Shoes

Bet you haven't spent much time thinking about your shoes. They have changed, in appearance, function and significance.

Believe it or not, there are multiple reasons to wear shoes. If you ask most men, you'll probably hear that it's because they have to wear them. Depending on their predispositions toward smart mouth response, you may hear that they wear shoes they need them to drive, to be allowed in a restaurant or to keep their socks clean.

Or maybe it's more a question of why wear the shoes we wear? We certainly can't overlook the fact that in most civilized, industrial societies, shoes have become a custom that we have rather passively accepted for generations. Certainly the styles of shoes have changed along the way and I suspect that these changes have been more for the better than otherwise. In the sixties when I entered the work force (except for respites in fast food or other service industries), ladies in offices always wore dresses and skirts and always wore heels. That was it. No choice. No thoughts of alternatives.

Now we have more sensible options, things for our feet that don't make us taller as they did before but that often don't make us think seriously about crawling home rather than walking. I remember that feeling and it wasn't a good one. Many women I know still embrace this fashion trend and based on how they look at the end of the day, I suspect that many of us still suffer at the expense of fashion.

Having been around my fashionista daughter for some time, I have also become aware of other reasons to wear shoes. The first concept to ponder is that shoes are in no way associated with pure function - allowing you to get into various establishments, keeping your socks clean, adhering to custom or preventing blisters on your feet. Some of those reasons are as follows:

Color is critical. Sometimes a pair of shoes needs to make a color statement, either to harmonize or contrast to what you're wearing. Imagine that. This idea deletes the notion that you pick shoes after you have decided on what to wear, just before you walk out the door. You decide what to wear and pick shoes (either those still at the store or in your closet), purely because of their color component.

True, the design of the shoes is frequently at issue here. You wouldn't wear sneaker-like shoes with an evening gown or sequined slippers with your tennis ensemble. But don't lose sight of the fact that the color personality of your shoes is ultimately much more important than style.

Another reason to wear shoes is to make a statement, deliver a message. We all remember the message conveyed by high heels. In days gone by, spiked heels were an indication that you were fond of self-torture, you had dubious moral virtue or you subscribed to the convenient concept that men found women more attractive in high heels because of the resulting effects on body parts.

Now we have more sublime statements to be made. If you show up in a crowd wearing very expensive shoes (no knockoffs, please), you're demonstrating not only chic, but also a willingness to walk around on the equivalent of a car or mortgage payment. The message is: I have expensive taste and I am absolutely worth it.

Another message is - I have spent considerable time deciding on my wardrobe and I will in no way consent to lesser consideration of my feet. Most people are too discreet (or too oblivious) to look at shoes when you're communicating with them. So it's right and fair that we are saying, "I look as good from the knees down as I do from the knees up." To those who are paying attention, my fashion chic is all-pervasive, all-encompassing and thoroughly discriminating.

One might also make a case for the act of wearing shoes as a counter-culture statement. As a child of the sixties, I remember a plethora of shoes that were simply ugly. But they had innuendo of natural, organic, earthy, freedom and generally non-conformist. Most of those creations have vanished but I can think of several communities here in Colorado and in California where they may very well prevail. Somehow, thoughts of dirty toes, pedicures gone bad and socks as superfluous come to mind.

Without going to that extreme, I frequently see those who are totally immune to foot fashion. Not by intention but by omission, I occasionally see black shoes with brown socks, brown socks with red shoes or as currently in vogue, any shoes with no socks. Under no circumstances do I want to be considered a snob - matching shoes, extensive collection, etc., etc. It was not so many years ago that I had only black shoes and brown shoes and tennis shoes from which to choose.

In an era rich with discount shoe venues, however, it is relatively simple to find shoes that have the ability to be more than strictly utilitarian. Your own definition of what constitutes a good investment will drive these decisions. If you choose to buy a pair of shoes that will be perfect for only one look, a less expensive purchase may work wonderfully toward assuaging your self-indulgence guilt.

I believe that I fall into a final category with regard to the reasons for wearing the shoes that we do. Comfort without sacrificing taste. You can also add words like clean, tasteful, unobtrusive and understated. My daughter would describe many of them as boring.

But all of this points out that some of the assumptions that we used to have are no longer valid, i.e. that no-one is really paying attention to our shoes. When I was hiring sales consultants, I always glanced at the shoes of my applicants. Generally, the condition of shoes was an accurate barometer of organizational skills and hygiene.

You may see footwear as yet another fashion opportunity that is reasonably priced, fashionable and absolutely driven by personal preference. If you somehow decide that what you wear on your feet is more than a question of preventing frostbite or insect bite, be confident that shoe fashion is a most contemporary and noticeable statement and that your givens may be worthy of reconsideration.