x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

My life: A lifelong love of shoes

Laura Collins loves shoes. A lot.

There are two kinds of women in the world: those who do and those who don't. I do, passionately. It's not the way my mother raised me. But there you have it. I love shoes, love them.

I can chart my life by my footwear. Many formative moments feature boots - I grew up in a cold climate. Though honestly, had you seen them, most constituted at best a passing glance in practicality's direction.

There were the ankle boots - four-inch heels, concealed platform, zip at the back - that walked me into college. There were the knee-highs I bought with my first pay cheque. And the upgraded version - black suede, Pied à Terre - when I got promoted.

There have been many since. At last count I had 63 pairs of shoes and 15 pairs of boots. I realise that some will disapprove. How excessive, they will say.

Perhaps that's why so many women lie: apparently our "favourite" lie is to downplay the cost of shoes. Well, that's what most have claimed, so let's just go with it.

I certainly have. I've peeled off price tags. I've flattened down shoe boxes or left that bulky proof of purchase at the shop. I've hidden new shoes and held off wearing them until a husband's tetchy inquiry, "New shoes?" can be met with a negative that's not, strictly speaking, a lie.

I've bought shoes I know do not fit. The most expensive (and no, I'm not telling) were caramel suede, vertiginous, peep-toe sling-backs from La Croisette, Cannes. I saw them and was smitten. So I did what I did throughout much of my childhood when shopping for shoes with my mother. I lied. I said that they fitted though they were a size too big. I knew that for one night a half-insole would push my foot back just enough for my heel to make contact with the new strap. I wore them that night, with indigo jeans and a backless sequined top (well, when in Cannes). Later I tucked them up in their fabric bag knowing I would never wear them again.

I still love them. They may have given me only one night, but they never hurt or let me down.

Unlike those boots I bought with my first pay cheque. They did both: a heel snapped at the top of a flight of stairs, leaving me with a bruised ego and a cracked rib at the bottom. Oh, and should you ever be tempted to walk around Rome in red-sequined mules, don't. Relationships end over less.

There's a kindred spirit among women who "get" shoes. I knew a recent flight to the UK would be good when the first thing the flight attendant said as I stepped aboard was: "I love your shoes."

Sometimes I wonder where it all began. The first shoes I coveted were my mother's. I was four. They were pink ostrich-feather mules. A decade later, the first pair I suffered for were my pointe shoes. They had to be supple enough to give the illusion that rising up on them was effortless. I broke them in and from there on in they tried to break me right back. But what I recall most is the beauty of the line they gave: lengthening the leg, slimming the ankle. That felt good.

Maybe that's what it comes down to: how it feels. Certainly it has never been about the label. I remember friends' disbelief when I turned down a sample pair of Jimmy Choos at £60 instead of £750. They even fitted. But wearing them would never give me that delicious little buzz. I didn't love them.

Let's face it, love - life - makes fools of us all and the right pair of shoes can make a wrong situation more bearable. Because when enduring an awkward, staring-at-your-shoes kind of moment it helps if you can at least enjoy the view.


Laura Collins is a senior features writer for The National.