I looked blankly at the sales assistant and then to my Mum, who was chuckling. I was about 15 and visiting her during the school holidays (I grew up with my Dad). It turns out the sales assistant remembered a three-year-old me having a tantrum in the shop because Mum made me have sensible brown shoes and not the shiny red ones.
It seems shoes were a thing for me from a young age.
You wouldn’t necessarily look at me and think they were a thing these days; my default position when it comes to footwear is Converse, biker boots or flip flops/thongs, depending on what the weather is doing. But they so are a ‘thing’! For me the right footwear can provide that subtle boost in the way some women draw on the power of a good dress, statement jewellery or the right lipstick.
I was chatting to a friend once about why I love shoes so much. I talked about how if you’re bigger and can’t guarantee walking into any shop and finding clothes that will fit then shoes are a failsafe option for looking and feeling good. That’s a plausible reason for sure, but I can’t work out now whether I still believe it. Certainly anything that draws attention away from my middle bit and to my legs is a win, but I do have a tendency to imbue things with unnecessary meaning. I think maybe I just love shoes!
Shoes help orchestrate the mood. 40th birthday party? Damn right I am going to wear silver glittery heels. Nobody has better shoes than the birthday girl. Off on a work trip to Africa? Slipping on Birkenstocks as I leave for my flight will instantly get me in the zone. Serious and dull work meeting? Fuck that – pink shoes! A shoot with a youth charity? No chance of holding my own fashion-wise but the silver loafers will at least help me pretend.
And I get stupidly sentimental about footwear. My first marathon runners will probably be in my coffin! I still have the lilac heels I wore to my best friend’s wedding 15 years ago, but it was the first time I’d spent proper money on a shoe and handbag set. A few years ago my Dad convinced me to throw out the walking boots that went round the world with me in my twenties. I regret that bitterly. They walked the Inca trail with me. They gave me grip to clamber onto the roof of a train for an awe-inspiring journey through the Andes. They were on my feet when I skydived out of a plane (with two broken arms!) above Queenstown. They were my spirit shoes for a year!
But I don’t have shoes for everything.
“You don’t have shoes just for sex?” asked my friend, incredulously.
Shoes just for sex? That just seems the most bonkers idea to me. Of course certain shoes make me feel sexy. I’ve had sex wearing shoes. Against walls, in pub toilets, on a ferry to Ireland. Quickies. Outside. Snatched moments. But the idea of having shoes that never leave the bedroom, that you put on for sex? Well, I think that would just make me giggle self-consciously! I may have found the part of my life where shoes just can’t boost my mood…