Never out of vogue

I READ in an article published recently in a highly-respected newspaper that a certain type of shoe, named for a reptile, were back in fashion. For the writer, they had never gone out of fashion, despite smirking friends and trendies’ disdain.

You know the sort of shoes I mean, the ones like something a Smurf would wear that look like they are made out of coloured Swiss cheese.

They have big holes punched in the upper, a strap that you can wear unobtrusively over the top of the shoe or around the back of the heel if you don’t like slip-ons, and a sole that grips like a gecko.

They are notably incredibly light; you could wear them as earrings without them tugging at your earlobes.

The first pair I ever saw were being worn by a friend who had got them from overseas. By their bulk, I expected them to be as heavy as a pair of wellington boots. But he gaily waved his hairy leg over the table to demonstrate how they were as light as air.

Even the fake knock-offs, which were all I could afford in those days, were splendidly light and stunningly suited for Fiji wear. They could splash through rain, mud, even take you to the beach and on the reef, and the water instantly drained out of the holes.

They are also extremely tough and long wearing. In fact I still have my first pair, bright red classics with the holes and strap, that I lend to a child who has watched that ballerina movie too many times and wants to practise pas de deux in the kitchen.

I explain they are what ballerinas use to train in so they keep their toe shoes in shape for full performances.

These shoes appear to be made of some sort of flexible, unbreakable stuff that sometimes looks like rubber and sometimes like terribly tough jelly in splendid colours. It never breaks, stretches out of shape, comes unstitched (there are no stitches) or wears out.

But the chap who wrote the article hadn’t explored the full wonder of the brand. Nor had I until I went to a specialist shop overseas.

There I discovered an amazing range of proper shoe and sandal styles, not just rubbery clogs.

At last I could be comfortable at posh parties without looking like Lady Smurf in sequins.

I found a style that accommodated my munted toes and bulging bunions and have worn them everywhere, every day, ever since.

There is, however, a way of wearing these shoes that may elude the novice. They should perhaps come with P plates for the first few weeks.

The thing is, those gecko feet don’t slide. A surface as slippery as a politician presents no problem to a croc. It just jams tight as your foot pushes forward, like a kick up the backside.

Unless you tread warily, as with politicians, you find yourself heading nose first to the lino tiles.

This amazing ability of the rubbery shoe to cling to the floor has had me hurtling through a crowded food court with a loaded tray that delivered pasta marinara and sweet and sour pork to people who were expecting chicken chop suey and a salad roll, not necessarily into their laps.

Trying to explain that you tripped over your new shoes on a perfectly flat, clear floor doesn’t make them immediately stop sniffing your breath for alcohol fumes or looking for your minder.

The up side of this is that when you become an experienced wearer you don’t fall foul of polished wood, shiny tiles or puddles on the smoothed concrete. You twinkle toe across any surface for about two years of intense, regular wear.

Then, alas, one day your foot shoots from under you for no apparent reason and you go down with a crack on the other knee.

This experience leads you to take a peep at the soles of your shoes. You discover that they have begun to grow a little smooth. The amazing ability to grip has become somewhat impaired. You are possibly skating on thin ice at this point and should get carefully to the nearest supplier for a new pair.

Easier said than done. I went around for quite some time as if I were walking on eggs while I waited to go overseas when I would get a chance to try on and buy a new pair.

When I got overseas, the specialty shops of my past had disappeared. But not the shoes. They are there, taunting me, on my computer, to be ordered online.

Fine and dandy, I know a style and size that fits me and I have contacts to retrieve them from a suitable delivery address and send them on by reliable courier aka friend heading for Fiji with space in a suitcase.

But heaven forbid if the manufacturers decide to discontinue the particular line I want as happens with so many of my personal items of preference. Because there is no “trying on” app in a personalised electronic fitting room that I know about.

Were I a more grumpy person I would think the world of commerce regards people of a certain age, wear and tear as a “soon to be discontinued line” not worth worrying about.

Meanwhile I wait in hope of striding out again with confidence. But if the things don’t arrive soon I’ll have to adopt traditional style and go barefoot.

* The views expressed are the author’s and not of this newspaper.

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