Why must I pick up and fondle each one in turn like some kind of footwear pervert? It’s not just the look and form of these things I have to admire; it’s the irresistibly tactile smooth curves in the heel that have to cupped, the dainty pointy toes that have to be held, the sensuousness of the sole and the sculptural elegance in the spike that has to be caressed.
There were four of five of these exquisite beauties, back-lit and placed one above the other on separate shelves, but each stylish pair sat beside an unappealing, albeit comfy, chaperone.
“Why do you display the slippers next to the high heels?” I asked the shop assistant. Thinking this might be a piece of clever merchandising: ‘If you wear heels all day or night you’ll be wanting a pair of these to slip your feet into when you get home…’
“No room to put them anywhere else,” she shrugged apologetically at me.
My mother kept a couple of pairs of stiletto court shoes in her bottom drawer and I often took a sneaky peek. My elder brother had called them her ‘gok-gok’ shoes – long before we’d heard of Wan – his onomatopoeic description of their pencil-thin heels on wooden floors. I’d tentatively try them on and grew desperate for the day I’d fit them but as the youngest child I have no recollection of my mother ever wearing them; she’d given up feminine vanity for comfort – blaming arthritis in her toes – well before I toddled on the scene.
Raised in Cornwall, and blessed with an upbringing rich in country pursuits, I’ve played on the pick of sandy beaches. We roamed free-range over hills, rugged moorland and rambled, as kids, through rivers and wooded valleys. To my knowledge I thought there were just three standard types of footwear: black winter wellies, serviceable school shoes and cheap summer flip-flops. My feet become accustomed to rough ground, rocks underfoot and an oversupply of mud, yet, I’m still a girl, and muck doesn’t dim the enduring feminine fascination for footwear. I’m in love with shoes as much as the next girl. Expect my rural experience created an outdoorsy obsession for the best pair of good gortex hiking boots I could get my hands on!
I blame environment and my mother’s pragmatism for the purposeful, inelegant stride I’ve learned. I’ve had no mentor to teach me how to walk elegantly in heels. I never understood that my legs might have been sexy or experienced the girlie thrill of wasting good money on silly stiletto heels. Until late last summer, I stumbled from one form of my podiatry fetishism right into another…
Along a rough and rugged cliff path strew with broken stones I came upon a girl negotiating the path in six-inch heels. One the one side, a precariously dangerous cliff side tumbling one hundred feet or more into the sea; the other edge threatened to snag ankles with gorse, heather and bramble. I couldn’t believe my eyes. How stupid must this bimbo be to risk breaking her ankle or breaking her neck her ludicrously stupid shoes?
I slid on the shale in my sensible trainers and she tottered and giggled in her heels. I followed her as we both descended through a steep and twisting incline. I was first full of disparagement at her lack of appropriate footwear, then in fascination that any woman could be so naïve as to think she could come to Cornwall in her city heels. Finally, by the time we hit the road and she slid into the passenger’s side of a fancy BMW, I felt grudgingly inadequate. What this girl had, and I didn’t, was a handsome hunk to cling to. She couldn’t walk independently in the damn things but she didn’t need to. As long as she needed to grasp his arm for support to prevent her from tripping arse over face her helplessness cast ‘gorgeous bloke’ in the role of ‘heroic boyfriend’.
I’m not about to start in hiking in heels. I’m all too aware of the derisive stares and whispered comments that the natives in these parts would give me. For pity’s sake I would wobble and totter on six-inch heels on flat ground as much as she did on the coastal path. It’s just that I felt there was a brassy aspect of sexy femininity that has passed me by. As my husband explains, “The thin strap or decorative detail on a stiletto is to one end of the leg as the suspender belt is to the other.” How come this girl daily puts on a pair of high-heeled shoes as a matter of course with no thought as where she might go and what she would do? I could imagine her rock climbing in high heels – cue Kirsty MacColl – I bet she didn’t own a single pair of flat shoes and wouldn’t have been seen dead in walking boots.
I put each gorgeous shoe back next to its slipper side-kick and although they say, “Honey lets do it…?” I know I’ll never walk in these shoes. I don’t think so!