Dr Seuss said: “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” The man knew what he was talking about. I have felt that love, that sense of awe and perfection… I have spent sleepless nights staring in wonder at the beauty … of my shoes. I know a shoe can’t love me back but there are so many nice-looking shoes. I’m nothing if not a sucker for good looks!
I confess. My name is Janine Shamos and I adore shoes. I look at pictures of them. I have calendars of them. I have them hidden in every available space. I blame my mother. Really. When I was 3, she took me into a shoe store and there they were – the incarnation of perfection. Red Mary-Janes with a little bow and a slight heel. But they were ‘grown up’ shoes, I had to try on the ugly white ones. I screamed, I cried, I sulked – and I got no shoes that day. My heart still breaks a little at the memory. And now, decades later, I cannot walk past a shoe shop without going in; I cannot go in without trying on; and I cannot try on without buying (in bulk). I have more shoes than days of the year but still I long for more. Maybe I am in search of those rejected red princess shoes…
Manolo Blahnik said that when we put on high heels, we change. And she, and dear Cinderella, should know! I like Cinderella, I really do. Another reason to blame my long-suffering mother. She read me the fairy tale over and over as a child – and it’s all about the shoe at the end, isn’t it?
I believe that my shoes are the one true expression of me. Even when I have to be smart, fit a role, be serious or in control – my shoes allow an expression of who I truly am and how I really feel. Fat days, wrinkly days, bad hair days – all cease to matter when faced with the question of which shoes to wear. Designer extraordinaire, Christian Louboutin, said: “A shoe is not only a design, it’s a part of your body language, the way you walk. The way you’re going to move is dictated by your shoes.” I look at shoes more as an attitude than just a stiletto.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am no shoe snob. I don’t care whether my beautiful creations were made by an old man in Italy or in a factory in China. The love of beauty is taste, the creation of that beauty is art – and art can be found in some very strange places. And in some very strange forms, if I’m honest. I have a pair of shocking pink, Lady Gagaesque creations that I can actually walk in; a pair of stilettos so thin that barely two steps away and the heels become invisible; a pair of black lace and chain ankle boots that cut into my Achilles; and a pair of exquisite Prussian Blue silks that I cannot yet stand up in. shoe shops in Hyde Park, little boutiques, shoe stores on main roads, Chinese markets, Mr Price – none is safe if they have a pair of shoes I like. One little shoe store even knows what size I am and which of her stock I already own!
And no, comfort doesn’t matter. When I put on a pair of incredibly, magnificent, fabulous shoes; I know my feet will hate me but I take comfort in the fact I looked better than everyone else. Let’s be honest, people notice shoes. A pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a fantastic wood and blue leather creation on my feet – people stopped to comment. Maybe I’m really an exhibitionist but Louboutin inspired me when he said: “I wouldn’t take it as a compliment if someone looked at one of my shoes and said, ‘Oh, that looks like a comfortable shoe.’ There is a heel that is too high to walk in, certainly. But who cares? You don’t have to walk in high heels.”
“Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world” – Marilyn Monroe. I always ‘beep’ when I go through a security post – always! For years, I thought it was the wire in my Wonderbra, the clips in my hair, or my belly ring. Last week, I discovered the truth – I beep because of the metal pins in my stilettos. And that, ladies, says it all.
BY JANINE SHAMOS