When I began 6th grade at Highland Park Middle School a million years ago, I was not one of the “in crowd.” For one thing, I didn’t have the right clothes. I had one Polo shirt. Maybe 2. Certainly not enough to outfit myself everyday in the uniform of the cool kids which meant wearing not one, but 2 each day. Layered. With collar jauntily flipped up. Secondly, I did not have the shoes. Candies, to be exact. They looked like this:
I remember them well, because they were always at chest level when I saw them. None of the 12-year-old girls in my class could wear them. They just carried them like trophies atop their books as they moved from classroom to classroom. My mother REFUSED to purchase hoochie shoes that I was incapable of walking in. Therefore, any chance of popularity, acceptance, or friendship was simply out of the question.
Having grown accustomed to comfort in my footwear, I shied away from high heels until well into my 20s. I worked in TV production and was always on a set or crawling around some location in search of the perfect shot, so I dressed in jeans and cowboy boots, or back to the trusty tennies.
Sometime in my 30s I discovered the joy and frustration of buying shoes that looked HOT. Ridiculously high heels that were virtually impossible to walk in. (Mom was RIGHT. AGAIN. Damn it.) A few credentials for my girl card are pictured below.
I take my shoes outside every now and then to give them a chance to get out of my closet and see the real world. Trust me, their natural habitat is not concrete. They’re more for sitting, or lounging. Aren’t they pretty? Look how excited they are to be outside! Standing at attention and looking sassy.
This is one of my favorites:
I usually don’t put footwear on the table, but since the sole of this shoe has barely touched anything but the bottom of the box it came in, I figured what the heck. I’m too old and stiff to crawl around trying to get a good photo op of a shoe.
All of this brings me to recent events. A friend of mine, Tony Walker, has taken to wearing Vibrams. Have you seen Vibrams?
These are Vibrams. They are the darling of the “running” world right now and are virtually impossible to keep in stock. From what I’ve read about them online, they are like wearing a hug on your feet. Whose feet don’t need a good hug now and then? All the rave reviews are backed by the personal experience of Tony. If forced at gunpoint to surrender either his Cole Haans or his Vibrams, he’d probably hurl the Cole Haans at the gunman and run speedily away – quite comfortably – in the Vibrams.
As you might imagine, he is taking a good deal of good natured ribbing about his footwear selection. After all, as a gay man in Dallas, Texas, and an extremely successful designer, he DOES have a reputation to uphold. That’s why I find his choice all that much more impressive. Look at the facts: Tony came from a “corporate America” background. Suits, ties, the whole shebang. And not Men’s Wearhouse either. Ralph Lauren, Armani, Cole Haan. He must have been the epitome of the impeccable man of business.
And according to him, miserable.
Now, he is living his dream. He’s co-owner of Jones Walker Home. He is respected in the design industry, adored by clients, and friend to a ridiculous number of very nice people. Tony works hard 7 days a week (until just recently when he started allowing himself two days off), and stands for long hours on his feet. On a concrete floor. All of this makes his choice understandable. But more important is what it says about him. Fashion and criticism be damned. He’s made a decision to make comfort and health a priority. Evidence to this can be found in his almost daily bike rides, trips to the gym, diet, and those crazy shoes.
So, when next I reach for a pair of these:
In my heart of hearts, I will salute Tony. A person who’s comfortable in his own skin, and not afraid to show it. Someday, I hope to give my aching feet a hug, too. In the meantime, if I want a fashion statement, I think Lady Gaga’s got me covered.
(Tony “Five Fingers” Walker.)
“I wear my sort of clothes to save me the trouble of deciding which clothes to wear.”