Chronicling five decades of life by recounting the shoes worn during important societal and personal milestones is a quirky, possibly gimmicky, foundation for a narrative, but Morrisroe (Wide Awake: What I Learned About Sleep from Doctors, Drug Companies, Dream Experts, and a Reindeer Herder in the Arctic Circle, 2010, etc.) hits the mark.
Traversing America’s cultural landscape through shoe culture, the author explores how, for good or ill, the wedgie, glitter platforms, granny boots, and the recent cult of the high heel and bondage stilettos have affected her and our culture. Morrisroe discusses her childhood passion for Beatle Boots and how, after seeing Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, she coveted a pair of oxfords. As an adult in New York, in her hunt for the perfect narrow shoe, the author fell for an expensive “pair of loafers in the softest napa leather.” She also recalls the beginnings of “shoe porn,” fostered by Sex and the City. During a failed attempt at easing her foot pain, Morrisroe purchased a strange pair of shoes with curved “rocker” soles called MBTs (Masai Barefoot Technology). Throughout, the author weaves in entertaining footwear and foot care snippets. She notes that high heels were invented in the 16th century, and aristocratic women wore tall platforms called chopines. Marie Antoinette “wore two inch plum-black mules to her beheading.” Today, writes Morrisroe, women want pretty feet no matter the cost, so obliging podiatrists tout a procedure called a “Foot Facelift or Cinderella Surgery.” The author also laces in family portraits of a loving grandfather who administered foot massages; her mother, who could never find shoes that fit; and her husband’s bewildering attachment to an oversized collection of classic Puma sneakers.
A funny, warm and insightful trek through one woman’s life and American popular culture—a successful blend of form and function.