2019: A Shoe Odyssey

By Karen R. Smith


I had no intentions of falling in love. In fact, I had all sorts of plans, both professional and personal, and I thought all would go smoothly barring major accidents. I was in NYC and watching a socialite/celebrity/fashion news segment while making dinner. Not really paying attention, just glancing at the TV from time to time while moving around the kitchen. My Dad’s house has a TV in there so he can watch the news over breakfast. I was enjoying having it as company while I prepped for our dinner party. That’s when it happened.

I had tuned in some cable news roundup, heavy on the light stuff. The Hadid sisters were at some opening or other and the cameras swooped in. Beautiful ladies. Then the camera moved down...and showed the shoes they were wearing. If I had been more focused on the incipient salad, I might have missed them. But I was looking at the screen, and I saw them: absolutely incredible, totally amazing, worthy-of-Cinderella clear shoes.

I was gobsmacked. But I was also preparing dinner for a crowd, and the timing was unforgiving. So I kept going, and the news coverage moved on to less-fascinating stories (better bed bug remedies, plans for a new westside hi-rise). Guests arrived, dinner happened, a good time was had by all, the dishwasher got loaded and off I went to bed, contented and tired.

But I couldn’t get to sleep. Because all I could think about was those amazing shoes. I’ve always had a weakness for plastic shoes. That might be blamed on identifying with Cinderella, but I think it was because my Mom had saved several pairs of plastic shoes from her youth, and they were mine to play with. One pair of sandals had clear heels that could be filled with ANYTHING. When my mother had gotten the shoes, the thing to do was put live goldfish in water inside. She did, and in the course of an evening traipsing around Manhattan, the poor things died in service to fashion. Proof of the cruelty of that particular god.

With those shoes as playthings, I guess my fetish is logical. I suppose the good news is that clear plastic is not regularly embraced by the shoe industry, which seems to vastly prefer leather as the material of choice. But from time to time, whether during the Mod 60s and 70s or the retro 00s, clear plastic shoes become the fancy once again. They are never available for long, and never universally popular. If you favor them, you have to get out there and land them while they are in season. Like rainbow trout.

Last winter, I found a pair of ankle boots with clear plastic heels. I was smitten. Bought them and brought them and a big bag of Skittles to the El Con Cobbler over on Broadway. He was able to fill the heels with the candies and seal them in for eternity. They delight me. And there is just enough space amongst the Skittles for them to make a small noise with each step. Like tiny maracas.

Besides their irregular availability, clear plastic shoes have no longevity (my Mom’s decades-old stash aside). Plastic shoes are generally glued, not sewn, and as they stretch from body warmth, the seams often give out. Those that are sewn suffer quicker death, as they rip along the seam holes and are unrepairable once the plastic splits. They are the mayflies of footwear, with brief lives of extreme beauty.

I’m not the only person who feels this way. Christian Louboutin created a beautiful pair of clear plastic pumps, called “Pigalle” that I am trying to resist. They are over a thousand dollars a pair, and with such a short lifespan…

It took a while, but I eventually was able to trace the Hadid’s shoes. They are from Kanye West’s Yeezy line. Once identified, the internet had lots of examples, because having been embraced by the celebrity model crowd, Yeezys are a sell-out, and lots of other shoemakers have put out similar shoes to cash in on their popularity.

The Louboutins are fabulous, without a doubt. But given the cost-per-wearing dynamic afoot here (forgive me!), they seem like the worst sort of consumer excess. So I started working my way through every example I could find with a Google search. By nightfall the next day, I had found a pair at a retailer I had never heard of before for under $60. Unfortunately, this would mean buying them online and hoping they fit. And if not, hoping there was a decent return policy. So I spent a lot of time on that site and checked their customer reviews. Seemed sometimes returns were easily done, sometimes not so much.

I decided to sleep on it and postpone the purchase until the following day. I went to bed dreaming of clear plastic shoes and woke with a smile. Got a cup of coffee and booted up the computer, pulling up Google first, knowing I had saved a link to the shoes there.

Google was way ahead of me. In fact, I had no idea Google could become my favorite shopping buddy. Because of my searches the day before, there was a picture of the plastic shoes I covet...at Forever 21 for under $30!!!!!

Now, generally speaking, I am opposed to fast fashion, because it denies designers their due and because the fabrics used are contributing to everything from global warming to international water shortages. I get it. Really I do.

But we are talking about a pair of one-season, cheap materials, wear them 20 times if I’m lucky shoes. Shoes that are not worth a penny more than $30 when you get right down to it. And besides, Forever 21 has a store right here in Tucson. No shipping. No worries about returns. No trading in my kids for those Louboutins!

Home again, I visited Forever 21. The shoes were all that, and more...or I should say less, given the under $30 price tag. I am now the proud possessor of a pair of clear sandals and will spend the summer wearing them in all my Cinderella glory.

The moral of the story? Fall in love, use Google, bring home your shoes at an affordable price and live happily ever after!

About the Author:
Karen R. Smith is an award-winning journalist and publicist. Her book, "Stylishly Sexy" is available online and she takes private style clients throughout Arizona and across the country. Visit her at www.stylesmithtransformations.com