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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Finding genuine self in a pair of shoes

< knew how much what kind of shoe I wear means to me until I had to start wearing tennis shoes full-time instead of my usual suede ones. It sounds vapid and petty, I know, but when I had to make the switch, I found that shoes had inadvertently become one of the most important markers of my identity.
It all started last winter when I developed plantar fasciitis. Usually, I had a nice little routine with my shoes: go to Designer Shoe Warehouse or Khol’s around my birthday, buy one pair of shoes, and wear those shoes for the rest of the year until the tread wears smooth and the seams start coming apart. The shoes I got were never that chic and only “fashionable” in a pedestrian kind of way – something you would find in a Starbucks commercial. But they were enough, at least, to get a few compliments here and there that kept my ego going.

Things went awry, however, when I got plantar fasciitis, and my unsupportive suede shoes with the hard wooden heels were no longer going to cut it. Without any better options, I resorted to wearing an old pair of running shoes around, and suddenly, my feet became something to be ashamed of. I started hiding my feet wherever I could – under tables, chairs, and the cuffs of my jeans. I started apologizing more. When a guy ghosted me after a hookup, I blamed my shoes.

I had never thought of myself as someone who invested that much effort or importance in clothes, but now here I was, with my self-esteem steamrolled by a pair of tennis shoes. And, did I learn anything? Probably not – I’m still on the lookout for some fashionable yet supportive shoes (if you have any recommendations, hmu!) and my plantar fasciitis still hasn’t totally gone away.

But now I’ve become more OK with the fact that something I thought was so trivial has been able to affect me so much. Like, so what if I get validation from a pair of shoes? Don’t we all have ways we hide ourselves from people around us – screens we erect to shield our vulnerability? And isn’t the shame our society puts on fashion as being a vapid and self-obsessed industry just holdover misogynistic tradition that sees fashion as a “feminine,” and as such, devalued, arena?

So I’ve decided to jettison any anxieties I have about not expressing my “genuine self” or being self-obsessed, or vain. Because maybe my genuine self is just a nice pair of shoes.

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