First ballet shoes

The pink of the leather turned out to be a lighter shade than I’d hoped, it looked like the underside of a kitten, and the sole was a dirty grey cat’s tongue, and there were no long pink satin ribbons to criss-cross over the ankles, no only a sad elastic strap (…)

Zadie Smith, Swing Time

I remember my first ballet shoes. After being accepted to the dance school, my mum took me to Porfirios in Rua Santa Catarina to buy the light blue leotard and skirt and that same kind of faded ballet pink leather shoes. I don’t actually remember the details but I remember the smell of those very first ballet slippers.

Scent is, in a way,  charged with history (…) the sense of smell is, as McLuhan stresses,” iconic”. In the same perspective, we could also say that it is the narrative epic sense. It brings together, weaves and condenses historic happenings into an image, into a narrative composition. 

Byung-Chul Han, The Scent of Time

Scent gives us back who we are by conferring some kind of stability to our own narrative, allowing us to make sense of ourselves by composing some sort of self-portrait. My childhood smells like new ballet shoes. This is a scent I have tried in vain to reencounter. New ballet shoes don’t have that exact smell anymore. In October last year, I bought new shoes. I prefer canvas to leather now and split soles and pre-sewn elastics. I haven’t been to ballet class yet. Life or some other excuse has been in the way.

It was also the aroma of possibilities, once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Obsessed 

I am a walking cliché, a woman obsessed with shoes. Last time I counted, I had (have) 248 pairs of sandals, stilettos, Chuck Taylors, biker boots, ballet flats, ankle boots, platforms, wedges, brogues, kitten heels, slingbacks,pumps, Doc Martens, dance shoes, cowboy boots, peep-toes, combat boots and Mary Janes. I do not own flat moccasins and espadrilles. I find them depressing.

Although this is not in any way comparable to  the million dollar collections or to the “shoe estates” of the infamous former first lady or the famous romance novelist, I am aware that the sheer number alone is ridiculous. All the more so because I do not live in some kind of mansion  with walk in closets and custom made shelves, I live in a two bedroom apartment with tiny built in closets.I do try and make the most of the generous space available  under the bed  and have transformed my pantry into a micro walk in closet for coats and shoe boxes.

 

“And her old Uncle William used to say a lady is known by
her shoes and her gloves.”
― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

I have no original explanation for my unoriginal love of shoes. I admire their sculptural.even architectural essence, their autonomous quality.  I admire them as objects, as affordable art. My obsession did not start with Carrie Bradshaw and I’m not even a huge SAT fan. 

I still have my first pair of shoes. My mum had them bronzed. I suppose this was a “thing” back then. Or maybe there’s a hereditary explanation for my obsession. Other shoes did not survive the passing of time.

I remember having little red clogs and triple buckles mary janes and outrageous beige fringed suede boots that my fourteen year-old self thought would work with just about anything. I wore blue velvet shoes across the snow in New York to go to the opera, I have walked miles in New Orleans in bejeweled black sandals that “died” this year during a night visit to the museum of contemporary art here in Porto. I’ve walked barefoot in Johannesburg after the strap on my fancy Sergio Rossi flip flops broke. For my first paid internship I got paid in over the knee black patent leather boots. My choice.

I do not have Manolos in my collection. I have a pair of black Laboutins filed under the category “so special”. They have never been worn. Porto is one of those charming cities with cobblestone streets. Fatal for high heels. This year, for my birthday, I got gold and silver Terry de Havilland peep-toe platforms. Ziggy Stardust shoes.

I don’t know if ” good shoes take you to good places” but, even when you don’t take them anywhere, they can make you feel you could actually get wherever you want.

 Featured photo via Facebook