Sunday, January 13, 2008

Solipsistic Slides

Indeed, they seemed the most innocuous of the bunch, wedged as they were between some far more glamorous and egotistical relations. Red patent Prada ankle straps enough to pop a schoolgirl cherry by inference were directly to their left, which is why it took a few minutes to work my way around to trying them on my size ten gunboats.

The secret is out: I have landing craft. In Europe, they are a size eleven. Feet like this were last seen on the beaches of Normandy, disgorging soldiers.

If you have faith, nature will always balance things out: I am tall.

I like to think that I can wear something like the Pradas, but this must remain a stealth occupation for a dull evening. I do get to try them on at Neiman Marcus Last Call, home of the dubious bargain. The items Last Call sells in its shoe department are not overstock or last season's orphan Zanottis. What Last Call sells are the deformed, the misshapen, the grotesque.

The design flaws.

Sometimes perfectly well meaning people make tragic engineering mistakes. Consider the HP All-in-One C4385 printer. A perfectly good, budget printer for most of your printing, faxing, and scanning needs, except that the scan button doesn't work with Vista. They say so right on their site. They do not say so on the box. It's an underground secret known only to users of this product or those bright enough to do some research before purchase.

Hewlett Packard knew the scan button wouldn't work with Vista, but they waited until thoroughly trusting people, the kind of people who believe the scales of justice weigh in in their favor, complained.

I'm sure whoever designed the Fendi slide had some wonderful intentions and dreams of glory. See how basic the design is, a simple slide. Something to wear in Cannes, maybe, for an alfresco lunch on a verandah. Who says verandah any longer? Verandah went out with divan and ottoman. Verandah now resides in the lexicon of the quaint, and it isn't likely to make a comeback.

The Fendi slide, on the other hand, never went out of fashion. Its progenitors can be seen in Hollywood stills from the thirties; I think Gene Tierney wore something quite similar on a date with Howard Hughes. And the color is, I think, rather well done. A refined dove gray with just a hint of pearl. A clever take on neutral for those times when you'd want just a little more than hometown good taste.

I always like to guess the reason for the Last Call consignment, and as soon as I had the shoes out of the box I saw it. The hybrid platform/kitten heel. How clever, I thought, to combine the Lurch-like platform with the exact heel that tall women wear as a cheat. You get the look of a heel without the height. It is also slightly perverse, which is always a pleasing element in shoe design.

As I was massaging my ankle and wondering if I could walk under my own power, I understood that the happy incongruity of the heel was not the real reason the shoe had been banished to the sale bin. Rather, it was physics. I tend to blame physics for many things, including my acid reflux, but in this case it was clear that our Fendi slide was the end result of solipsistic science. A man made this shoe, this much was clear. A case of overreaching in the design department, perhaps a sprinkle of misogyny---there must be tremendous pressure to come up with some novelty acts; it's like reinventing the wheel, for Chrissakes--resulted in a shoe that could not actually function as perambulatory accessory.

The minute you stepped forward, the little kitten heel tipped to its side. You had to step in a certain way, tentatively ensuring that your foot wasn't favoring one side or another. Walking is such a fundamental enjoyment that we take for granted. I happen to know that I lean towards the inner edge of my right foot. This destabilized the slide and caused an ungainly and very unladylike lurch forward. When I finished replacing that part of the display destroyed in my fall, I put the $358.00 (half off, sale price) Fendi shoes on the size six shelf where those with tiny feet wouldn't be tempted to try. I do my part to look out for the welfare of others.

In the background, a new song came over the PA. It was Keith Richards singing "Happy," a song from Exile on Main Street, one of the few songs Keef ever sang lead on and one that I never expected to hear piped into a Neiman Marcus on a warm spring night in suburban San Diego, a few miles from the Mexican border.

"Never kept a dollar past sunset," he growled, "always burned a hole in my pants."

I burned it elsewhere.

Link: A slightly different version at eLuxury.


WendyB said...

Those shoes look ill-intentioned.

susie_bubble said...

I know for a fact those Fendi sandals underwent actual femme testing but still it faltered..... as per your account.... what a pity as the shape was so ludicrous that I had full faith in its ergonomics...

Suzanna Mars said...

SB, we leave it to you to have the inside scoop!

Your information makes me wonder why such a lemon of a shoe was not just pulled from production or from shelves. Instead, it ends up a still-expensive item with a dangerous design flaw, being perpetrated on an unsuspecting public. I'm telling you, one step forward and whammo!

WB, you always make me laugh.

Heather said...

haha, glad you're looking out for people! That shoe does look good, but maybe too good to be true... maybe they should just go ahead and send it to a nice museum somewhere where it can be looked at as the piece of sculpture it really is.

Suzanna Mars said...

Heather, you'd have rocked those slides.

Seriously though, I see this design as a metaphor for the pressure put on creative types to "innovate." "Innovate" is the scourge-verb of the Internet age.

Blue Floppy Hat said...

Hey, I say 'verandah'! I can imagine that kitten heel creating some pretty painful pressure points...the only saving grace is that it wasn't a full stiletto (though I'd like to see the pratfalls that come with those).

riz said...

Physics and not the incongruity of the heel, ehhhh? The shoe did seem odd to me when I first saw it in the ads

Suzanna Mars said...

Riz, it is nearly twee in person. It just looks so ordinary on the shelf, and then this wonderful surprise moment when you lift it up and see the little kitten heel (which really is almost like a nail, BTW).

I'm always somewhat self-conscious about trying on shoes in outlets--there's something awkward and inelegant about it.

Or maybe I'm just a klutz.