October 2004

These shoes were made for dancin’

By Suzanne Strazza

It is universally acknowledged that a woman can never have too many shoes. I’m sure every one of you has known a woman, and therefore, you have known a shoe lover.

But since familiarity does not necessarily lead to understanding, I’ll try to clear up the mystery as to why footwear is so key to our happiness.

For those of you who are aware of my recent history with shoes, you may be thinking, “Give it up, Suz, stick to bedroom slippers.” But I won’t. For those who are unaware, suffice it to say: New dress + great party + killer high heels = 4 months in a cast.

Fortunately, the cast is gone and I am back to being fabulous in my fabulous footwear. And since many of my friends, family, husband and doctors keep asking why I would consider putting myself in danger again, I am writing to explain that, as a woman, I simply can’t help myself.

Yes, there are women out there who don’t fit this stereotype, but it is only a small few.
But where did this come from? Women, like men, began (in The Beginning) barefoot. Footwear of both sexes was probably invented around the same time, so what made women and not men take the (foot) ball and run with it?

The ancient history I can’t even begin to tackle (although it would make for a fine Ph.D. dissertation), but I can give some insight into the current situation.

Shoes can make or break an outfit. What women intuit is that the right shoes can define who you are, give a self-confidence boost and reverse a bad hair day. The wrong footwear can send you into a downward spiral faster than you can say “clodhoppers.” Even the simple process of buying a spectacular pair of chasseurs, like the pink and orange snakeskins I spied the other day, can elevate one to a higher state of being. But why?

First, there is comfort. Comfortable shoes can not only add a bit of bounce to your step, but to your life as well. Shoes that pinch, squeeze or scratch have the ability to ruin even the most promising day. Whether it is a day of hiking or an evening of dancing, if your feet don’t feel good, you might as well go home.

The answer to the mystery, though, runs deeper than comfort. What shoes really have the power to do is create mood and personality. For example – putting on a pair of Chacos either means that I am heading to the river (always a good thing) or I am thinking about heading to the river. I become sporty and competent. Hiking boots can do the same, but worn in the wrong context, they can make one look like a dork, a wannabe mountain gal. (Got to be a bit careful with full-leather hikers. Only wear them if you really have gone for a hike and never, ever, carry a bota bag while you’re wearing them.)

Running shoes. Only run in running shoes. Wearing them with regular clothes was a bad look in the ’80s and an even worse look now.

Cowboy boots are a popular item in these parts, but I won’t even attempt to understand the ins and outs of shit-kickers vs. stingray dress boots. Being from New Jersey, I will always be on the outside of this world. Almost any venture into this realm will produce a footwear faux pas, catapulting me into that dreaded downward spiral.

So I now get to the world of “other” – these are less practical, but are they key to unlocking the mystery of a woman’s passions.

High heels, platforms, thigh boots, strappy sandals, wedges, mules, kitten heels. Dressy, frivolous, spunky, sporty, sparkly, shiny, ruffly, flirty.

More often, in this realm, we are out of the comfort zone (literally), but these are the shoes that can determine who we are for any given event. They can put a spark in a woman’s eye. Heels make a woman stand up straight and tall – an instant esteem boost. They make a statement about a woman – flirty, sassy powerful. Sensible shoes, on the other hand, can make a woman appear. . . well, sensible.

Pair the right shoes with an evening ensemble and you are the belle of the ball. The wrong shoes can make you feel like you have two left feet. Killer outfit + boring shoes = wallflower. Spunky shoes make for spunky people. And who doesn’t want to be spunky?

Shoes, like a good costume, can loosen inhibitions. Women who love shoes understand this phenomenon. The gal that runs around in flip-flops is not the same woman wearing the hot-pink kitten heels. And don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for both. I’ve even found that I clean my house better when I do so in stilettos.

Good shoes unleash the complex depths of a woman’s personality. Dyeing your hair can often provide the same results.

So the next time your wife or girlfriend says she “needs” a new pair of shoes, don’t argue. Pretend to understand, even if you don’t, that there is a facet of her soul screaming to reveal itself and that the shoes will help the process.

Besides, you’ll never win the fight.

P.S. Men, a hint for your feet, there is nothing sexier than a man in clogs.

Suzanne Strazza, who recently broke an ankle while wearing high heels, writes from Mancos.