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red-silk-heels

Red Silk Heels with Black & Gold Embroidery

Red Silk Heels with Black & Gold Embroidery

Philippe Model
February 1994
San Francisco, California

It was my first day at work at my very first job after college. I was working for a multi-media production company located right near South Park in San Francisco. Not only was it my first day on the job, it was my first official lunch hour.

At 12:15 I picked up my bag and headed out the door. As I walked out onto the traffic of Brannan Street I looked around nervously – not knowing where to go. “I have an entire hour,” I thought to myself, “I should go shopping.” I headed West on foot and crossed 3rd Street. There didn’t seem to be too much around but I figured I’d go down at least one more block. There it was – a Barney’s outlet, disguised as an average clothing store. And to think it was only a block from my office. This would be dangerous.

I walked right in and headed for the shoes. There they were – standing tall above a rack of beige DKNY sweaters – the most perfect pair of vampy red silk shoes. A perfect square toe, a uniquely carved heel, black and gold embroidery on the toe that looked like a climbing vine of flames – they were like works of art. The best part of all was that they were fully lined in shimmering gold. They were unlike any pair I had seen before – they were absolutely perfect. I had to have them right then and there. Luckily they even fit – the one and only pair and they slid comfortably onto my 8 ½ size feet. I gripped them in my hands as I browsed around the rest of the store. I found a few sweaters, a skirt and I think a dress or two as well.

Once outside the store, I opened up the shoe box to take a look at them one more time. With the gold lining glistening in the sun, I thought they were the most exquisite pair of shoes I had ever purchased. Looking at my watch I realized that there would be no time for food during this lunch break and I dashed back down the street. As I walked up the stairs to my office I began to feel a little ashamed of my shopping extravaganza so I tried to hide my bags as best I could and slip them under my desk. Unfortunately, there was nowhere to hide.

A few weeks later my Visa bill arrived in the mail. I quickly learned that on my itsy bitsy salary, I would desperately need to curtail my trips to Barney’s. Much easier said than done – perhaps it was just time to find another job.

Black Loafers

Kenneth Cole
December, 1997
Troy, Michigan

My only savior from the Detroit winter was the mall in Troy, Michigan. To me it was heaven. It was an escape. It was all I had. As a newly minted MBA I took a job with a Big 5 consulting firm. I specifically selected their San Francisco office so I would be close to friends, and surrounded with the magic and adventures of one of my favorite cities, each and every day of the week. I was told throughout the hiring process that I would be staffed on local projects. With my Pacific Heights apartment, fabulous shopping on Fillmore, Union and Sacramento streets within walking distance, and a bevy of tempting restaurants all around – my life was going to be grand.

After returning back to San Francisco from a two week orientation, one of head partners informed me that I had been selected to be on an assignment with one of the largest auto makers. It was one of the firm’s top clients and this was supposed to be an honor and a great career move for me. Somehow Detroit, Michigan didn’t seem so “local” to me. What about my apartment? Lunch time shopping in Union Square? A city full of friends? My fantasy world would be put on hold.

For the next four or five months I flew out to Detroit every Sunday at one o’clock. I didn’t arrive in my hotel until closer to 1am, Monday morning. On Friday, or Thursday if things were going well, I would fly back to San Francisco. My one day a week in the city was spent dropping off dry cleaning, paying bills, rifling through mail and trying to make dinner plans to see at least one friend before I boarded the next United flight back to Michigan. Needless to say, I was spending more time in the greater Detroit area than any California girl ever dreams of, let alone in the winter!

While in Michigan I quickly developed a monotonous routine. I would drive into the office with a few co-workers, work until it was dark outside, drive back to the hotel, order room service (caesar salad with chicken, glass of merlot and bowl of soup), and go to bed. I didn’t break a sweat for weeks. This was doing nothing for me physically and it quickly became quite a bore. It was too cold to go outside and the hotel gym was worthless. What was I going to do with myself?

A senior manager from the Chicago office was in town one night and asked if I would join her for dinner at the local mall. “Nobody told me there was a mall here?” I thought to myself. And it was just a few miles from my hotel. My life changed forever. It was spectacular. It had every store I could dream of and it was open every night until 10 o’clock. Even if the stores were closed I could still walk around and around and around and look at every window display. This quickly became my new routine. For the next few months, I spent every night at the mall. I walked and walked and walked around and around, up one escalator, down another, up one more, and back down another. I went into the same stores every night. I touched the same sweaters, held up the same handbags, and dabbed the same lipstick onto the back of my hand, each and every night. It was a perfect escape from co-workers and the Marriott. I had found a home away from home.

I had just made my evening exit from the Gucci store and headed upstairs to finish my loop. I was in the mood to buy something. Anything really would do. I was bored and lonely and in dire need of a little treat. Shoes of course! A new pair of shoes was exactly what I needed to perk me up. There happened to be a Kenneth Cole open and they were having a sale. Perfect. I went straight to the sale section and began to scan the racks. I had been in search of the perfect pair of black loafers for some time, so I spent most of my time scouring the loafer selection. Lucky me, I found a pair. They were pretty simple, had a little bit of a heel, a square toe and were made of a thin weave canvas. The store was closing so I didn’t have much time to make my decision. I slipped one on a paraded around the rack a few times. Oh hell, these will do. I’ll get them. With a momentary shopper’s high I exited the mall and headed back to the hotel.

The next morning I slipped on my new shoes, ready to show off my new purchase to the other girls in the office. When I stepped outside I realized that it was snowing. I wasn’t looking forward to driving in the snow so I convinced a co-worker from the Chicago office to drive our rented Taurus to the office. We parked in the same spot, grabbed our black computer bags and hustled ourselves across the street to the comfort of the heated offices only a block away. I had taken just two steps off the curb when my brand new loafers slipped ahead of me on the icy road. There I was, flat on my back with my computer right on top of me. My butt was wet, my skirt was over my waist and everyone could see the control top lining of my panty hose. Oh, I hated this place. I hated the snow. I hated the shoes too. I just wanted to go home, back to my little apartment in San Francisco.

white-sneakers

White Canvas Sneakers

White Canvas Sneakers

Hanes Soft Fit
September 11, 2001
Phoenix, Arizona

I hadn’t been on a business trip for at least 6 months but we were launching a new partnership and we decided to get the team together for a strategy session in our Phoenix, Arizona offices. My original plan was to fly in the morning of September 10th and return back to Palo Alto on the evening of September 11th. My plans obviously changed.

When the alarm sounded at 7:40am on September 11th, I quickly turned it off and hopped into the shower. For some unknown reason I didn’t turn on the television as I was getting dressed and putting on my make-up. Every morning, regardless if I am at home or in a hotel, I either turn on MTV or CNN, but for some reason I didn’t that morning. I eventually made my way up to the lobby to meet two of our sales reps so that we could carpool to the office together. I found an inviting couch, sat down and began to thumb through the Wall Street Journal. We were expected to meet our partner team at 9am so I began to wonder why the guys weren’t there to meet me. But just then, I spotted them in the hotel bar.

A few more minutes passed and they were still in the bar. It looked like they were staring up at the television. I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t depict the image on the screen. I decided to be social, so I walked over to join them and let them know that we might want to get a move on. As I approached the bar area, I saw it for myself, a replay of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center. I stood in disbelief with the others. I just wanted to go home.

We eventually peeled ourselves away from the TV and drove over to the office to join our colleagues and watch the news for the rest of the day on a tiny eight inch television. I realized there was no chance in flying home. I knew that I would want to pick up some clothes so I could exercise at the hotel gym and perhaps a swimming suit so I could jump in the pool and cool off from the devastating Arizona heat. I had only packed for a one day trip and had very little with me. I realized that I might be there for awhile. Peggy, a friendly secretary, graciously played the nurturing mother role for me and went out of her way to make sure my stay in Arizona would be comfortable. After lunch she took me to Wal-Mart to go on a little shopping spree. I bought a pair of gray shorts, some white socks, a pink camouflage tankini and a pair of white sneaker, similar in look to a pair of Keds. They were on sale for $2.50.

It took me a week to get home. The mother of one of my best friends was stranded in Chicago and had decided to drive home to Los Angeles. When she heard about my situation, she offered to pick me up on her way and take me back to California. I wore the white sneakers every day until I got home. They are still so white and new – so contradictory to the dark ugliness of September 11th. The white is so peaceful, so simple and free. I don’t ever want to wear them again because they remind me of the sadness and horror of that day, but I don’t ever want to get rid of them either.

red-driving-moccasins

Black, Red & Tan Driving Moccasins

Black, Red & Tan Driving Moccasins

Lands’ End
(Yes, I admit it, I bought the same pair of shoes in 3 colors)
December, 2001
Internet

Elle McPherson looked so incredibly cool in those silly little shoes. I couldn’t see Madonna wearing them but there they were in all of the magazines. What was it about them? They were everywhere. I had heard of driving gloves, but driving shoes? I went to Neiman Marcus to check them out and they were something like $400. My God! They weren’t that cute. And then, a few weeks later in my very office, a woman from our PR department was wearing them. I began to check out her shoes regularly and soon discovered that she had them in black, brown suede and also in black patent leather. Where did she get the money to buy 3 pairs of Tod’s? Our IPO was nowhere in site and my dreams of becoming another dot com zillionaire were squashed with our 3rd round of layoffs two months prior. They must pay the girls in PR a hell of a lot more than they are paying me. $1200 on three stupid pair of flats with rubber bumps all over the bottom – it just can’t be. But I wanted a pair so badly and didn’t know why. Seeing her wear them every day made me want them even more.

One morning L. from PR was in front of me on the way up the stairs. We both had our Starbuck’s coffees in hand and I thought I’d make conversation. “Hey L., great shoes,” I admiringly told her as I took a sip of my latte. “Thanks, they’re fakes,” she responded. I stopped right in my steps. I couldn’t believe she was outing herself right there. “Lands’ End, you can get them on-line, only $70,” she told me matter of factly. And with that she lazily strolled down the aisle to her cube. I on the other hand couldn’t get to my cube fast enough.

The time it took to boot up my computer seemed like an eternity. I had a nine o’clock meeting and it was already two minutes passed but I had to see if L. was for real. My boss leaned over my cube, “Alisa, you are going to join us for the status meeting today?” “Yes, yes, I’ll be right there,” I promised. Gripping the mouse I entered my login name and password and finally launched the browser. I just knew I had to order them right away. What if other people found out about this secret? I had to jump on this information immediately. A few key strokes later, I found them. I flipped through all of the color choices and opted for basic black. I figured they would be a good starter pair. I could get other colors later on. With one hand I grabbed for my wallet and rummaged around for my Visa as I typed in my mailing address with the other hand. This won’t take long. It was now 8 minutes after 9 o’clock. Meetings never start on time. I found the Visa, typed in the number, the expiration date, I was good to go. The shoes would be mine in seven to ten business days. I began to imagine the outfits I would wear and how casually elegant, yet decidingly hip I would look. Just like Elle McPherson. I’d wear them with jeans, my favorite black pants, with my cords…. Oh no, the meeting. Just like that I had totally forgotten. I grabbed my notebook, a pen and headed down the long aisle of cubes in search of the conference room. I rounded the corner and found the meeting place. Just as I entered, everyone began to pick up their things. “Sorry you couldn’t join us this time,” my boss noted on her way out. Shit! I might not have a job for much longer, but at least I’d have my faux Tod’s. I went back to my desk and ordered them in red. After lunch, I ordered the tan suede ones too.


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