It’s no secret that I’m a flat shoes aficionado – I’ve said that much before. I like their stability, their practicality, their strideability (I’m making that a word, as of now). I’m a quick walker, committed dancer and regular cycler. All of these are improved by having things on my feet that are comfortable rather than intricately pretty.
But there’s still an issue – namely, the navigating of fancy events more suited to elevated heels than battered boots. Most of my flats err towards the pragmatic, my favoured choice at the moment being these much-loved velvet DMs. Otherwise, it’s black leather lace-ups, brown brogues, or blue suede boots. All great for libraries and London day trips, but not so good for more elegant occasions.
I’ve got a few ornamental pairs of flats, but they're often just as painful to wear as stilettos with serious inches to them. So usually I plump for being incongruous. I figure that few people will be looking at my feet, so I can get away with thick soles and clumpy weight rather than flimsy nothingness with a bow on top (I’m not a fan of ballet flats – they remind me of school uniforms and the awkward flush of adolescent conformity).
Occasionally I’ve thrown away caution and just plumped for the extra elevation, thinking that I’d grit my teeth and flit through the pain. Usually this isn’t the wisest of ideas. There’s a sizeable gap between projection and reality.
On one especially memorable night last summer at a ball in Oxford, I chose vertiginous shiny shoes that added at least four or five inches to my height. They looked perfect with my black gown shot through with silver threads. But, outfit perfection notwithstanding, they were bloody uncomfortable. After queuing for about an hour in increasingly chilly winds, with only a small scarf to protect my shoulders from the cold, I was miserable. My feet ached. I began doing that thing where you balance on one foot, flamingo-style, and flex the other – trying to get feeling (and blood) back into toes. By the time we finally got in, each step hurt. It also required that extra confident stride one has to adopt in tall shoes, with feet placed firmly, quickly, carefully one in front of the other. When everything is already feeling a bit numb, that kind of pace isn’t pleasant.
I did have a lot of fun that evening – I danced, ate good food, was liberal with the Irish coffee on offer, and hung out with friends. But you know the single best moment of the night? Sneakily managing to switch from those damn heels to my brown Chelsea boots, complete with thick socks (and a cardigan too). Suddenly I could think clearly again, and move without uncontrollably shivering.
It’s that ease I value above all - to the point that this summer, any fancy events will either be attended in brogues/ other flats, or with something more pragmatic stowed away in my handbag. Maybe these patent Ops & Ops ones pictured. Aren’t they beautiful? They’re handmade in a family-run factory in Portugal, and are soft as soft can be. The founders/ designers Steph and Teri (two seriously cool women with backgrounds in journalism) were inspired by their adoration of sixties shapes and colours, wanting to create durable shoes one could dance in all night - and also wear during the day. Well, I'm yet to go out dancing in them, but as someone pretty committed to boogying on into the early hours, it can only be a matter of time... But here they worked ever so well to complete my vaguely idealised sixties student get-up, complete with some stylish Penguin reissues picked up in Blackwell's (somewhere I spend too much time and money).
Many thanks to fabulous Dina of She Loves Mixtapes for taking the pictures (see the shoot where I was behind the camera here). Everything else I'm wearing is second-hand, with the zip-up dress bought from Vix's FABULOUS Kinky Melon boutique by my mum.
(Jumping for joy in my best, slightly blurred Avedon style)