Back in August I had some luck at another shoe store in Florence where I found these seemingly ordinary laceless oxfords. Cynthia Kowal runs a shop called Diva Shoes at Via Guicciardini 10/r just off the Ponte Vecchio. I was immediately drawn to her collection. Oxfords were plentiful inside her doors so the only questions were; which style? and what color? She gave me a great tip. “Choose the darker ones. They’ll go with everything.” I’m beginning to think that truer words were never spoken.
I’ve been avoiding the wearing and purchasing of shoes in the colors of black and dark brown for several years. I’ve retired my black Dansko clogs and traded them in for colorful leather shoes from makers such as Chie Mihara, John Fluevog, Art, Fidji, Liebling, Fly London and Esska. Since I spend hours of my work life under the tent of a burgundy colored choir robe, dressing my feet with some unexpected pizzazz has been an innocent rebellion. Ever notice that the shoe bins at most consignment and thrift shops are littered with the black and brown cast-offs from your friends and neighbors? Walk into any Payless Shoe Store and find row upon row of generic black and brown knockoffs with very little in the way of color variation. Where’s the imagination? Let us take the road less traveled. For example, here’s a pair of Chie Mihara oxfords from the 2013 spring/summer collection. I convinced myself they must be mine. Where do I start with the lovefest? First of all, they are oxfords. Secondly, they have a perfectly reasonable yet uplifting heel. Then there’s the trifecta of materials which make up the vamp; the patent leather toe, the woven (yes, woven) blue and white leathers in the middle and then the perfectly saturated shade of complimentary blue leather which wraps around the patent leather tongue all done up with a slender black lace. I saw these in a few different color ways that season but this version could only be purchased online at the British based women’s clothing company called Toast. I spent a lot of hard earned choir conducting cash on these which included that shipping bill from London.
So why have you rarely seen me in these? Sadly, it’s because they hardly go well with anything. You might have seen this coming but I was honestly shocked.
Maybe if I was a little younger or the owner of a hipster art gallery in Portand, Oregon? Maybe if I lived in Finland and was editor in chief of a bikram yoga magazine or a waitress in a Morrocan/Thai fusion restaurant in the West Village? Maybe then I could wear these shoes with just about anything and get away with it. As it is, It’s hard work avoiding the clown vibe. Even worse, a middle aged female clown vibe. One has to be very careful.
The trick is to make the non-shoe part of the outfit very quiet. Business on the top and middle with the party on the very bottom. But it can’t be business with a capital “B” as the shoe recommends a somewhat eclectic approach. It also helps if the pants are on the long side. Let the shoes peek out. Avoid cropped or ankle length pants (see note about avoiding clown look). Don’t even try these with skirts and dresses (see note about not being 20 years old). There’s not a whole lot of options left but I’ve managed to wear them now and again.
But those dark elephant grey oxfords from Diva Shoes? They’re gonna get around town. I’m starting to lean in to the black and brown options again. Perhaps I cast them aside in haste. A girl needs her go-to shoes as much as she needs a little kick of color.
Thanks for the advice Cynthia. And…thanks for the shoes.