Tuesday, 21 August 2012
The Clean Saddle Oxfords
By Lyn Burnstine
The topic of shoes has never been a happy one for me. Cursed with long, narrow feet, I outgrew children’s sizes long before the other girls did. It was hard to find ladies’ shoes that fit yet were still appropriately styled for a pre-adolescent child.
As my feet continued to grow, so did the prices. My size was only available in a few expensive shoe stores and in limited styles.
As the joints in my feet were being destroyed by rheumatoid arthritis, I was forced to wear ugly, wide men’s shoes until one blessed day I discovered Birkenstock sandals. For 10 years, until I had both feet surgically reconstructed, I wore them in summer with no socks and in winter with two thick pairs.
I kept hoping I wouldn’t get invited to a chi-chi event. But I did - as mother of the groom! At my son’s wedding, photographs document the obligatory mother-son dance with me in bare feet (I had made it down the aisle in the worn-only-once dress shoes but shed them as soon as I possibly could).
But along the way, there was one other happy foot time - during my teen-age years when the saddle-oxford fad hit hard. I don’t remember a time before or since that sensible and comfortable shoes have been the hottest style.
All the bobby-soxers had white oxfords with a colored saddle - a section wrapped across the instep - and white shoelaces. The saddle came in red, black or navy or the most popular color: brown.
The second part of the fad was to let your saddle oxfords get as dirty and scruffy as you could as soon as you could. One never polished or cleaned them.
I should have known then that I would spend my life dancing to a different tempo because I not only loved my saddle oxfords, I loved them pristinely white and clean.
Every day after school, I’d take out the saddle soap and polish them until they were as soft and smooth as when new. I can still feel and smell the burnished leather. I would then wash and bleach the shoelaces.
After a while, the inevitable gouges and scratches began to mar their perfect surface, so the white shoe polish came out of the cupboard: the chalky results were never as satisfying, though, as the shine from the saddle soap.
The fad lasted long enough for me to wear out two pairs of those beauties - the last pair going away to college with me.
The penny loafers that replaced them never quite thrilled me in the same way. Perhaps it was all those hours of loving care that bonded me to my brown-and-white saddle oxfords.
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