I’m big on lists. I write them in my planner, on scraps of paper (when said planner is unavailable), and when things get really desperate, in smudgy scribbles on my hands. My favorite type is of the “to buy” assortment, although mine always seems to grow and can never be completed, creating one giant, ongoing list. Almost every time I head to a shop, be it alone or with friends, for large pieces of furniture or just groceries, I will secretly be clutching a list detailing exactly what I’d like to buy. There’s just one problem: no matter what I have on my list, I somehow always end up bringing home the same thing. Shoes.
Last weekend, I went out looking for a vintage trunk to use as a coffee table in my new place. What did I come home with? Vintage suede slippers with a delicately embroidered toe in a delicious olive green. A few weeks earlier, it was black patent vintage Ferragamos with a fabric bow and gold detailing, a pair so precious they managed to trump my basic food needs for the week. No matter how final my lists are on paper, my mind always seems to have a subconscious agenda that constantly pulls me to the footwear department, distracting me from the things I actually need.
Now that I find myself packing up my tiny bachelor to move, I can’t help but feel ashamed by the sheer mass of shoes I’ve accumulated in the last year. Worse, I can’t seem to convince myself to pack them; the discovery of each clog, boot, and heel offers new outfit inspiration or nostalgia for looks lost in my past. As I pack away everything around me, the shoes stay, stacked in piles in my closet, by my door, hanging on a rolling rack, and even displayed on shelves. The evidence of my addiction is daunting, but I can’t bring myself to part with a single pair. Their soles have somehow become a piece of my soul, and the few times where I have persuaded myself to share my footwear finds, I really do miss them like old friends.
Am I going to end up like Imelda Marcos, with over 3400 pairs and no control whatsoever? Why do I choose clogs over cardigans and stilettos over shorts?
Perhaps it’s because, despite my misshapen feet, buying shoes is easier than almost anything else. Instead of shuffling into a tiny change room, taking off every layer, and scrutinizing how a garment fits my body, an intriguing pair of oxfords can be slipped on without the hassle, and will almost always fit my foot. Even if the size is a bit off, I’ve been known to turn a blind eye; this results in a small number of shoes I can only wear with three layers of socks.
I also find it easier to justify footwear. Work is always a go-to excuse for a new pair of black brogues, and school serves as an excellent reason to invest in extra sneakers. When a shoe doesn’t fit an everyday event in my life, I always manage to fabricate an extraordinary circumstance where I will need the shoe in question. “Maybe I’ll wear these to an 80’s themed party?” or “ These would be just perfect for a picnic in High Park!” are common rationalizations, although I seldom partake in either of these activities.
In the end, shoes are simply so much shinier, prettier, and more personal than anything else on my list. I can’t let my aging pairs go because every time I look at them, I get lost in the memories we’ve shared together. I can’t turn down a new find when the shoes on store shelves offer a little story, a character of their own, and a place they want to take me. I want to go to those places, so naturally I buy the shoes.
- Alyssa Garrison