Shoes Make The Woman

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“Unshined shoes are the end of civilization.”

Diana Vreeland

Shoes always make me think of my father.  He epitomized the saying, “shoes make the man.”  He was a career Army officer and his shoes reflected an attention to detail that embodied who he was and how he approached life.  They were ‘spit-shined’ to a degree I have rarely seen since, and while I try to when polishing my show boots, I can’t quite duplicate that mirror-finish he achieved so effortlessly.  

Some of my favorite memories as a little girl include time spent watching my father as he readied himself for the day.  I loved spending this time with him jabbering on about the things I thought were important at the time. He would pull out from the closet a pair of  Army-approved black dress shoes, a style he wore each and every day. Over them he would slide on his beige, wide-legged, and heavily starched uniform trousers.  He had multiple pairs of the exact same shoe because one of his cardinal rules was to never wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. I adored my father and his morning ritual was fascinating to me.

Looking back, what strikes me most was that he allowed me to intrude on this time and never seemed rattled or abrupt when I peppered him with questions about why he did things the way he did.  My questions are long forgotten, but his patience with that inquisitive little girl is something I hold dear.

This attention to detail rubbed off on all of his children, but my late brother Tony was definitely the standard bearer for our generation. A military man himself, he had a pretty good role model when it came to shining shoes amongst other things.  Growing up on a ranch meant that his preferred footwear was generally a Tony Lama or a Justin boot. Whether running to town for errands or heading out for the evening, he never left the house without an impeccably shined pair of boots. Along with his starched jeans and ironed shirts, his trademark style communicated how much he cared about the little things without ever having to say a word.  When I think about him, as I do daily, I remember his shiny boots.

Thanks to these fine men's influence on me, I can’t help but notice someone’s shoes the first time we meet.  They say a lot.

Camilla Strongin