From the Editor: Foot Fashion: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

By Andy Lien March 6, 2014

Categories: Lifestyles & Communities, Our Lives

In this issue, we’re debuting our new Fashion Quarterly called Lav.fash™. Concepted by Justin Jones and Brandon McCray, we’ll feature quarterly sections on style as it relates to our readership and our fashion scene here in the Twin Cities, which is quite rich in talent and trend. They’ll look to our designers and clothiers, models and stylists, runway shows and pop-up boutiques…and show us what’s worth seeing and who’s worth knowing. I am expecting greatness.

I am also expecting to watch much of it from the sidelines. My fashion tends to aim at sensible and uniform. If I could, I’d do like Scott Seekins and wear black all winter…and make it extend through summer just to put my own twist on it. My preferences are usually classic and, well, whatever I can find in my size that doesn’t draw too much attention to me as I enter a room. Fashion is one thing, footwear is another. And some of it is a little touchy.

This just might be as private as I will get in my writing, telling you this.

It’s not a secret, but it’s not exactly common knowledge:

I wear a size 13 shoe.

Yes. 13. Women’s. Wide is preferred.

I am an outlier in the women’s shoe section, a bull in a China shop.

As a young girl, I was sharing shoes with my mother. When I surpassed her in shoe size, we’d find mine in the men’s department (I ended up at a men’s size 11). As a teen, I’d stare longingly at the cute, striped, size 10 skimmers and espadrilles in the JCPenney catalog and wish for smaller feet, because size 12 didn’t become more available for a few more years, by mail order catalog. Though I wanted smaller feet, I also realized that as an overweight young woman who eventually stopped growing at 5′ 10”, having smaller feet wouldn’t serve me well. It would be a backwards step in microevolution and I’d look like I was walking on stilts.

I am not alone in this. I don’t know many of us with this particular challenge, but because size 13 women’s shoes exist, I know there must be some demand for them, people who need them. There isn’t a plethora of shoes to choose from but, thankfully, there are also unisex options. I’ve had my clod-hopping Doc Martens. Converse All-Stars have always been there for me. Now, the updated version of canvas go-to shoes, TOMS, ride a line of gender ambiguity with all sorts of colors and madras patterns for the guys (and me). I can usually go to a store and shop in the men’s department for athletic shoes and snow boots. Nordstrom has a great larger women’s shoe selection and Nordstrom Rack even sells them at a discount, but they’re usually quite picked over. So, I rely on the internet and free shipping (both ways) for my hit-and-miss shoe purchases.

One day, I was cruising through Amazon to see if there were any new dress shoes for a formal event I was to attend. As usual, I went into the women’s section of the website, clicked for size 13 shoes, chose the “heel” or “pump” option, and started scanning my options. Ugh. Like always, they’re really, really expensive. If it’d been the winter, I would’ve ordered some fun men’s boots with Cuban heels because–guess what–they double as women’s boots. (I call it as I see it.) But, it was summer and I needed something more strappy and light. I didn’t know how often I’d wear strappy heels, so I wanted cheap ones…and I clicked for my results to be filtered and presented with the lowest priced ones first.

And then I saw one. And another. And another. There was suddenly a screen full of sexy, strappy heels in size 13! Their names were “Fungasma” and “Delight” and “Domina” and “Demonia” and “Dream” and “Teeze.”

A certain company called “Pleaser” has an inventory of over 500 pumps in size 13 on Amazon.

And let me tell you, honey, that I was not the target market for those shoes. Uh uh. They were not meant for me. But, if I wanted to, I could order them and be all fancy and fly in my glittery platform 6” Mary Janes. With those, I’d be 6’ 4” tall.

I WOULD BE A GIANT STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS.

God bless the drag queens! God bless the performers with big feet!

It makes perfect sense. Can you imagine being a drag queen or performer and your only choice of shoes were sensible ones? Clogs? Birkenstocks? This cannot be! They would not stand for this!

And I no longer had to, either.

I had so many choices! I could wear pumps with transparent soles and heels! I could have marabou mules for clicking around my loft in a dressing gown! I could get some thigh-high boots in black patent leather (though I’m sure I’d land in a shrub if I ever wore those out on the town)! Suddenly, I was faced with the identity dilemma of wondering if I was a conservative shoe buyer because I’m pretty conservative as a dresser, anyway, or because I’d only ever had conservative options. It was a momentary existential crisis. Then, I looked at the hollow platforms with the slot to put cash and change into and decided that it’s pretty much because I’m milquetoast. Sensible shoes just fit me in every way.

But I am oh-so-glad that these shoes exist because, again, I am not alone. Everyone with size 13 feet deserves those options, too, female impersonators and otherwise.

I say this to those of us who are women with big feet, whether we started this way, dress this way, or transitioned into it: we have a new freedom in footwear. It wasn’t around for mass consumption even fifteen years ago, but with the rise in the Internet and the ability to gauge interest and audience, we can don some gingham and wear our glittering ruby slippers, even at size 13. Wide. For $30.

To the fashionable giants who went before us, you have my gratitude.

With you and with thanks,

Andy

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