Annabel Ly is the San Francisco-based blogger behind Blushing Ambition, and you may have even caught her showing Refinery29 SF around town. If you want an extra dose of Annabel, follow her tweets here.
A few weeks ago, I walked into my office in downtown San Francisco, limping, after I'd fallen on the street right by my work. I wish I could have attributed the sprain to tripping on a crack, but the real culprit was the heel on my right boot, which has been worn down to the core by hundreds of wears. At that point, I had grown accustomed to the occasional slip on the sidewalk, but until that one morning, I had been able to successfully avoid actually falling on my ass every time.
As I iced my swollen foot, I casually looked up replacement options...but couldn't bring myself to hit "buy" on any of the boots that I had bookmarked. I mean, if I really wanted the same exact pair of boots, Rachel Comey has been rereleasing the Penpal boot every season — but, when I think about buying them and throwing out my old pair, I get this deep feeling of anxiety. They just wouldn't be the same.
I studied multiple (dead) languages at UC Berkeley and lived on a tight budget because it was difficult for me to find time to work during the semester. I'd buy a lot of my clothes at thrift or consignment stores and would pull inspiration from a wishlist of pricier items that I couldn't afford at the time. The one thing that always eluded me was the perfect ankle boot. I had a few pairs of Rachel Comey boots bookmarked, and knew they were always out of my reach, but none of the more affordable pairs seemed to ever fit my weirdly narrow but big foot. Nevertheless, I wasn't about to drop $400 that I didn't have on my ideal pair of boots, so I gave up on it for a while.
One day, when I was walking to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) from my apartment in Berkeley to go to SF, I got into a huge fight with my then-boyfriend on the phone and instantly turned the other way as I hung up on him. I'd forgotten my keys at home so I was forced to kill time on Telegraph Avenue while I waited for my roommate. I randomly ended up at Buffalo Exchange, where I rarely shopped during the four years that I lived in Berkeley since I would never luck out or find anything amazing. This one time, however, I just happened to be idly walking around the shoe section when something caught my eye. "Oh hey, those look like Rachel Comey boots," I thought to myself without feeling any sort of excitement. I picked up the left boot to check for the size and price, thinking they were knockoffs, and saw what was engraved on the bottom. "These ARE Rachel Comey?!"
The boots were in pristine condition. Brand new, never worn. For some reason the back tags had been cut off but I liked them more that way since they resembled the Mars boots I'd been coveting before that. I looked at the price. $75. It was still steep for me at the time but I had to have them. (There's always instant ramen, right?)
I was in such a daze about finding them that I conveniently ignored the fact that they were a whole size too small for me and purchased them anyway. When I squeezed them on at the store I convinced myself that they would either stretch out and fit eventually or that I'd have them on so often that I'd get used to the pain. I ended up wearing them for a whole week straight, and holy hell
, it hurt. I'll spare you guys the details but let's just say that I still have scars from it years later.
However, despite the initial pain and countless band-aids, I wore my Penpal boots so many times that they molded to my feet and finally became the most comfortable pair of shoes in my closet. I'd wear them so often that I would get a lot of anonymous comments on my blog making fun of me for posting outfits with the same boots over and over again. I remember one particularly snarky comment asking me if I owned any other pairs of shoes. Yikes. They really were my favorite pair of shoes, and still continue to be, even after my little accident on the street a few weeks ago (oh hell, I'm wearing them right now). In the end, after graduating from college and being able to afford more designer clothes on my own, I've scored a few pairs of Rachel Comey shoes, but none of them will ever replicate the feeling of randomly finding that first pair which I never would have come across if my ex hadn't pissed me off so badly that day. I suppose that's one thing I can thank him for?