Brown Leather Lace-up Boots

Brown Leather Lace-up Boots

Joan & David
Fall 1986
Santa Barbara, California

In high school I was introduced to Joan and David and for the first time I experienced complete and utter lust. At the boarding school I attended many of the girls dressed as though they had raided their mothers’ closets or at least were given comparable clothing allowances. I was a sophomore and like most sophomores I looked up to the seniors. I noticed that many of the girls wore these fabulous brown leather boots that laced up above the ankle. They were such a rich deep brown and the leather looked so soft. The senior girls pranced around in their long skirts, their suede coats and their Joan & David boots. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of these boots. Every time I saw someone wearing them, I just wanted them more and more.

I went to my mother and begged her to let me get a pair. She said that we could go “look” at them. On our next trip to Santa Barbara we went into Ann Taylor and I tried them on. With the $100+ price tag my mother said that there was no way that she was going to buy them for me. She said I didn’t “need” them. She thought that if I really wanted them that I should save up my money. I had to have them so that is exactly what I did. What seemed like many months later, my mom took me back to Ann Taylor to make the big purchase. I was a nervous wreck. I had never parted with so much money before, for anything, let alone a pair of boots. I tried them on again and like any teenager, beamed with the idea of having “the” boots that all of the senior girls had. With my wad of cash and purse full of change I bought the boots all on my own. I remember sitting there in my mother’s car – just holding them, smelling the leather and beaming ear to ear. It was my first extravagant purchase, but certainly not my last.


Black Tire Sandals

Black Tire Sandals

July 1987
Kakamega, Kenya

For the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school I somehow persuaded my parents to let me go to Kenya. I went with eleven other high school students and two guides. We started our adventure by climbing Mt. Kenya and then ventured south until we eventually made our way to Kakamega – a very small village. The town was lush and green and the people were so generous and kind. In Kakamega I lived with a wonderful family in a mud hut. They had a few banana trees in the back yard, an outhouse and a fire pit for cooking. The father was buried in the front yard under an enormous mound of soil.

During our stay in Kakamega we built a chicken coop out of cow dung for the local women’s co-op group so that they could start a chicken farm and begin to earn money for their families. The project was a huge success and the women were thrilled with the prospect of running their own business.

Many people in Kakamega had never laid eyes on a white person – let alone one with long blond hair and a mouth full of braces. I was quite a site to be seen. Many children would point at me and stare. Some would laugh, others would cry. It reminded me a lot of being in China in 1978. One morning my host family and I walked into town down the long dusty road to the local market. I garnered quite a bit of attention that day and even landed a few marriage proposals. As my “mama” shopped for vegetables, I managed to track down the local selection of shoes and bags. There were two young men who were selling shoes made out of old worn out tires. When I looked down at their feet, and everyone else’s for that matter, I noticed that they seemed to be quite popular. On the bottom of the shoe you could even see the threads of the old black tire. There were two straps that crossed in the front and one across the heel. The rubber was attached with ten rusty nails. They were absolutely fabulous.

“Jambo” I said to the men with a big smile. “Mezuri sana” I replied when they asked me how I was. I sifted through the shoes to see if I could find two that had some semblance of being a pair. Sure enough I found 2 that looked close enough. We then began the bargaining dance. If I would only marry one of them, they would give me the shoes. In my mind, marriage was out of the question. “Pengusa bee-ey, tafadali” I pleaded in asking them to lower the price. I tried to make it clear that I was only a poor student and not a rich American tourist. Eventually they lowered the price enough so I could feel some sense of victory and they could feel the same. I removed my green Nike hiking boots and slid the tires right on. The guys approved and gave me a thumb’s up and a good chuckle. I hollered for my “mama” and she came over too. When I pointed down at my feel she broke out in laughter. Not able to speak a word of English, I assume that was her way of giving her approval. With smiles on both of our faces we headed back to our hut, skipping down the dusty lane in our matching shoes.

Note: My apologies to all Swahili speakers for my lack of knowledge of the language – I know my spelling above are likely not correct – they are based on my long ago memories of the words I tried to learn  – I will research to get the correct spellings.

White Leather Pumps with Green Heels

Ellen Tracy
May 1989
Los Angeles, California

My high school graduation day was approaching and my mom and I had headed down to Los Angeles to go shopping for a graduation outfit. Unlike most high schools, we did not wear the traditional cap and gown; rather, the boys all wore khaki pants, a white shirt, a tie, and a navy sports coat and the girls wore white tea length dresses. We went to Saks Fifth Avenue – nothing. We went to Bullock’s – nothing. I was frustrated and disappointed. I am sure my mom wished I wasn’t so picky. We decided to take a break and headed over to grab a chocolate chip Mrs. Field’s cookie when I noticed a Chinese dress and linen shop. I ducked in and began to poke around. There it was – a phenomenal white crochet dress with three quarter sleeves and a simple neckline. It would be perfect and something different that none of the girls would have. Mom liked it because it was a fraction of the cost of the dresses we were mulling over at Saks Fifth Avenue. Now I had to find shoes.

My school insisted that girls also wear white shoes, which usually doesn’t leave a lot of options. Insisting that I wasn’t going to wear Dyeables, mom and I began the search. It turned out to be much easier than finding the dress. At Bullocks I found these white leather Ellen Tracy pumps with a slight wave in the cut of the shoe and a surprising lima bean green heel. My mom was unsure about the heel, but I begged and pleaded that nobody would notice the green heel as it would get lost in the grass. I would still know that my shoes were just a little wacky and fun. Given that it had been a long day and my mom was beginning to complain that her feet hurt, she let me get them. “Just don’t tell your father how much they cost,” she pleaded.

On my graduation day as I went up to get my diploma I felt like the sassiest girl there, a bit of a rebel, with my white pumps with green heels. I don’t think I ever wore those shoes again but they would always remind me of the amazing journey through high school.


Black Leather Motorcycle Boots

Black Leather Motorcycle Boots

Unknown Designer
Fall 1990
Berkeley, California

I was a sophomore at Stanford and living in a vegetarian co-op with one of my best friends, Marya. I wasn’t a vegetarian but we liked the house and its close proximity to campus. We rarely left Palo Alto, or campus for that matter. In our self-contained world on the famous “farm” there was little reason to stray. One weekend we were feeling adventurous and Marya and I decided to hop into my 1969 yellow Mustang convertible and head over to the East Bay to check out what life was like at Berkeley.

We meandered down Telegraph Avenue with the smell of patchouli wafting out of nearly every store front. There were more tie-dyed shirts than I care to remember and so many people parked on the sidewalk. We devoured a huge slice of Blondie’s pizza and then took to the side streets. We entered a second hand store and started to search the racks. Not always in the mood for combing through racks of dismal clothing, I hopped over to the small adjacent room that was full of shoes. I know there is something unhygienic about second hand shoes, but for some reason, on that day, hygiene wasn’t on my mind. There was a single pair of steel-toed black leather motorcycle boots that went up to mid calf. They looked like they had barely been worn and were only ten dollars. I immediately asked to borrow a sock so that I could try them on. There was something about them that I just loved. I pulled on the big tube sock and then jimmied the boots on over my heel. They fit. I was wearing a maroon hippy dippy skirt at the time and I thought it made for a perfect outfit. A little bit grunge, a little bit Grateful Dead, and a lot of biker chick. I’ll take them. At that point I was ready to head back to campus – there was nothing left I needed to see in Berkeley.

I wore these boots almost everyday the rest of sophomore year, and most of junior year too. At the time I bought the boots I was madly in love with my boyfriend, M.. He was my first love. I remember wearing the boots when I went to watch his band play out on the lawn of the Beta House. I sat out on the green grass wearing my favorite orange daisy sundress (that Marya had given me), M.’s brown corduroy jacket lined with lambswool and my motorcycle boots, watching him sing classic rock cover tunes and play the electric guitar. I loved the way his long wavy brown hair would fall in his face. I loved his intense intelligence and the way he led his life with great passion. I loved the rush I got whenever he reached out to hold my hand. I wanted it all it to last forever, but it didn’t. In the end M. and I were only together for a short while, but 13 years later I still have the boots and the memories of the first boy I loved and the first one to break my heart.

Saks Fifth Avenue


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