It was a little over a week ago that I first tried my hand at outdoor dining in New York since the pandemic shuttered restaurant doors and ushered the city’s inhabitants indoors. For the occasion, I, of course, wore a mask (I like these ones from Oak + Fort). With it, I chose a pair of faded vintage jeans, a ribbed tank top, and my favourite pair of black satin mules from By Far. (They are currently on sale at Net-A-Porter.) This time last year, I was wearing them nearly every day, be it to the office, late-night dinners, or rooftop parties. Now, they mostly go untouched. Suffice to say, after months of flip-flops and sneakers, getting the chance to take my “fancy” shoes out for a spin was a big part of what made going out again exhilarating.
By the end of the evening, any hesitations I had surrounding the return to restaurant dining were squashed. That is, until I stood up from the table only to realise how not ready my feet — squished into heels for the first time in five months — were for any shoes that weren’t meant for indoor wear only. My yearning for social interaction (and pasta) had kept me distracted during the walk to the restaurant. The walk back, however, was torture. Pinched, blistered, and nursing a subtle limp that I didn’t recall having pre-quarantine, I placed my fancy shoes back on the shelf upon finally making it home.
Before quarantine, buying and subsequently putting on a really nice pair of shoes was the epitome of luxury, like booking a spa day after a long week at work or splurging on a delivery salad for lunch. Blame it on Carrie Bradshaw, but I always had the mentality that it was the right shoes that made an outfit, not a bag or a dress. You walk taller, straighter, and with more of a purpose when you have on a great pair of heels, even if they are just an inch or two tall. And while at five months into a pandemic, I’ve accepted that I won’t return to work, see a movie, or travel anywhere outside of the tri-state area until probably next year, one thing I’m not yet willing to let go of is my love of fancy shoes.
Maybe that’s silly. After all, shoes are just shoes, and there are bigger concerns in the world than footwear right now. But, for me, as a young woman in a city like New York, they played a crucial role in helping me overcome the feeling of, “Should I really be here?” that everyone’s felt once or twice simply by living in a place like this. They acted as proof that I’d made it, even if I technically haven’t. Bar hopping and indoor dining I can live without for a year. The feeling of fulfilment that comes with being able to, on your own, buy a pair of expertly crafted shoes (even if they are bought secondhand at The RealReal) and then show them off, however, isn’t quite so easy to let go of.
Just had such a pang thinking suddenly and fondly of a pair of dress shoes I used to wear often when I had cause to go out into the world, as if it were a distant cousin I had played with as a child, our acquaintance now long lapsed— Matthew Schneier (@MatthewSchneier) August 6, 2020
I am not alone. Last night, whilst participating in my nightly peruse of the Twitterverse, I came across a tweet from New York Magazine and The Cut features writer Matthew Schneier that said: “Just had such a pang thinking suddenly and fondly of a pair of dress shoes I used to wear often when I had cause to go out into the world, as if it were a distant cousin I had played with as a child, our acquaintance now long lapsed.” Another user named Holly tweeted: “Just bought some cute new shoes online. With my new quarantine lifestyle I need shoes like a fish needs a bicycle but I had a coupon and am trying to feel hopeful for the future.” I can relate.
While, yes, I have ventured outside since Governor Cuomo gave New York City the go ahead to reopen, more often than not, I’m inside my apartment, making shoes almost entirely impractical. But, as mentioned above, impractical or not, shoes, especially those of the fancy variety, can induce a feeling of hope that’s becoming harder to come by with each passing day. If putting on a pair of kitten heels, platform loafers, or strappy sandals every now and again can remedy even some of the woes inherent in 2020, why not just embrace them?
So to my fancy shoes, I’ll say this: I miss you, and even though you’re often cruel to me, leaving my feet tattered and in desperate need of a recovery pedicure, I won’t forget about you. I promise.