Jake Goossen / Unsplash

Po-Boy Views: Sole Search or Shoe Whore

September 27, 2021
By: Phil LaMancusa

I read a book when I was much younger (actually, I've read many books throughout my life as well when I was much younger); this one was about a boy my age, at the time 11 or 12, who had run away from a cruel orphanage and went and (not surprisingly) joined up with a circus!

Well…the orphanage wants the boy back for further nefarious and malicious endeavors on his psyche, spirit, and fragile physique, and they send some goons out to find him. Big, mean, hulking, slobbering knuckle draggers wearing military storm boots and ill-fitting beige woolen suits, employed by the sinister reprobates that run the facility; they want the kid back. So they send out these thugs to find him, search for him until they do, and drag him back by the scruff of his neck or the heels of his feet, sadistically bruised and battered if necessary (at least that's how I remember it).

Well, the boy is happy as a clam with his new circus family. A cute and smart boy just like I was at that age; here he is taking a rest under a picnic table after a morning of cage cleaning, scoping out the crowds passing on their way to the Big Top and analyzing people's footwear: farmhands, schoolboys, fancy ladies, and housewives; bankers, brokers, clodhoppers, and kids from the boondocks. And then he spots a pair of those prison guard boots walking by and he knows that the carefree days of cleaning up elephant poop and breakfasting with the clowns and high wire dames in tight clothing is in danger of coming to an abrupt end. A wild and wacky adventure ensues (naturally with a happy ending), and I'm left with a future of checking out what people wear on their feet as a past time and a habit in case someday some goons might come after me.

Everybody's gotta have shoes; when I was younger, there were gum chewing girls in Oxfords, penny loafers, or patent leather Mary Jane's; bluster boys with tasseled slip-on's, Buster Browns, Chuck Taylors or heavy leather Florsheims with cleats nailed on the heels to make arrogant sparks on the concrete outside the pool hall as they slouched by. Nurses in white polished sensible shoes, risky teenage girls in high heels, moms in mules around the house; father's go-to work shoes, my go-to school shoes (hand me downs), and our Easter Sunday new "go-to church" shoes. I remember taking shoes to the cobbler for heels and soles (Cat's Paw brand); my mother's high heels for "lifts;" the smell of the glue and the pounding of nails into leather. There was a time when you could tell an American abroad on vacation by their shoes (running shoes), and now when you see someone wearing Nike slip-ons in public, you know that they're garnering "Street Cred." Older guys with Velcro shoes mean that they cannot bend over; scruffy youngsters in hundred-dollar Birkenstocks, CT's are still a hit, and Shoes for Crews de rigueur for restaurant workers. Sensible shoes on blue collar workers and durable boots on construction guys. Did I forget Doc Martins? Introduce me to someone and I will invariably and quite naturally look to see what they wear on their feet. As Forest Gump says, "You can tell a lot about a person by their shoes—where they're goin', where they've been." I was attracted once to a woman because of her thigh high black boots (and, admittedly, her reputation of what she did in them). Shoes carry a stigma of class: the rich kids have fancy shoes and the poor kids go without. 1916 movie; a girl trades her virginity for a pair. And on and on and on.

Here I will reveal that I am a shoe whore. I am aware of my footwear wherever I am; fuzzy slippers in the house and a closet that has talking shoe personalities: my high tops want to go for a stroll, my huaraches want to go to the beach, my Topsiders want to go to sea, my Capezios want to tango, and my Tony Lamas are ready to line dance. I have tan work boots and Kung Foo slip-ons; Birkenstocks, Vans, two-tone Zydeco dancers, and shined Cole Hann's that are ready for an interview. In my past, I have unashamedly housed a variety of 20 plus pairs, again unashamedly, and there's more that beckon me.

I learned to "spit shine" shoes in the Navy, and I keep black, brown, and neutral cans of Kiwi polish with a rag and brushes, also a bottle of that liquid stuff, in case of an emergency. Pumps, flats, courts, or thongs, everybody needs shoes. Ever worn Tom McCanns or Keds? Ever fantasized about finding a princess with a glass slipper (or being one)? Do you know the story of The Red Shoes? Puss in Boots? Wizard of Oz? Maxwell Smart?

I wonder why you never see what shoes someone is wearing in their casket (that's weird, I know); but there's an old gospel song that ends with, "When I get to Heaven, gonna put on my shoes, gonna walk all over God's Heaven." That's not a bad visual for me. I'll just have to specify
in my will which shoes I'll wear on that
final journey.

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