The bottom of my wardrobe is awash with shoes. They are just thrown in there, at random, higgledy-piggledy. Even more shoes are to be found in boxes shoved under the bed in the guest room. Plus wellies, garden clogs and hiking boots lurk downstairs.
And yet I only utilise a small fraction of the footwear available to me. Indeed, I’m extremely ashamed to admit that there are a couple of pairs—purchased some years ago—that have never been worn. Ever.
That said, the shoes pale in comparison to my extensive handbag collection.
When did we all start to accumulate so much stuff? Be it shoes or handbags or the latest kit from Apple—when did ‘want’ muscle ‘need’ out of the equation?
Back in the day we were content with markedly less. The following quotes come from a reader survey that was published in classic teen mag Jackie* in the 1970s.
I have two pairs of shoes both from Dolcis which cost £7 each (Ellen, age 16)
I have three pairs of shoes from Saxone which cost £7 each pair (Evelyn, age 14)
I’ve got two pairs of shoes at £7 and one pair of cream boots for £10 bought from Freeman, Hardy & Willis (Fiona, age 17)
I’ve only one pair of shoes which cost £8, from Ravel (Elizabeth, age 15)
I have two pairs of shoes, clogs for £5 and sandals at £7 from Dolcis (Gwyneth, age 17)
I have three pairs of shoes costing about £8 from Lilley & Skinner (Helen, age 16)
What’s striking is the fact that most of the girls had just two or three pairs of shoes to their name. Can you imagine British teenagers of today having so few? No, me neither…
Style guru Genevieve Antoine Dariaux suggested the following footwear requirements in her seminal 1964 book A Guide to Elegance**
- For winter: one pair of black, high-heeled pumps and one pair of flat brown shoes for the country
- For summer: one pair of linen sandals and one pair of strap sandals
Her pithy advice in the section on shoes should also be noted: “So self-restraint is absolutely indispensable in this field, because shoes should be the complement of an ensemble, never an end in themselves.”
I hereby consider myself duly chastened.
*Check out more gems from this magazine: The Best of Jackie (Prion Publications Ltd, paperback, October 2010).
**This book provided the inspiration for Kathleen Tessaro’s 2003 novel Elegance, which is well worth a read.