When I was 17, I fell in love. It was intense and sparkling and scary. One night, we drove in his car to the nearest city to watch a film. It was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I remember being almost moved to tears by the melancholy beauty of the story and its stunning cinematography. But what I remember the most were my shoes.
With my legs propped on the seat in front, I was transfixed by the loveliness south of my ankles. They were, to this day, the most expensive piece of clothing I have ever bought, from the cute little family owned boutique I worked at during high school. Old gold leather by NoaNoa, with a chunky but delicate wooden heel, they tied at the front by white silky shoelaces laced through intricately cut holes. They brought to mind vintage dancing shoes. And they were seriously alluring. I wasn't me in my new gold shoes. To my 17-year-old self, with my short bangs, tiny high ponytail and vintage cashmere ballet wrap, I was Sylvia Plath at a university ball with Ted Hughes.
Edie Fringe Vegan 'Leather' Shoes, $128, etsy.com
Sadly, the relationship didn't last, as most first loves don't. A toxic combination of youthful blindess, THE PATRIARCHY(!) and misunderstandings of Nietzsche happened. But I still have the shoes: Those pretty little relics. They're quite battered now — mind you, I just wore them so much. I had to respray them with some Montana recently, when I fished them out for a 1920s New Year's Eve party. The boudoir slipper pink of the insides has since worn away to a dirty beige, and the delicate shoelaces have definitely seen better days. But they still live.
From the moment I slipped those beauties on my messily manicured foot, I developed a bit of a fetish for gold shoes. And today, I'm never without a pair. I think it's the way they add a tiny glamorous accent, like a china cup decorated with delicate gold dots. They're playful, silly and just a little bit elegant. You can be wearing a slouchy jersey dress, or jeans, but a pair of sparkly gold brogues finishes your outfit like a sequin full-stop. They add a touch of fun to the most comfortable of ensembles, a childlike juxtaposition.
Sparkler Shoe in Classic Gold, $179, hobes.com
There were the endless strings of cheap gold vinyl shoes from Primark that accompanied me through houseparties and heartbreaks at art school as well. That rode the Magic Bus through Manchester to my studio, and danced all night long in my basement. When they died, I'd recycle them in my work, I loved the way the material crackled and warped.
Then there was the faded, iridescent pair I bought from Oysho. When I was in my second year of university, I lived and studied in Budapest for three months. My Greek friend Laoura introduced me to Oysho, a European brand and their soft lingerie, irresistibly feminine loungewear and accessories. We arrived in late January, and it was -15 degrees. Constantly dressed in five layers, and a wooly jumper under my thick coat, I still slipped my tiny gold lace ups on my feet when my classmate Amy and I trekked for hours to find Ecseri flea market in the snow. (Which by the way, everyone needs to visit because it's magical.) Thankfully, I didn't get frostbite, but my feet looked wonderful.
Heart Shaped Ballet Flats, $145, etsy.com
At 22, I moved to London, and collected such beauties as the liberally glittered brogues that lured me in to ALDO when I was innocently window shopping, and the $20 Columbia Road market bargains that take pride of place in my wardrobe. Circa 1950, the low gold heels are transparent except for a kitsch little gold bow. They fit me perfectly.
Ahuva Vegan 'Leather' Shoe, $95, etsy.com
I guess I could say gold shoes are my "thing." I guess they help shape, reflect and project my ever-changing identity in their shiny surfaces. I guess they are a constant, and make me feel safe. As with all clothes, your identity seeps into the seams and soles with wear, they become a second skin. Fashion is just fun, but fun can be profound. A good pair of gold shoes can bring joy to your toes on a rubbish day, remind you how whole and amazing and fabulous you are when you look down at your feet. Ground you in yourself. You can click your heels together and feel at home. I recommend you get yourself a pair. Pronto.
Decibel Ankle Boot, $136, danielfootwear.com
My favorites are the leather or glittered jazz shoes you can buy from dance stores: The kind with thin rubber soles and fine, rounded waxed shoelaces. The kind made from leather so supple they feel almost like you're not wearing shoes at all. Or cute, little, hand-cut Mary Jane's with straps that button with a schoolgirl charm. Or perhaps spangled, ankle high cowboy boots that hang loose around your dainty ankles. Or ladylike court shoes, high and refined with cute cut-out details that recall the days of wearing your mom's high heels and the chemically sweet smell of nail polish...
Vintage 1930s Gold Chevron T-Strap Heels, $128, adoredvintage.com
Images: Courtesy Brands