To Heel and Back
In Manhattan, where you walk everywhere, it's essential to have sturdy and stylish footwear. Even then, heels are in constant need of repair, or their metal skeletons become exposed at the bottom, turning a walk to work into a tap-dance routine. I was lamenting the cost of good shoes when a girlfriend gave me the most enabling justification for buying them.
"You live in the city, right?" she said.
I nodded, though we both knew the answer.
"And you don't own a car, right?"
I nodded again.
"Well, then, your shoes are like your tires and your four-wheel drive. And just think about how much you'd spend on a car…"
Her advice has walked me through a lot of footwear purchases, especially in winter, when shopping for quality (and always more costly than anticipated) boots feels like a necessity rather than a luxury. But I wondered whether the analogy would hold up with the always expensive and often outlandish shoes at the new 10022-SHOE department at Manhattan's Saks Fifth Avenue. You don't exactly see a lot of crystal-studded and patent-leather cars.
Then again, no car showroom ever looked this good. As you step off the express elevator that leads to the shoe floor, you follow a gently twisting path lined with pair after pair of shoes. It's like Noah's ark, but more fashionable. On one side are pink Christian Dior slingbacks with edible-looking baubles; on the other is a towering, black and white Chanel shoe reminiscent of the rainbow-stacked Ferragamo platform of the '30s. I had a feeling that some of these shoes might cost more than a car, or at least a couple of car payments (indeed, several turned out to be over $1,000).
When you're surrounded by $900 items, one that costs $600 can suddenly seem reasonable. But as long as I kept reminding myself that some of these shoes were $400 per foot, there seemed to be no harm in escaping the realities of a normal income and trying them on.
The selection is so vast that I'd recommend taking a preliminary stroll before asking for assistance. And it helps if your madness has a method. Mine was to mix it up. There's no sense in only trying on footwear befitting Willy Wonka's mistress (hot-pink, jeweled Jimmy Choo heels). The fantasy is more fulfilling if there's that thin connection to reality—when you think, In a couple of years and after a career change, I could conceivably own these hip but understated Gucci peep-toes.
Also, know thy sole. I, for one, am predisposed to a solid-color heel with one unique element. So I instantly went for the gunmetal Christian Louboutin heels with a ruched top and the black Ferragamos with the crimped straps. I knew I'd get both compliments and mileage from shoes like these.
But I also knew if I kept this up I'd be left with a bunch of styles that looked markedly less unique when stacked at my feet. So I forced myself (hardly a chore, but still) to venture where my feet hadn't dared go before. Once I had on the silver Oscar de la Renta flats, however, they seemed like a better fit for a wacky aunt. I tried again, opting for tomato-red Christian Louboutin stilettos—when I was a little girl, these were the kind of shoes I had imagined I'd wear as an adult. Now that I am an adult, they struck me as too grown-up, like they belonged on a cartoonishly sexy librarian.
Out of the 100,000 pairs, my ideal fantasy shoe wound up not being some limited-edition number with feathers springing from the heels. Nor was it the kind of classic shoe that even the wealthy justify buying with the claim that they'll "get a lot of use out of it." In the end, I kept returning to a pair of Prada heels. Not too high, they were rounded and duck yellow at the toe, fading to white toward the heel-like sorbet for the feet.
But would I ever want a car in the same color scheme? I took them off and placed them back in their box. Eh, probably not. But it was okay to love them. After all, they only go on my feet.
Sloane Crosley's first book of essays, I Was Told There'd Be Cake, is out now.