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Jack Smith

It's a shoe thing: One must walk on eggshells when discussing footwear and wives

June 12, 1986|JACK SMITH

There seems to be little doubt, from my mail, that many women resent the kinds of shoes that fashion forces them into, but most are going to go on wearing them.

You may remember that a reader named Vicki Ochocki complained that the saying "if the shoe fits it's ugly" is accurate, and that "all the dress shoes have too-high heels and pointed toes that cause damage to the foot. . . ."

Coincidentally, Jan Burnett observed that colored shoes, high heels and textured or colored stockings are a sure sign that the wearer is enjoying an active and probably illicit sex life.

I certainly am not going to start trying to guess the nature of a woman's sex life from her shoes, nor do I recommend it, but some readers do seem to feel that high heels enhance a woman's sex appeal .

"The most feminine innovation in the history of footwear is the spike heel," writes Lewis J. Herman of Long Beach. "Rare is the man who fails to respond to the click of a high heel on a sidewalk, or an office floor. Also, a spike heel makes an effective weapon when the woman needs to defend herself from attack. . . ."

Maybe that's part of their appeal--the sense of danger they inspire.

Ginny King of Alta Loma is not going to be shamed by Jan Burnett's suspicions into giving up her colorful footwear.

"As I sit here writing this," she says, "I am wearing a pair of electric blue high-heeled shoes! I wear a lot of bright blue and also a lot of red dresses, so I have a pair of red shoes, too.

"I'm not sure there is any generalization that will not get you into trouble. I have been married to the same man for over 30 years. . . . I will continue to wear my bright high heels if I feel it is in good taste. I have been considering the purchase of a pair of pink or lavender shoes. Maybe I'll go all the way and get a pair of each!"

An anguished complaint comes from Catherine A. Strohlein of San Diego.

"Women's shoes are truly a disaster!" she says. "I reached adulthood in the 1960s, when the rapier toe and the stiletto heel were de rigueur for any dressy occasion. No matter that I stood 5 feet 10--I still had to wear three- or four-inch heels. No matter that my feet contained five toes and were fairly square in front--they had to be pointed like an arrow.

"No matter that it is impossible to walk comfortably, much less swiftly, in such items--they were fashionable . How could I ever get a date if I wore foot-shaped shoes?"

As a result of forcing her feet into pointed shoes she got a bunion, suffered severe complications, including surgery, and had to go on crutches for a week and hobble about for another two.

Women have rebelled against corsets and girdles, she says, and it's time they rebelled against cruel shoes. "Please, shoe designers. . . . Surely there's an attractive line between Gucci and Birkenstock, between Vanderbilt and Nike. I want Guccenstocks! I want Vandernikes! Pastel yellow, with a one-inch heel in a 10-B."

Roz Salzman, co-owner of Shooze II, a women's shoe store in Beverly Center, reports that she has been watching women shop for shoes for years, and there are certain routines they follow.

Some women take a display shoe and hold it sideways in front of a mirror, as if not trusting their own perspective; some place it on the floor in front of the mirror and look at it from a distance; some hold the shoe up to their faces, evidently to match its color with their skin tone; some put a hand into the shoe, evidently to get some idea how it will look with a foot in it.

This odd behavior suggests that there is something ritualistic about shopping for shoes and that it cannot be explained, any more than voodoo can be explained. Perhaps one reason women buy so many shoes is that they are addicted to these shopping rituals, as well as to new shoes.

"Please, please," Ms. Salzman urges, "never again say '50 pairs of shoes are more shoes than any one woman needs.' Always keep in mind that 'need' is relative. Remember, (women) are sometimes said to be 'head over heels' in love. Yes, women do buy shoes when they are romantically involved. You'd be surprised at how many 'leg men' are also 'shoe men.' "

I'd like to point out that Ms. Salzman said that, not I.

Leslie Raddatz makes a point that he admits is not directly related to women's shoes. But he notes that in my column about women's shoes I referred to my wife as "my wife," as usual.

"As far as I know," he says, "you have never referred to her by her first name, which is, I believe, as it should be.

"Yet, for the past six years, it seems that every banquet or fund-raiser I've attended includes the reading of a congratulatory letter from the White House which begins 'Nancy and I. . . .'

"I don't know what Mrs. Reagan thinks about her name being bandied about. But, in what seems to have become a first-name-calling society, I am delighted that you are upholding tradition. I only wish Ron would."

I avoid using my wife's first name to shield her from notoriety. But perhaps "my wife" sounds a bit impersonal and possessive. Maybe I'll just call her Smith.

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