September 18th, 2008

Rose-coloured Reviews Cresson Ballet Flats

Shoes are a class issue, and they have been ever since the days of Chinese foot-binding; what you do to your feet is a product not only of what you can afford to put on them but what you are going to *do* with your feet. The above article mentions that, “… by the time of the late Qing Dynasty, foot binding had become popular among people of all social classes except among the poorest – who needed to be able-bodied to work the fields.”

Only those who can afford to work less, choose to work seated, or not to work at all, can attend to fashions that render them less than able-bodied. When I worked on my feet, I wore athletic shoes or, when those were forbidden, Docs, which look from a distance like dress shoes. Almost everybody did, and had to–when you move all day every day, everything on your body is in service of that.

When I got an office job, I quickly bought a pair of pretty vinyl-covered cardboard shoes for $15. It didn’t matter the quality, because they looked cute and they spent their days resting quietly under my desk. The luxury of cheap shoes, I call it. Those shoes, ballet flats, turned out to be pretty good despite the cardboard, and I wore them for ages. My current ballet flats are more expensive, better quality and slightly more interesting looking–they are called the Cresson from Naturalizer, home of vaguely sensibly, vaguely stylish shoes. Teacher shoes, I think of them, as teachers have to look professional but do spend their days pacing in front of a chalkboard on a cement floor.

I like cute shoes, but the voice of Uncle Alex from Eight Cousins is always in my head when I evaluate wardrobe: “‘Suppose a mad dog or a runaway horse was after you, could you get out of the way without upsetting…?'” For, office job or not, I do have to walk the city sidewalks in snow and sleet and goose shit (when I moved to Toronto, I really didn’t expect that the geese would overrun the city); I have to climb onto bushes and occasionally over traffic medians in pedestrian-unfriendly parking lots; I have to deal with not horses but certainly dogs and violent stroller-pushers and cracked cement: I don’t have a car.

In Toronto, car vs. no car is not quite as much of a class issue as it would be in Regina, but it really does make you buy shoes in a different way. I’ve not watched that tv show everyone says makes you want to buy $400 shoes you can’t walk in, Sex in the City, but I suspect those women operate in a slightly different tax bracket from me. I guess it could be an issue of equilibrium as much as money, since I have friends who will stroll quite casually in 3-inch heels over those medians and snowbanks. But for every one of those, there’s one digging in her spike heals, and refusing to walk one more step unless it’s into a taxi.

I hate taxis and like to move under my own power, so I like the Cressons. The online add brags about having a “stylish low vamp” (vamp being the leather bit that goes over your toes) but it is actually high enough to give the shoe good purchase on the foot–when there’s the pivot-point of shoe-coverage is too low, the whole thing can flip-flop right off (hence the eponymous shower/beach shoe) when you try to move at speed. The zig-zag strap (a sportified allusion to toe-shoes, I think) also gives the shoe greater staying power, while also looking cute–over short distances, I think I can run nearly as fast in the Cressons as in sneakers. Good for snarky bus drivers, short pedestrian signals, vengful drivers and wild dogs.

The online ad also describes these as having a “1-inch heel” but I totally don’t think they do. The rubber sole is built up slightly at the back, but it’s also built up *around* the back, making a firm support perfect for stomping angrily down the sidewalk (I never do that) or climbing a dirt hill (also an unknown circumstance in my life).

There isn’t major arch support inside, just a little rise on the instep, which is enough for me but might not be for others. But the insole is nicely padded and, bonus, bright red, as is the inside of the leather upper, and there is a tiny bit of red stitching on the outside of the back. I dig that little hint of cool.

I bought these about 6 months ago. I paid $70, and consider them very well worth it, as they are fare and passage to so many places.

Pete almost lost his job until the union stepped in

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