These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: Black Boots

Dear Sartorialist:Why must you be so cold-hearted in your fabulousness? Why do you torture me with daily reminders that right now there are people in Paris? And they’re wearing the the world’s most perfect shoes?

When clearly… I. Am. Not.

From the Sartorialist.

I used to have perfect shoes from Paris…

In 1984, when I was 15, I was a member of the American Music Abroad Choir. We wore navy blue skirts, white blouses, red blazers, and conservatively-heeled blue pumps while we sang traditional American music (“Oh, Susannah, oh don’t you cry for me…”) to adoring European audiences on a 3-week summer tour of seven European countries. My use of “adoring” is not sarcastic; the audiences loved our wholesome, dorky goodness.

It was my first time on my own, without my parents, and I was intoxicated by the freedom. I was pretty square, so I didn’t do anything bad… but it was delicious to be independent. I hung out with new friends, stayed out late dancing in nightclubs with cute Austrian boys, and I bought the greatest boots on the planet in Paris.

They were black, of course. The foot was vaguely cowboy boot-ish: slightly pointed toes, some curlicues cut into the leather, 2-inch stacked heels. The shaft hit just above the ankle: too tall to be true ankle boots, but not quite mid-calf. They were, in fact, the world’s most perfect height for my short legs. And here’s the part that makes them special, one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable: the shaft was made of skinny strips of leather — maybe a 1/4-inch wide — woven like a basket… pliable enough to roll so there was a cuff at the top, sturdy enough to stand up. These were NOT ’80s slouch boots; they were clean, neat, and tough-looking.

I loved them to distraction. (And now I must pause to sigh and think about the perfect boots in private.)

OK. I’m back.

I distinctly remember wearing them with black skinny stretch pants, an oversized red Coca-Cola sweatshirt (is anyone else old enough to remember when Coke had a short-lived fashion line?), and black Wayfarer sunglasses. Somewhere there’s a photo of that particular outfit, on me, in Paris. It is the very picture of happiness and contentment.

Loving my boots as I did, I wore them all the time. When I went to college in 1986, the heels and soles were worn down and needed replacing. My dad, who I love even more than I did the boots, has always been a stickler for good shoes. “You can tell a lot about a person by their shoes,” he said. “Shoes are a sign of self-respect.”

When he offered to have them repaired for me, with a promise to return them to me when I came home for Thanksgiving, I accepted. I handed off the boots, kissing them and my dad goodbye.

When I made my first trek home to Pennsylvania from Syracuse University, I asked my dad about the boots. And he said, “Oh. The shoe repair man couldn’t replace the soles. They were so beat up, I just got rid of them.”

I still dream about finding a shoemaker who could make me a pair of replacement boots, reconstructed from my memory.


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