Sneaker wearer confesses his sneakery
Seven years ago, our son tied the knot. My uniform that day was utterly traditional — dark blue suit, white shirt, cautious tie, shiny black shoes.
It was the last time I’ve worn those shoes — or any other “real” shoes, for that matter.
Late in life, I’ve adopted two approaches to my feet.
Approach One: They and I deserve to be comfortable, and shoes never achieve that. So, no more shoes, ever, for any reason.
Approach Two: I can fool the world with jet black sneakers whenever I need to seem respectable. I wear the sneaks with suits, with sports jackets, with business-casual outfits. I’ve even worn them to a funeral. No one noticed or objected.
The real wonder is that I didn’t arrive at the no-shoes decision sooner. The evidence is plain.
Regardless of the model, the toe sections of shoes always pinch. If the shoes have laces, the cartilages on top of one’s feet will get squashed once the laces are tied.
Meanwhile, shoes that don’t fit — and that’s most of them — tend to rub and cause blisters. And leather weighs quite a bit, leading to foot fatigue and annoyance.
Put it all together, and it’s no wonder that men come home from wherever and take off their shoes before they do anything else. It’s our cross to bear.
But not for this boy — no, sir, no longer. Now I choose from three informal options: the black sneakers for dress occasions, a pair of comfy rubber-soled sandals for casual moments, and a pair of flip-flops for galumphing around the house. My feet cheer every day.
I’ve even tried to recruit other, ahem, mature men to my way of thinking. At a recent coffee klatch, one of the guys noticed my sandals and asked why I chose them. Ever the poet, I replied:
“You know the old line about happy wife, happy life? My take is: Happy soles make happy souls.”
They groaned. But they got the idea.
Only once since my son’s wedding have I come close to being embarrassed. That moment came during a sudden rainstorm.
Sporting my trusty black sneakers, I was walking alongside a prospective employer when the heavens opened. My feet began to squeak, as rubber will when it gets wet.
My walk partner might have dismissed my employment prospects right then and there. Too casual, this guy. Too squishy. Too noisy.
But he simply nodded and asked if I always wore sneakers when it rains. I said I did. I got the job.
Of course, comfort does not belong only to the male of the species. If you’ll pardon the pun, women, too, have voted with their feet: High heels are just about a thing of the past.
The other day, I was at a fairly formal meeting involving a bunch of ranking politicians. Most of the people who spoke were women.
As each one approached the microphones at the front of the room, I happened to notice their footwear.
Flats. Aboard every single one of them.
They say no child would ever be born if men had to endure childbirth. Let’s take that one step further: No high heels would exist if men had to wear them.
Over the years, in the name of fashion, women have endured girdles, bustles and crash diets. But to these male eyes, nothing looks quite as impractical or painful as high heels.
How do you balance? How do you walk? Whoever decreed that high heels add femininity and style to an outfit? A man, probably.
So, I have begun commenting to women who wear flats. I congratulate them. I encourage them.
They have returned the favor. “You must really love your feet,” said one lady to me recently, as she gazed down at my sandals. “Yes,” I replied, “and my feet really love me back.”
I admit that I’m being sneaky in dressy situations. On goes the blue suit. On go the shirt and tie. And then on go….
Sneakers? Really, Robert? You trying to get away with something, you old codger?
Yes, I am. And yes, I do. The truth is that, at business conferences and social events, very few people ever look down. If they do, I’m ready with a ringing one-liner.
“My goal in life,” I say, “is to have feet that smile.” Which produces smiles on the faces around me.
Are they secretly jealous of my rebelliousness? Are they genuinely glad that my arches never scream at me anymore? Are they making a mental note to buy stock in sandal manufacturers?
Doesn’t matter. I’ve cast my lot. Shoes and I are done. My tootsies thank me every day.
Bob Levey is a national award-winning columnist.