I believe I’ve discovered a fundamental difference between men and women. The answer lies at our feet.
It’s quite simple, actually. Men tend to be rather Spartan when it comes to footwear. We buy one pair, perhaps splurging for two pair on rare occasion, at a time. We wear these same, reliable, comfortable shoes, day in, day out, until it’s time for leather heaven. Then, and only then, will we replace them. And we will only buy one pair.
Abraham Lincoln is our hero. You know, the guy who used to walk barefoot to school–in the freezing snow. Old Abe didn’t need shoes.
Women, however, seem drawn to the Will Rogers approach–they never met a pair of shoes they didn’t like. Shoes, shoes and more shoes. A different pair for every day of the week. A different pair for each outfit. Imelda Marcos–remember her?–was just the tip of the footwear buying iceberg.
I buy new shoes twice a year. Maybe. For my wife, it seems more like twice a month. I swear she has enough to open her own Payless store. Daniel Day-Lewis could call, offering to whisk her away to Disneyland and she would likely hesitate if I were to counter that offer with a chance to go buy new shoes.
Maybe I’m just being a heel about all this, so I decided to seek professional advice from Carol McGlothlen. Carol knows shoes. A 10-year-veteran of the shoe business, Carol now works for the Banister Shoe Studio in Atascadero. She is also a self-described “shoe-al-holic,” owning more than 100 pairs herself.
This, I had to see. We met at her San Luis Obispo home. To no surprise, Charlotte offered to tag along.
The typical woman, according to Carol, owns between 30 and 35 pairs of shoes. Men, on the other hand (or foot), rarely own more than eight pairs. Why the difference?
“Because men don’t care about shoes,” Carol says. “It’s not important to them. Put on a shirt and a pair of pants and out the door they go. Most men don’t even polish their shoes.”
Carol buys at least three new pairs a month. Her entire stash is kept, individually boxed, in two separate closets. Women need so many shoes, Carol argues, primarily to match outfits. They shop for shoes to go with their outfits. But there’s only one hitch.
“Women want style and comfort, but they can’t get both in the same shoe. Fashion shoes look great, but they aren’t comfortable.”
Out came the boxes. I let my wife do the honors. The first pair were made by Tony Hitsman ($95), a metallic bronze evening shoe with netting. Very nice. Next was another evening shoe by Ledance ($110), black satin pumps with 3-inch heels and rhinestones. Carol bought these just to wear at a Christmas party. The Magdesians ($75) are supposedly big in Palm Springs.
The most popular women’s footwear at the moment are clunky slide shoes with very thick heels, a look that Carol explains was also very popular back in the ’70s. Enzo and Nine West are also selling well. The recent recession didn’t reach the shoe market. “Women have never stopped buying shoes,” Carol says.
The one change has been in the heel. Amen’s shoes that used to sport a 3-inch heel have dropped down to 1 to 1 1-2 inches for comfort. Designer shoes are very popular. Crocodile shoes are being snapped up. Carol believes shoes are easy to sell because most customers walk in the door ready to buy.
A few basic tips from Carol, mostly for men. First, avoid trying on only one shoe. “Try on both before you buy them,” Carol says. “If you’re right-handed, the your left foot is going to be slightly bigger. You’ve got to try on both shoes.”
Also, guys, stop wearing the same shoes every day, no matter how comfortable they might feel. Not only do they wear out faster, but Carol warns that your feet can mold to a particular pair of favorite shoes if you wear them long enough.
Try stacking your shoes in boxes for extra protection. Some polish would be nice.
Carol already has her shoes selected for the upcoming 4th of July–red, white and blue–low heel complete with metal studs ($75).
Meanwhile, we’ll probably be cruising the stores, hunting holiday bargains. If there’s a you-know-what sale, we’ll be there. That’a a given.
Or, in this case, a shoo-in.
San Luis Obispo County Telegram-Tribune (1997)