Monday, May 16, 2016

Knitter's footwear

I have lots of knitting things to write about, but no pictures at the moment, so I hope you won't mind if I save those subjects for another day and talk about the nemesis of handknit socks: strappy sandals!  That's right, it's finally warm enough - the last two freezing days in Toronto notwithstanding - to be bracing for days so hot that open sandals are the only way to go.  And while some can totally get away with socks and sandals if it's a little cooler, that combination does require a certain level of confidence and finesse not possessed by me.

These sandals are open but have a little heel - a stretch for me, since I gave up heels a few years ago and really haven't looked back.  It's amazing to me how often an outfit will work with flat shoes and still look super dressy, and if you don't have to dress up terribly often, or at least not to that degree, you can coast on those outfits for a long time.  My coasting days seem to be over though, so it was time to break down and consider a 2" wedge heel for my dress-up arsenal.  A wedge gives me so much more balance but a friend said she can't handle a wedge at all, and they are worse for her than a heel!  That's even harder for me to understand than not liking chocolate but I just accept it, because we all have our Thing.

My current fashion thing is, figuring out ways to look well-put-together while actually wandering around in pyjamas.  I mean, you can't knit and walk at the same time if you're hobbling along on stilettos, right?  Or maybe you can, assuming you wanted to.  I would tip right over, to say nothing of what it would do to my calf muscles.

My favourite pyjama accessory is handknit socks, of course, so I usually try to get away with shoes that are sock friendly, like the amazing Ecco running shoes I bought this spring:

They look a lot like bowling shoes which is fun right there, and they have a cup-shaped support in the heel that holds your foot affectionately in place which is a plus, but most of all - paired with super stripey handknit socks and rolled up jeans, they look fabulous.

Last weekend I wore them with longer, wider, sort of dressy jeans to a concert for which I was supposed to dress up.  I couldn't face that prospect, so I wore the jeans and the running shoes - mostly concealed under the sheltering denim - and a long black silk tunic top, long blue-black necklace, and a short unstructured black dress jacket with the sleeves rolled up.  I also happened to be having Big Hair that day (the unexpected result of weather combined with new shampoo) so I looked very 1980s, but oddly acceptable.  I will totally wear that outfit again, weather permitting.

In winter, my ultimate dress shoe is a pair of very, very expensive Italian leather boots (bought massively on sale, obviously, because why spend the yarn budget on full price footwear?)  They are black, completely flat, and half a size too big.  Also, tall enough to look great with a dress, and I can get away with leggings and a pair of thick wool socks inside.  Instant PJs!

Now that I am living downtown and seeing a huge range of women walking briskly to their offices or loitering after out-of-office lunches with their colleagues, many of them male, I am hyper aware of my counterparts and the challenges they face to look professional.  You don't have to be a feminist to see the injustice - I mean, panty hose alone!  Ugh, I don't know any women who look forward to putting those on every day.  But also, quite often, snug fitting skirts and jackets cut to be a little constraining if you have to reach too high, and very high, very narrow heels.  From what I'm told, men's suits are very comfortable indeed, and they get to wear them with socks and flat shoes.

Or no socks.  Men don't always wear socks with their suits and dress shoes in summer now, have you noticed this?  It's another Thing, and I don't even want to think about the consequences.  I'm sure they'll figure out eventually that it's not just those shoes - their toes don't at all like being pressed into any enclosed, abrasive space all day, as desperate women learned decades ago and in some cases still try to ignore.  Just the other day I saw a grown woman rushing to work in a tiny suit and barely-there, pointy-toed stilettos with bare legs.  Did we not all learn this lesson after our first summer job?   Is this not why stores started selling those little footlets you can hide inside your dress shoes to avoid crippling blisters?

My own torrid love affair with heels ended the day I went to my GP for a physical and took off my shoes and she said, WHAT have you been doing to your FEET?  She could have stopped there, because it made me look at them and realize for the first time that they weren't the sort of shape you'd expect any more, but NO - she went on and explained how my pointy toed heels were reframing my bone structure.  Fine, I thought, No more pointy heels.  And after that I switched to round or square-toe wedges, and flats as much as I could manage, and after many years my feet now look a lot more like the way they did when I got them.

All of which is to say, UGH, I have been shopping for a pair of much needed heels for summer, and another pair for the seasons where I can't get away with sandals or my beloved flat boots.  And in the absence of anything I like in a brick and mortar store, I bought two likely candidates online.  The sandals are insanely comfortable so I'm keeping them, but they were called 'magic black' in the listing and I think you can forgive my surprise when I unwrapped them and found they are mostly navy blue:

I double checked online after I saw that and discovered that the 'magic silver' colour is mostly gold.  Very confusing.  Also challenging for me because I really try to avoid pairing black with blue, unless the blue is jeans.  What price comfort, as nobody says, ever...

I also bought these gorgeous shoes.

And I'm crying over them because they aren't comfortable at all.  Otherwise, they are perfect: a neutral silvery gold with a wood wedge and a golden sole that would look great from spring into fall.  Also, a squishy insole.  But when you put them on, the toe area's squish, plainly visible otherwise, totally disappears and it's like walking on a steel plate.

See this square toe, in supple leather?  (I promise, the shoes don't look at all orthotic when you have them on, just very expensive and very cool.)

Yeah, that toe doesn't feel so roomy on.  I wore them around for three minutes to test for the size - I've already got a pair the size down and they were definitely too small - and had to take them off because my feet were already aching.

Maybe they're just objecting because I can't fit socks in there, like babies who can only communicate through crying?

Well, the good news about not getting any younger is that there are fewer years in which one must pretend to be a grownup with fancy shoes on.  Unless one wants to, of course.  A friend's mother in law, very glam, is 86 and still committed to her heels for everything including bedroom slippers, but the truth there is that the muscles in her calves have shortened over the years and flats just hurt.  I can sympathize but I also know the risk of falling, so I hope her family can reach some kind of compromise with her.  Me?  I will be delighted to embrace orthotic shoes for every event.

Maybe I'll even use a pair to climb Machu Picchu, like my 78 year old neighbour did last month. Although I have to admit - when she was telling me about it, she was wearing a fabulous sleeveless red cocktail dress and heels.  Sigh.


Su said...

There has been a lot in the press here about women being expected to wear heels, as in massively high heels, to work! This is apparently written into their contracts and somehow, does not break anti discrimination legislation! Anyway, there is a huge backlash, an online petition and lots of women turning up to work in flats. I mean this is 2016, surely long term health comes before any idea that heels somehow 'look good'.

I can't wear square toed shoes, my second toe is longer than my big toe and square toed shoes make the nail on my second toes turn black and fall off. I learned this the hard way, twice!

Mary Keenan said...

Su that is amazing and awful about the high heel thing! Quite a few offices here have a dress code that specifies that panty hose must be worn with dresses (ie no bare legs), and I think that is horrible enough, but high heels are worse, and anyway - you might as well come right out and tell half the working population they aren't welcome except as eye candy with a rule like that. I hope the women win soon, because they will eventually!

And omigosh, blackened and missing toenails is why I never took up serious running, because that would completely freak me out. (nothing to do with preferring to sit and knit, of course.) Glad you figured it out and that square toes aren't the only sort of shoe you can buy, yikes.