I was in high school when I realized I had short legs, and I immediately developed a complex about it. High heels became the lynchpin of my personal style, and I think I wore them every day between 1996 and 2013. For many of those years, I was helped out by wedges, espadrilles, and “chunky” heels that were easy to walk in, but I was always about four inches taller than it says on my driver’s license. (And my driver’s license is lying.) For years I was adamantly, vehemently opposed to flat shoes, especially sneakers, but in the past couple years I have come to love them.
I first became aware of fashion sneakers in the 90s, when designers started putting out tennis shoes with their logos in giant letters down the sides. “DKNY!” they proclaimed. Overt designer logos were everywhere that season, but I was a self-conscious alt girl who thought that was tacky as hell. I’ve been suspicious of fashionable sneakers ever since.
As a person who wore sneakers only to the gym, I was bewildered by the discovery that some of my friends were “sneakerheads.” They followed sneaker brands and collected limited editions like it was a calling. They spent more on gilded, shiny, puffy sneakers than most people spend on furniture.
“But for that price, you could buy a pair of Sophia Webster stilettos with giant butterflies sticking off the back!” I said to one friend. She looked at me like I had suggested she go around naked save for an antique iron lung.
She stared at me like I was crazy. I stared at her like she was crazy. We might not have understood each other, but it didn’t matter. We each bought our own stupidly expensive shoes, and I just tried not to slow her down when we were running for a train together.
Then I got pregnant.
I always thought I’d be one of those cool pregnant ladies who keep maternity fashion blogs and always wear heels. I kept that up for about one day before my feet vetoed that plan. For the first time, I thanked all the gods that sparkle in the sky–I might be confusing gods and stars again–for the fact that fashion sneakers existed. I got myself a pair of bright white sneakers I could slide on and not even think about, which was good because I couldn’t even see my feet or reach them to tie my shoes for about four months. I wore my sneakers, and if anyone–including my 20-year-old self–had said anything about it, I would have said, “Fuck off, I am a giant pregnant lady and I am wearing sneakers.”
I thought I’d go back to heels after the baby, but it turns out babies lose their shit if you take too long to get ready in the morning. And sneakers, even fashion sneakers, are really comfortable. I don’t think I’ll ever go full sneakerhead, but now I realize there’s a place for tennis shoes outside of the gym, and that place is on my feet.