Walk a mile in their shoes.
If the shoe fits.
Dead men’s shoes.
… We have a bit of a thing about shoes and identity, culturally speaking, don’t we?
That’s two pairs of my shoes in the photo. One is a vertiginous pair of gold heels which have shed so much glitter about the house as I’ve been breaking them in that it looks like Tinkerbell detonated in a fit of rage.
The other is one of my (many) pairs of Converse, all of which have been through the wars a little because they get worn so much. You should see the green ones. Talk about scruffy.
Anyway. I am fortunate enough to live in a time and a place where I can choose either of these pairs of shoes. No-one will bat an eyelid if I wear the heels (although they may have to catch me when I inevitably fall over) and neither will anyone so much as flinch if I wear the trainers. This is a wonderful thing, and a freedom that many women still don’t have. I’m also fortunate enough to be in a position to own several pairs of completely impractical shoes – again, something that we take for granted.
I am – theoretically, at least – a grown up. I used to wear heels to work back in The Dark Days When I Was Corporate (we do not speak of those times). I own dresses. I own a woman’s tux jacket, a proper white shirt and a pair of grown-up black trousers. So why do I feel like a fraud in those gold shoes? Why do I feel like a kid who’s been rummaging around somebody else’s wardrobe?
It may be that I clomp around like an ostrich on drugs in them. Possibly. Long gone are the days when I could run for a bus in my heels (mind you, long gone also are the days of pulling my hair out trying to produce statistical reports for clients and the time that I got pushed off the platform of a Routemaster bus into traffic in Hackney. Oddly, I don’t actually think I was wearing heels on that particular day. That would’ve explained a lot…). Now, breaking these shoes in, I’ve been stalking about the kitchen looking like nothing so much as a sleepwalking camel. These things add to the comedy value of me in heels, but I carry the comedy with me wherever I go, alas.
So if it’s not that, what is it?
I had been planning to wear the gold shoes to the book launch tomorrow night… but quite apart from the looming spectre of tripping over my own feet in them and faceplanting in a cloud of fairy-ash, I decided against it. I put them on and suddenly I don’t feel like me any more – particularly not when they’re paired with a dress. I feel like not only am I a kid dressing up in someone else’s clothes, I’m a kid dressing up in someone else’s clothes who’s about to get found out.
I guess I’m not a heels kind of girl. I know they’re out there: I went to university with one, and my agent Juliet is another. They can work the heels.
In my case, the heels work me. And by “work”, I mean it very much in the East End, Kray Brothers, crowbar sense of the word.
My blue Converse squeak when I walk. One of the laces keeps untying itself, meaning I have to double-knot it like a demented toddler’s shoes. The tongues always scrunch themselves sideways and won’t lie flat. They are not elegant or graceful, and they make my already generously-sized feet look enormous. But I feel like myself in them. Awkward and dishevelled and squeaky and prone to putting my foot in it… but at least I don’t have to worry about being found out.
You only have to look at my shoes to know who I am.
Guess which ones I’ll be wearing tomorrow.