A little while ago a reader of my blog asked if I could blog about shoes. Many people might think that a bit strange – shoes, what about them? A shoe is just a shoe, right – wrong, very wrong. For the first 30 years or so of a woman’s life, shoes are just shoes. Then quite suddenly they take on a whole new meaning, shoes become SHOES. For a lady of a certain age shoes become an all-encompassing obsession.
My personal epiphany, my moment of shoe enlightenment, happened in my mid-thirties when I was given my first pair of truly desirable shoes. Up until that point, shoes were just those things I wore on my feet – a necessary clothing item which I tried somewhat inconsistently to match to the rest of my attire. In fact, I didn’t even like new shoes – I hated the “wearing-in” process – I would happily have paid someone to wear my shoes in for me and then pass them back for me to wear.
It took a major shift for me to appreciate shoes and I am not for a moment suggesting that it is the cost of a pair of shoes that focuses the mind (although in my case, as the queen of bargains, it certainly helped, and with my lack of shoe interest it was going to take something quite dramatic to convert me). My moment came when I was bought (by my very generous husband) a pair of shoes with a red sole (can I add that this was very much a one-off) – now you know how significant that red sole is? That sexy little flash of the red underside of your impossibly high-heeled shoes which signifies to all present – especially all other women – that yes, you own a pair of Christian Louboutins. You understand the power of shoes. It doesn’t matter that they are hideously uncomfortable or that they have cost more than a month’s grocery shop – you have your place at the top of the shoe hierarchy assured.
An aside – it reminds me of that apocryphal story of the lady who took her beloved Louboutins to a shoe repair shop to have some new heel tips put on and when she came to pick the shoes up, the repair man said “I noticed that the red bottoms of your shoes were wearing away and looking rather scuffed so I’ve replaced them with some of ours” – now that is tantamount to treason.
So what is this obsession with shoes all about for women of a certain age? It has nothing to do with the fact that men apparently find women’s ankles sexy – any old high heel will do for that purpose unless unfortunately you have “cankles” in which case, apart from radical cosmetic surgery, there is nothing you can do. It will come as no surprise to you that I have my own theory which I’m sure probably does not stack up on any deep, psychological level but here goes: put simply rather than draw attention to our increasingly leathery faces, we would rather draw the eye to the leather on our feet. Put bluntly, you can’t really tell the difference between the ankles and feet of a 20 year old woman and a 40 year old woman, whereas the same cannot be said for faces. Hence the “shoe epiphany” – I can’t really do that much about looking older at eye level but I can wear a damn sexy pair of beautiful shoes and that will make me feel a whole lot better, and it does.
I am not saying that you have to spend a fortune on ferociously expensive shoes – far from it – but the shift is more the realisation that shoes have the power to make you feel great about yourself. Just because I am forty and no longer ( for public decency’s sake (and my children’s)) going to wear a micro-mini skirt, a boob tube or a backless, strapless little number, does not mean that I can’t wear a pair of utterly gorgeous, actually very classy (well-heeled, if you like), fiendishly sexy pair of shoes! If I am teetering towards middle age, I am going to do it in a well-shod way.