Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My life in shoes

Good afternoon,

I thought I'd make a post about a history of my life in shoes. At the moment, I've cleared up a lot of my schedule tasks, I've disregarded quite a lot of my job applications that I scheduled because I thought of reasons like: I don't want to work in PR, or I don't want to qualify as a social worker. Two applications sent is a good sign all the same. I'm a bit anxious because tomorrow I'm interning (on my own, boss is away) and I'm tutoring, well I think I am anyway; I've not heard back from the tutee. Most of my day has involved exploring GReader, where the glut of articles never end. Neither does my 'to read' list of books. Life is inevitably an immortal struggle of learning and reading for me.

I was looking at the guardian fashion page on brogues. Although I'm not perhaps a fashionisto about these matters; sartorial matters are often concerns for me. On reflection, shoes seem to be an issue of status and self expression.

When I was little I wore whatever my parents gave me, often they were cheap and embarrassing shoes that had motifs like 'superted' or 'teenage mutant ninja turtles' on them. They probably weren't 'official' either. Back then, when Woolworths existed, there was that amazing range of clothes by ladybird. I considered woolworths to be quite a fun place when I was really young (like under 6-7) because of the novelty of the clothes they had in my size. Growing up later on, toward the end of my primary school days; I became a bit self conscious about image. I was making more friends and being londoners, and kids; there were cliques and means of self expression.

I saw that my older siblings wore trainers with brand names on them like Nike and Adidas. I thought (I have no idea why) that these brands were in some kind of heirarchy and you were the best if you had x,y,z brand. I was taught that by consumerism and the community of friends I kept with. Who knows, if my parents didn't take me to Jesuit school I may have ended up differently; maybe not unemployed but wearing a hoody and trainers in my council estate with my babies' mommma going to my shift at morrisons. I grew out of an obsession with trainers and the status associated with them. However, I did appreciate the utility of trainers, they were light and I thought you could wear them to all sorts of occaisions, and run with them. That sense of utilitarianism is a norm that informs me today.

Skip a few years, I was extremely boring in secondary school. I had no social life and few friends, the friends that I did have were largely school oriented. Now thinking about it, my life was pretty shitty and boring, and as such, the story of my shoes are plain black and indistinctive. Come sixth form and I became a little bit more academical, I felt a fashion style emerging from me. I was interested in 'smart' and dressy things like suits and waistcoats. This is a borrowing from my boring ways of secondary school sartorial. I liked to wear dress shirts and I survived any of the fashion fad flops of that era (the early 00s); my hair however, was a different story.

I had three different pairs of shoes during sixth form that I grew attached to that i found self defining; I had these red brogues (that's why the guardian article triggered a memory) which were really snappy, eccentric but smart. I suppose that was the personality that I put forward. Even the bullies respected me in sixth form, lots of people thought I was crazy. Even the gothic pretend-'crazy' guys were like 'GET HIM AWAY FROM ME'. I guess that I had a reputation of being a silent guy, and you should never trust the quiet ones. They say often 'it's always the quiet ones'. Eventually those shoes were worn down so much that they broke at the middle. They are still fondly remembered to this day.

In my second year of sixth form, I discovered myself, I knew that I wanted to do acertain subject in university and that I wanted to be an academic. I suppose that idealised perception of me was the foundation of the man I'd become and the person I am now (albeit not a loser). In my shoe life, my feet stopped growing, and at that point I realised that the shoe size, and these feet would not really change. Shoes had to embody permanence for me. My mum always taught me that I shouldn't engage too much in the throwaway society, despite the fact that after she taught me this; she'd recklessly purchase from clothiers that sell items at ridiculous prices. Scarity was replaced by indulgence . I guess my parents started making more money and started to be financially secure.

I started wearing these light brown (I can't think of a colour; they were kind of camel but darker) chelsea boots. Those boots defined me, and in a way they still do. I found myself in that year. I felt those boots made me feel strong. They went all the way up my ankle, and looked smart, but they were also a bit macho. It was also risque but an acceptable amount of risque, like wearing leggings (which I also did during colder months - I got ridiculed for it but I had a warm arse). My clothes became a uniform, and part of the mental image I had of myself when I was in my head-world. Those boots were vital to that image.

Come university. My boots broke. There was a hole in the sole, due to overuse. I still wore them, but they got permanently damaged and ruined my feet (I wonder if that's where my feet fungal issues come from...). I tried to hold on to them for as long as I could. They were permanently now with a squelch, and a of couple inches of mud around the toes picked up from the hole. I was depressed at uni, I have mentioned that story enough times now. The shoes told that story; I tried to hold on to thsoe chelsea boots, those memories for so long that it hurt me and went against me. The thought dawned on me, the unbearable realisation: I needed to change, I needed to shift, I needed to let go of the past.

Summer 2005, approach second year of university. I found a pair of shoes that I wore consistently. They were these cheapo shoes from a low quality menswear retailer (I think they were from 'Officers' Club'). They had these cool climber looking soles and a suede-like upper. They were fun to wear and although they were not the best shoes in the world, they defined me for that time. My life was full of anxiety and certainty, and my shoes represented that. They were low cut at the ankle compared to the chelsea boots; which symbolised a lot of insecurity and vulnerability for me. It was a vulnerability I wore on my sleeve. It was very apparent that the anxiety and depression was very difficult for me during that year of my life. Eventually, I survived second year, and I made new friends. These shoes represented the seed of change, and my moving forward, perhaps I realise this only now but I certainly did not then. I felt lost back then. These shoes were flawed, they got soaked in rain, and did not dry for days. I still wore shoes wet from two days previous and they fucked up my socks and I left wet shoeprints everywhere. Perhaps my seminar tutors were too polite to tell me how silly that was. I had enough trouble in my life anyway, perhaps they saw that.

The year after that, was when I attempted suicide. I dont want to go into it too much on pain of upsetting me (where today is a pretty productive day). I'll just say that those climbing shoes I wore on second year eventually stopped fitting my new mindset. and they fell apart; much like everything else in my life at that time. When you live for only yourself, you can fall so easily into the hell you create in your mind. When you have someone to stay strong for, like a girlfriend, or a child; you force yourself to survive. That's what my ex taught me, that's why I admire her so much as a single mother.

In the third year, I wanted to go back to chelsea boots, I forgot just now that I bought a pair of these cowboy style boots. They had this silly little metal ring around them and I think they served no purpose. They looked cool and they were this dark brown and had a distinctively metalhead aura about them. I was kindof a showoff or poseur at that period, which still shames me a bit today. These boots fell apart as a gesture of the shallowness and ficklety of my imagination and social life. Deservedly so.

After those shitty chelsea boots. I went into a whole different direction. Come my masters degree, I obtained chelsea boots with steel toe caps. These boots were much like in principle my teenaged sixth form self, but they had a hardness to them, literally and symbolically. They were protected by a steel cap. These shoes became protection, and aggression. These shoes were heavy. For me, those shoes represented endurance, strength, audacity, bravery, protection and something I cannot find a word for. They satisfied many crowds. I developed a 'smart-casual' look that made me blend in anywhere from formal to social to highly informal to academic. I perhaps became a little bit obsessive about wearing the same clothes constantly. Perhaps I still am that way toda. Once I moved back home, I began to soften up my dogmatism about my clothing sameness. All the same, the steel toed chelsea boots stayed. I think I must be on my 3rd pair. This most recent pair is perhaps just under 2 years old; but it feels like a long tradition. Those boots, identical to the first steel toe in proportion, colour (and steel toe) have become something defining about me, and they still are. My ideal is to have clothes that fit all situations. I wear those boots in interviews, social occasions, going out; all sorts. However as all things my head has softened a bit. I now currently have 4 pairs of shoes (all obtained since my MA finished) and they are oriented to different situations.

  1. Chelsea boots, brown. - Default, except in special situations
  2. Trainers - training, shoes that I need to put on as fast as possible (like when mum asks me to go to the post office etc)
  3. Doctor Martens rigger boots (extreme weather situations: mud, ice, wind; showing off; airsofting)
  4. Parade shoes - extra special smart events, such as funerals, weddings, and other such posh things. Recently, I've increasingly used my parade shoes to go to the office, and I'll wear them as I start my new job. I like how it makes me feel smart, when I wear a dress shirt and a smart jacket on the tube. I feel like a sombody instead of a nobody. I love the 'clack clack clack' sound it makes on the floor as I walk in the tube station, I feel elegant and almost feminine. In my shoes, I'm changing. That's normally a way to find that I'm changing in other ways, if my past is to be relied upon.
I'm surprised that I wrote a post entirely about shoes. Perhaps now I can understand why people have such preoccupations about them in fashion magazines. I don't take shoes lightly, and I try as much as I can not to disrespect them either. I do want to get mroe shoes though; particularly shoes for climbing/tactical situations. The Riggers are durable but not flexible.

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