All the Shoes We Wear When No One’s Watching
Anything can be a house shoe now.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought “I should be keeping a quarantine journal” only to tell myself that, eh, we’re too far along and it wouldn’t be a complete collection of ideas from start to finish, so nevermind then. Quarantine’s greatest trick, though, has turned out to be its ability to bend time. That “too far along” point I imagined was actually just the beginning.
Now (a time I’ve characterized as being around two-thirds of the way “there”), how I want to crystalize this period is evolving. The urge to put pen to page about, say, week three of lockdown exaggerating gender roles, or to scribble down the predictions from friends and family on how the food industry will skew organic or wasteful or socialist, is making way for a new measure of passing time: shoes.
My typically serif wardrobe has adopted a dramatically more sans look over the last eight weeks. Tailored pants and complicated coats have been replaced with big, squishy robes, and carefully selected separates that tell a color story are eschewed for some bike shorts and, like, a sweatshirt, I guess.
Hilariously, that the fashion item I need least right now has earned the most robust placement in my outfits says everything. The why and how of the shoes I wear has never been more telling. So, instead of a diary (which would have been… insufferable, tbh), I’m tracing the outline of my quarantine by the shoes that shape it, from the familiar cast of living room-padding characters to the incongruous cameo of a slutty heel. These shoes, I swear, know me better than I know myself.
What would a WFH shoe glossary be without the humble house slipper? This unassuming slip-on is literally home base; it’s the prequel to every clog, mule, or wedge that comes in its wake; the shoe that walked so that others could run. The slipper is our origin story, and like DNA, traces of it can be found in every other footwear that follows.
A house slipper can be anatomically identified by three qualities: It’s comfy (obvi), it’s a little lovably ratty, and it has a magnetic force that attaches itself to your foot without you ever consciously having stepped into it — at 11 a.m., you’re wearing it whether you decided to or not.
You may think you outgrew your safety blanket, but it actually just reinvented itself as a pair of slippers with every ounce of blind acceptance, warmth, and reassurance left intact.
Shop the look:
Nomasei Hotel de la Plage Mule
Shop now: $140; nomasei.com
Acorn Waffle Spa Slide Slipper
Shop now: $40; nordstrom.com
Halflinger As Slipper
Shop now: $79; nordstrom.com
Emotional Combat Boots
The act of leaving the house has never required more bravery. And while a trip to the grocery store may be the type of nerve-frying activity that makes me wish I had armored cars for feet, I’ll settle for a pair of closed-toed shoes, at the very least.
At the same time, isn’t this rare excursion past our front doors one of the few opportunities we have to broadcast our otherwise heavily sheltered wardrobes? The Sunday trek to Wegman’s is suddenly a runway, and the daring footwear on debut is a pair of flashy sneakers or a set of clunkers with a telling cleft toe — is this what Maison Margiela had in mind when it sent its nurse and military-inspired spring 2020 collection down the runway?
It’s here where the longing for and fear of human contact mingle conflictingly in my mind.
Shop the look:
Maison Margiela Trompe L’oeil Tabi Boots
Shop now: $997 (Originally $1,995); farfetch.com
Havva Sportmaxx 86 Utility
Shop now: $483; havvamustafa.com
Converse Chuck Taylor High Top Sneaker
Shop now: $55; nordstrom.com
Weighting It Out
Don’t tell my gym this, but I’m not sure there’s a future for us after all this is over. In eight little weeks, me and my toes have packed in more on-purpose exercise with nothing more than a series of increasingly specific queries on YouTube than I’ve done in months.
In corona times, I can’t go to a Pilates studio once a week and pay money to feel annoyed when the instructor makes me work hard (the audacity!). And what that’s meant for me is finding (despite my best efforts!) that thing they call motivation. I can’t outsource that energy anymore because no one is there to call me out but myself.
Without a commute, I’m barely walking anymore, and with stores closed, I can’t spend my afternoons burning shopping calories. In a scary-real way, it’s use-it-or-lose-it for my body and health right now. My lazy “I’m baby” ass would never have thought I’d say this, but the time for picking myself up by my grippy-bottom bootstraps is now.
Shop the look:
Shop now: $49; anthropologie.com
Pointe Studio Elise Grip Strap Sock
Shop now: $14; pointestudio.com
Nike Air VaporMax Flyknit 3 Sneaker
Shop now: $200; nordstrom.com
Heels That Heal
Is there any feeling that comes close to wearing a new pair of shoes for the first time? Just-out-of-the-box is the one condition in which we are allowed to break the cardinal rule of never bringing outside shoes indoors. And so, while our freshly delivered, bought-on-pandemic-sale, step-on-neck-worthy heels will have to sit tight for a proper showoff-y coming-out party, at least we can wear them on many wild nights in — read: for eating ice cream straight from the freezer, or for wearing with sweats on the couch while tapping through Instagram Stories — without any guilt.
What started as “new thing therapy” is bigger than that now. As we begin tallying time in months over weeks, holding out against creeping utilitarianism with a single, frivolous pair of heels is my little protest: a bright, blistering pump that shouts, “There is so much more.”
Shop the look:
Cult Gaia Adina Heel
Shop now: $428; shopbop.com
Amina Muaddi Naima leather sandals
Shop now: $695; net-a-porter.com
Reike Nen Clean Pumps Mules
Shop now: $380; reikenen.com
If a tree falls in the forest and we’re all stuck in our urban apartments many miles away, is the earth still following its path around the sun? Unobserved in our boxes like Schroedinger’s cat, are we alive or are we dead? Our gingham blankets will likely keep their creases a little longer this year, and pancakes for the table at al fresco brunch will stay a memory for now.
A warm breeze will never resist the opportunity to tickle a foot through an open-toed shoe. Grass becomes greener on its own schedule, not ours, and flowers will grow plumper and posher with or without us. Spring is not our wheel to steer, and so for once, we can let go while everything else… just happens.
Shop the look:
Miista Tyler Lime Towel Sandals
Shop now: $340; miista.com
Batu Arin Flats
Shop now: $209; shopbatu.com
Simon Miller 75mm Platform Sandals
Shop now: $490; farfetch.com