“That can’t be an accident,” my sister Donna once told me, “you must purposely go into a store and ask for the homeliest pair of shoes they have in your size.” I really had no defense. I have, throughout my life, worn shoes that have favored comfort over style and if one decides to go that route, chances are the end result will look as if a blind shoemaker made them for an equally blind Dutch clogger.
I thought about this a few weeks ago, as I have to buy myself a pair of black dress shoes to go with the suit that I’m wearing for my daughter’s wedding. I have a pair that I bought in a hurry a few years ago for some sort of black shoe event, but I can only wear them for about an hour before my toes start to feel as if I’m training to be a ballerina. Sure, they look OK, but of all the things a person wears that can get away with being OK, shoes aren’t one of them. Shoes need to be comfortable. They need to be better than OK. These dressy, narrow toed shoes of anguish can’t possibly be comfortable because human feet aren’t triangular.
Also—and I checked this—there is empty shoe that goes beyond my toes on purpose. Why? I wear a size thirteen, which is big enough as it is, so why do I need extra shoe that make my feet look even longer? Who wants their feet to look longer than they are? These shoes overhang my toes like the front end of a ’78 Eldorado, so I’m constantly bumping my cantilevered feet on things when I wear them. They’re OK if I stand perfectly still but beyond that, I hate them. If anybody out there has toes that are arranged as a chevron, with their big toe in the middle, let me know. I have the perfect shoes for you.
I think my history has something to do with my distaste for bad shoes, as my formative years were spent in shoes that were shaped exactly like feet. They were made out of tough brown leather and had leather soles with short, rubber heels. These were the standard shoes of Catholic grade school and they were as comfortable as they were durable. This sturdy footwear formed a lifetime opinion that within reason, I don’t care how shoes look so long as they are comfortable.
Footwear is important to me, as I always have to wear something on my feet. I’m simply not a barefoot kind of guy. I would be more likely to go for a leisurely stroll without pants as I would go outside barefoot, so I stash Crocs all over the place. I keep a pair in the garage and a pair on the back porch and I think there’s another pair in the bedroom someplace. These are hideous shoes made out of some sort of synthetic material that the company calls Croslite™. I have no idea what that is, and it’s probably something that I wouldn’t want to eat, but I’m not eating my shoes and when I need something to slip on in a hurry to go pick tomatoes, go out with the dog, grill something, get the mail or any of a dozen other footy tasks, these are great. I would never, in a million years, wear them outside the confines of my neighborhood because they are still plastic shoes and as low as they are, even I have some kind of standards for appearance.
Around the inside of the house, I wear a pair of Haflinger boiled wool pantoffeln—or slippers—that I got from Germany. I love these things. They have a cork sole that is encased in wool and they feel as if I’m walking on clouds that have been stacked on top of other clouds that have been spun out of fine warm beach sand. I highly recommend these to anyone looking for something lightweight and comfortable to wear around the house.
Lastly, my everyday shoes are a pair of ankle-height brown leather chukka boots or a lower version of the same, which are only a slight variation of the same shoes I’ve worn for the past fifty years. They’re comfortable and in spite of what my sister used to tell me, I don’t think they are altogether homely.
Nonetheless, I can’t wear any of those to my daughter’s wedding, as I believe she would kill me if I wore a pair of black Crocs when I walked her down the aisle, so it’s off to the shoe store to search for a pair of comfortable black dress shoes. Thank goodness walking shoe technology has drifted into dressier footwear, so I should be able to find comfortable shoes that aren’t made out of wool or plastic, or which make me look as if I should be raising a barn in Pennsylvania. I should finally be able to find something comfortable that looks good with a suit, and I’m not sure to whom I should send my thanks for that, but my feet will be grateful.