There was a recent flap over a group of college women wearing flip flops to the White House to meet the President. It was considered a breech of etiquette, way too casual for such an event. The footwear in question hardly resembled the original beach shoes we used to buy for 79 cents a pair a few years ago. Today’s flip flops are chic, kooky and expensive, coming in all colors and adorned with feathers and rhinestones. You can pay an awful of money for them.
What ever happened to sneakers? And why were they called sneakers? Probably because the rubber soles made them quiet and easy to sneak around in.
I worked in a shoe store when I was in college. My store sold Keds and the store up the street sold PF Flyers. PFs were considered more of a sport shoe, primarily for basketball. The standard was a black and white high-top and when you tried them on you could suddenly run faster.
Keds were “tennis shoes, ” in either white or navy, and could be a little bit dressy.
Today, footwear is a billion dollar industry. There’s an expensive shoe for every sport on the planet. Crimes are committed in the name of obtaining the most desired foot fashion among young people.
Imagine my chagrin recently when I discovered that the extremely comfortable walking shoe I had been wearing on my daily stroll was in fact designed to be worn performing martial arts. Shall I take up karate or buy new shoes?
I attended a girls school in my freshman year where the uniform (so ugly) demanded (even uglier) shoes that had thick, rubber, lace-up, dark maroon Oxfords with bright yellow shoe laces. The daring ones wore different color laces, but not me. My friends in public school were romping around in loafers (bad for your feet, no arch support), or, even worse, flats (even less arch support).
High heels are back with a vengeance. There was a period when women opted for comfort and safety over glamour. They have sure gotten over that foolishness. Heels are higher than ever and can easily cost up to $1,000 a pair or more. We used to call them “spikes” because the heel was as long and thin as a railroad spike. If, to add to the degree of difficulty in wearing them, they are backless, they are called “mules.” I don’t know where that came from.
Then there is the mystery of the clog. I member a male friend wearing them years and years ago and they looked like Dutch wooden shoes. Put your foot in them and they are hard inside and you feel like you might tip over. But wait a minute. They are strangely comfortable and they make you stand straighter. You feel like you have authority, more control. And the element of risk keeps you ever alert. That’s a lot from a pair of shoes.
I’m happy to be living in a part of the world where shoe fashions are pretty standard: You wear Bean boots in the winter and Birkenstocks (with or without socks) when you’re not wearing boots. And the occasional rhinestone flip flops.