I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about shoes. Hey — don’t judge. It doesn’t hurt anybody, and looking at shoes online, looking at other peoples’ shoes, and mentally upgrading the shoe wardrobes of others give me something to do while I’m waiting in the doctor’s office, driving, or otherwise without mental stimulation.
So I’d like to go on record with the startling information that I absolutely loathe a trend shoe of the moment — the Sketcher Shape Up and its attendant clones.
This horror represents the apex of the goober shoe movement, which began innocently enough back in the sixties, I believe, with the introduction of the Birkinstock. Germans and others schlumped along in these things for years without much notice, and then sometime in the ’90s they became popular in the U.S. and suddenly everyone looked like Jesus, but with arch support. I myself endorse Birkinstocks and have two pairs of them — but I’m not saying they’re adorable or anything. I call them “serviceable chique” and will argue their merits to my dying day.
Same with Dansko clogs. Or, as I initially called them, Frankenstein shoes. These thick-soled numbers were favored for years by chefs and surgeons until, again, the general public caught on and they began popping up all over the place. I shalt not hate on the Dansko either for, like the Birkinstock, I have several pairs. I might even have a custom-designed pair with sunflowers on them. Maybe.
So that brings us to Crocs, those giant, rubber/plastic cloggie monstrosities that are so comfortable that I think that we shall never, ever be rid of them. They are too beloved by grannies and jammie-wearing Wal-Mart shoppers. The knock-offs are everywhere. Mercy, they are comfortable and yes, I do own several pairs. Mainly I wear them around the house, as slippers. Fortunately, they do offer some saner designs, which I can wear without spitting up in my mouth a little. How’s that for a ringing endorsement?
Crocs cemented the goober shoe movement and I maintain, Sketcher Shape Ups sealed the deal. We may never be able to go back to a sane world where people routinely wear Evan Picone pumps and black wing-tips like God intended.
But back to the Sketchers. I will never forget my first sighting — on an ad in the subway station in New York City. It was August 2009 and I gasped aloud.
My eyes darted around the subway car. Not a Sketcher in sight. And then … and then: I spotted them. A trendy New Yorker, power-walking down the boulevard, her poor feet clad in Sketchers. I knew it was all over. “Oh no! No, no, no!” I remember thinking “It’s here in New York! In two or three years they’ll be wearing these things in Kentucky!”
And so they are. They’re everywhere. I saw knock-offs in Target. People in my walking park are polluting the pathways. And just this week, I saw them in a place I least expected it. In church. Yes, at Mass. On the feet of … I can barely bring myself to say it … the priest.
So now you know. The Goober Shoe Movement is irrevocably here. If a man of God who most often wears black feels the Shape-Up is for him, we can only conclude that footwear as we know it will never, ever be the same again.
I’m sorry, Father — truly, I am. Can I interest you in this stunning pair of wing-tips, though? I hear they’re all the rage at the Vatican.
* * *
I know what you all are thinking and you can just stop it right now. Just because I tried on a pair — just to make sure it didn’t like them, mind you — doesn’t mean at thing. A THING, I tell you.
Somewhere, some Birkinstock executive is laughing.