boots
I've got a "thing" about shoes. I never knew I did, not until a few minutes ago. Someone from a far place on the other side of the world read, "Wearing Mom's Shoes," last night -- though it was really this morning for them -- and that's when it hit me. I've written about my aunt wearing my mother's shoes, me growing into my father's, some that fit and some that don't. I've referred to distance runners and sprinters and they wear shoes of one sort or other, or most do.

In my only reasonably successful track event, I ran in stocking feet because the Converse "tennies" we wore at the time were worthless in a sprint. Once the weather warms up and I get the lawn freshly cut, shoes will get traded for bare feet. It only seems right, living in the country. Once I've traded life on the farm for a sojourn back in the city (residency training), that will seem slightly odd. Bare feet are for country boys, penny loafers for city mice. I know that's not strictly true, but it fits the stereotype.

But back to shoes, I notice them. What people are wearing and when, and I wonder why they've selected the ones they did. The big, block-like, square high-heeled sort that's back in style, pumps, boots, and so many kinds of tennis/hiking shoes an accountant couldn't keep track of them. If clothes make the man, shoes reflect the person. Too out of style and we're nerdy; too "in," and we're overly fashion-conscious. Most of us are in the middle, trying to get around without our feet hurting.

That's why I still love Skechers Shape-Ups, despite all the hype about false advertising. They're comfortable and good for long days on the hospital floors. My only complaint is they're not made anymore and finding the leftovers in my size (big) is a challenge. The company has a new one made with memory foam -- I may have to resort to those, if I can remember, that is. Maybe the shoes will help.

I guess all this came about from spending my youth in my father's retail western store/saddle shop. We stocked Western and English riding boots, in limited styles and quantities. We could special order anything, but customers like to handle what they're buying, so you've got to have at least a few pairs on the shelves. 

English boots are basically made of canvas (for summer), rubber (for barnyards), or leather (for everything else) and come in brown, black, or black with scarlet cuffs around the tops (fox hunting attire). Oh, and there are the little ankle length, jodphurs; can't forget them. Field boots have laces over the instep, dress (formal riding attire) are plain. English boots are like English food: there's not a lot of variety on the table, unless you're talking about pudding and we are definitely not talking about that.

Western boots, on the other hand, thrive on variety. Some have short, shoe-like heels and others the traditional cowboy style with three-four inch under-slung heels that angle downward in the direction of the toes. Tops can range from eight inches to knee length and toes can be rounded or sharp enough to use for a hole punch. And then there's the stitching or patterns cut into the top. They're decorative, sure, but also functional. The more rows of stitching there are, the less likely the tops will wrinkle around your ankles with age and the influence of gravity. If only faces had that advantage.

Colors abound as well as kinds of leather. Cowhide, water buffalo, or waxed calf for work boots; kangaroo, lizard, ostrich, fine calf, for "dressin' up and goin' to town," boots. I have a pair made from shark skin my father ordered for me during my first year in seminary and they still look good. I used to spend hours, when the store was empty and I should have been dusting or sweeping, looking through boot catalogs, wishing and dreaming.

So, yeah, I'm a "shoe guy," as well as a "car guy," and a "horse and dog guy," but I come by it honestly. There's no fetish here. The way to my heart is not through my feet. Invite me over for dinner and my shoes will be polished, but don't expect me to bring along my kit to do yours. A sincere compliment you'll get, but maintenance is up to you. My "thing" about shoes only takes me so far.    

(Creative Commons image by BCR Librarian via Flickr)

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