Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Summer Booties ... Who Knew?
Some of you may know that I can often be found lurking around the JCP shoe department, and that I really love my footwear. All summer I've been delighted with the pretty, less chunky shoe silhouette that I find more flattering for my short-stockiness than the sky-high, thick platform sandals that past seasons have offered. I've crushed especially hard on very delicate, strappy, single-sole heels, that are about as minimal a shoe can be and still function as a shoe.
But, for the last couple of summers, I've also been fascinated by women and girls of all ages sporting lots of what I think of as cold, wet-weather footwear with their tissuey dresses and summer pants of all lengths. Docs, moto-boots, hiking boots, western style ankle booties, and sleeker, cropped dress-booties ... all kinds. And they look really good a lot of the time. I haven't been able to make it work because it's just sooooo hot, and I couldn't think about my feet shod in darker, heavier shoes or boots, no matter how cute they might look.
Those of us who pay attention to such things began seeing ads in the glossy magazines a couple of years ago, featuring lovely windblown models in long, sheer dresses standing romantically alone in wild and rocky settings, often in the craggy landscape of the American southwest. They also featured footwear much more traditionally appropriate for hiking or heavy construction than accessories for a chiffon maxi. Who IS this woman who has apparently chosen this outfit and what is she doing out there?
Did she parachute out of a plane after stealing a pair of work boots in her size? (Presumably the abandoned parachute is just off camera.)
Did her car break down and she wandered into the desert looking for help instead of staying with her vehicle? (She had her Docs in the trunk.)
Or is she just such a serious fashionista that she really needs to dress up to go hiking on the weekends?
It's never clear. But I'm pretty sure not one woman I know is ever going to find herself alone in the wilderness in a floaty evening frock and rock climbing boots. Then why would anyone encase their steaming, sweaty little tootsies in footwear whose shape and functionality are designed to keep them warm and promote more sweatiness? Our boots and booties are often well broken-in and go-to footwear during the cold weather months, but not so comfortable during summer, so the answer is clearly not in comfort alone.
I think we just love our boots. Fashion footwear designers love their boots, too. Part of the reason for all of the above phenomena has to be that we all just hate to put them away in the spring. And I think we love them because they speak to us about adventure, and power, and aspiration.
For those of us who care about how we attach meaning to what we wear, boots have special fashion-narrative potential.
Tell me honestly that when you see thigh-high boots you don't think of Jack Sparrow or Inigo Montoya ( as played by Mandy Patinkin in the Princess Bride ..."Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." )
Cowboy boots, tall or booties? Think of any cowboy or cowgirl hero you ever had. Too many to name. And the smell of horses or a cute ranch-hand, or both, depending on your age.
Doc Martins or any of their ubiquitous knock-offs? The street-wise cool of any Punk, Grunge or New Wave band or associated celebrity. They always make me think of art school.
Tight, knee high Go-Go boots from 60s and their modern stiletto-heeled descendants? Mucklucks and Uggs? Motorcycle boots? Victorian style Granny boots? Equestrian boots and Wellies? They all have their own referential stuff - fantasy food going for them.
Even the recent shooties, stiletto booties and oxfords with high heels would have been right at home in the 1930s and 1940s. I instantly think of evolved versions of Ginger Roger's dance shoes or Betty Grable's shoes she wore on stage while singing for the troops with the USO .
Whether we are conscious or unconscious of the narrative, there's so much glamour and so many potential adventures! No wonder we love our boots and booties and don't want to give them up even in warm weather.
Remember I mentioned my habit of haunting the JCP shoe department? Since the start of this spring-summer season, a dark and elegant little pair of booties nestled quietly among the perky sandals and rainbow-neon pointy-toe pumps. At first I just assumed they were a leftover from winter, or that JCP was doing some serious gun-jumping to the coming fall season. Nope. They were meant to be some of the summer stock. And I noticed the little boots every time I shopped the department, but was focused on more traditionally summery items. I just couldn't imagine needing them for summer.
Last week, I finally gave in as they called out to me and would not shut up. (Shoes don't talk to you sometimes? Seriously? Huh. ) They finally got to me with a nasty comment. " Ahhh, never mind. Go on. You're not cool enough to wear us anyway!"
Best buy of the summer. Their attitude immediately changed the minute I bought them. I wore them home and got a gushy compliment on them from a saleswoman in another department before I even got out of the store. They have generous padding in the insole, are well vented and are soft as a house slipper. They also only weigh 7.5 ounces (each shoe, of course) as opposed to my similar but more substantial and completely enclosed winter booties at 11.5 ounces each. I love 'um.
If the print in this shirt looks familiar, I have one from the
same Prabal Gurung for Target collaboration collection ...
same print, different design!
But what do they "say'? What's their narrative? They say that I may be a little country mouse here in the middle of nowhere in the midst of southern summer-hell season, but part of me is a skinnier, cooler city mouse, and my heart and mind are already in an urban winter somewhere in the year ahead.
That's what they say.
I'm joining the Always Cool Patti at her Visible Monday Party ... join us.