I loved dressing up when I was young. There was no high-heeled shoe, no tutu too blinged out for me. I convinced my second grade teacher to let me put on plays solely for the costumes. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Sleeping Beauty performed in tutus–but minus the music or ballet.
I got tall early. My mother tried to steer me toward tailored, conservative clothes. Her results were mixed. Whenever possible, I insisted on shiny boots or four inch clogs, no matter how many times I tripped or how many inches I towered over my fifth grade square dancing partner.
More than once, my father flinched visibly over my outfits.
My less restrained older sister asked, “What hooker did you murder for those shoes?”
I responded by dressing as an actual prostitute for Halloween. With even more outrageous boots, because, let’s face it, sex workers are very fashion forward and have the best shoes. The outfits from the notorious red-light district of my youth (shout out to D.C.’s 14th Street!) would now be considered conservative evening wear for the Kardashians.
As a teenager, I worked in a women’s clothing store. I lived to deck myself out for Proms and Homecomings, especially once I had a 6’5” boyfriend. I wore the highest, glitteriest heels I could find, especially once Judgmental Genius Older Sister went to college.
Sadly, my love affair with hooker heels collapsed with my arches. Excruciating foot and knee pain sent me to orthopedists and podiatrists. They prescribed custom made orthotics. And those orthotics only fit into running shoes, walking shoes, or flat, laced boots.
Eventually I was able to wear heels on special occasions. All my competitive dance shoes had heels as low as possible. I practiced in dance sneakers, which were ugly and clunky as fuck.
The ugly shoes were so effective that I never returned to stylish shoes. I admired pretty, strappy sandals from afar, marveling as my once trashy taste in shoes was suddenly trendy.
And then I got pregnant.
Pregnancy feet are A Thing. Your feet and ankles get swollen, because your circulation is all messed up.
The extra weight makes your feet expand.
Finally, your bump is so big you can barely tie your comfy sneakers anymore – just after you’d made peace with wearing them forever.
“This sucks,” I complained to my sister when I was about 8 months pregnant. “I thought I’d reached the pinnacle of shoe ugliness, but now it looks like I’ll be reduced to Crocs.”
“Yep,” she agreed. “Or you could do what my one friend did. She’s pregnant with twins. Not a chance in hell she can tie her shoes, but she needs super supportive and comfortable ones. Every morning she sticks her feet out from under the covers and her husband puts on her shoes and socks and ties them before he goes to work.”
After I quit laughing, I said, “Yeah, but we don’t wear shoes in our house. I need to come up with something else. Or bigger shoes, at the very least. I can barely get mine on.”
That weekend, my husband convinced me to return to that which I had long ago foresworn: Macy’s shoe department.
As we approached, I grudgingly thanked Andy for looking out for me and my problematic size 11 (going on 12) feet.
“Of course! It’s the perfect time for it,” he chirped. “They’re having a clearance sale, honey!”
Chivalry isn’t dead. It can be resuscitated by 80% off.
I waddled wistfully past all the sparkly shoes and looked for something more practical. Like a sneaker without laces. Which I didn’t think was actually possible.
Until I saw them.
They were known as mules, backless and originally made the boudoir. But these mules, called “Nike After Party II” looked like they’d been merged with a cushiony platform sneaker. They were just my size. I slid them on.
Heaven. Those mules were the most comfortable shoes I had ever worn in my life. I wore them out of the store and until they wore out (months after my pregnancy). I searched online relentlessly, only to find they’d been discontinued years ago. Stupid Nike.
I didn’t see them again until the night I caught Andy watching an old HBO reality series called Cathouse. Cathouse takes place in an actual, legal brothel in Nevada. The series looked interesting, though we’ve since learned that HBO made the owner appear far less horrible than he actually was. But what caught my eye immediately were the shoes. When a bell rang the sex workers would hurry out of their rooms and pose before potential clients in lingerie and killer heels. Before the bell, however, one woman lounged around in–
“My shoes!” I yelled, scaring Andy into dropping the remote. “Rewind it! Air Force Amy is wearing my shoes!”
We are probably the only people who watched that particular section of “Cathouse” repeatedly. And we conclusively proved that Air Force Amy definitely wore Nike After Party II mules.
Turns out, I still have the same taste in shoes as prostitutes.
And those sex workers are still on the forefront of fashion. Because while I was never able to find those same Nike mules again, here are all the different types of lace-less, sneaker/ mules now available at Skechers: