Shoe York City

One of the reasons I was so excited to visit New York City, aside, of course, from hanging out with my friends, is that New York is the fashion capital of the US. Although I could hardly be considered a fashionista myself, I do have a severe weakness for nice shoes. I only own one pair of jeans, but I somehow have amassed over 24 pairs of shoes in my closet. The funny thing is, almost all my shoes look alike: clunky, masculine, thick soled, square toed, and unbelievably comfortable.
As a child, I must have missed the section in home economics that taught little girls how to walk in high heels without looking like they were stepping on broken glass. Apparently, it’s not seen as “chic” to walk with your arms out on either side for balance, with your body hunched forward, and your brow furrowed with intense concentration as you walk down the street in Manolo Blahniks.
Look, I’ve seen America’s Next Top Model, and I know that not everyone was born with the ability to walk in high heels. But barring a surprise visit from that guy on the show who has trained all of our most famous supermodels to strut down the catwalk with attitude, I’m probably going to have to be content to just schlep along in my comfortable shoes for the rest of my life.
And fortunately for me, New York is a city that truly understands the need for comfortable shoes. No other city on earth (yes, I’ve visited them all) has as wide a selection of shoes that are made to endure intense walking, yet still look hip and trendy.
The problem with buying shoes, or any clothes, in a city as fashion-forward as New York is that you may return home only to find that they now look absurd when placed in your small-town, country mouse setting. My friend Kim and I found this out the hard way during our first visit to New York a few years ago. During one of our many shopping expeditions in Greenwich Village, I somehow convinced her that suede fire engine red platform tennis shoes with a giant number “8” on the side of them actually looked cute on her. I mean, we saw the sales clerk wearing a similar pair, and she looked ultra cool in them. Of course, it didn’t really hit us that this woman was at best, 5’2”, and probably wore a size 6. Somehow, when you explode that same shoe up into a size 9, it loses its charm, and my friend ended up looking like she had two boxes of Special K on her feet.
Nevertheless, we were convinced that Kim was going to be ahead of the Milwaukee fashion curve (which isn’t all that difficult) and everyone in the Midwest would be chasing after her to find out where she got these amazing shoes. Now, aside from the size 9 issue, we also had to contend with the credibility shift that happens when you cross over from the Eastern time zone back into the Central Standard time zone.
Magically, as the plane passes somewhere over Indiana, your lose your fashion Spider-sense, and you realize that, although these clothes looked completely hip on New Yorkers, you will look absolutely ludicrous when you try to walk down the streets of Milwaukee in them. Call it mob mentality, if you will, but in New York when you see five other people wearing fire engine red shoes, you feel like you’re part of something cutting edge. Back in the Midwest, when you see thousands of people wearing brown Bass penny loafers and you are the one person wearing fire engine red shoes, you feel like Frankenstein’s monster, and start checking over your shoulder for signs of people carrying torches and pitchforks, screaming “OUTLANDER!
Needless to say, shortly after our plane touched down at General Mitchell International Airport, the red clown shoes took up permanent residence in the back corner of Kim’s closet, where they collect dust to this day, unopened.
I don’t want to give the impression that New York is some sort of utopia for shoe lovers. Although it comes close, there are definitely some downsides to people being obsessed with looking hip, and I can sum that up in two words: flip-flops. I will never understand it, but for some reason, young people living in big cities think it is a good idea to wear beach flip-flops as normal street footwear. I run into this same frightening phenomenon in Chicago as well. Aside from the fact that flip-flops are just plain homely, it’s not exactly sanitary to have your bare foot only millimeters above all the grime and filth that is a big city street.
My aversion to flip-flops was never as apparent to me as it was last Saturday while I was having coffee with my friend Penny in a little grungy café in the East Village. A couple of hipster gals were hanging outside and drinking their cappuccinos, letting their flip-flops dangle off their toes in the mid-day heat. Suddenly, I looked up from reading The Onion to see one of these women walking into the café barefoot. I thought maybe she was just going to grab a newspaper, or a pack of sugar. But she kept walking. Toward the back of the café. I thought, “No. There’s no way she’s going to do what I think she’s about to do.” But then she did it. She went into the bathroom of a bustling New York City coffee shop – barefoot.
Now, New York is known for a lot of things, but sterile bathrooms are not one of them. I visibly shuddered at the thought of this girl’s feet being attacked by all sorts of weapons of biological warfare that were breeding on that bathroom floor. I couldn’t look as she walked back to her table, for fear that her feet had become gangrenous from the sheer toxicity of the bathroom floor.
Even though I wanted to just forget this entire scenario, I felt like I had to do something. This girl was in crisis, and clearly needed some guidance. On my way out, I handed her a napkin with my email address on it and said, “Honey, have I got the shoes for you! How do you feel about fire engine red?”

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