Scrawny Shoes

The other day, just for fun, Betty and I popped our heads into a shoestore around 14th Street – not the DSW, the other one. I had envied Tom’s shoes that night at Yale, and all of my own shoes are very very scrappy-looking indeed, which is fine for daily wear, but I’ve always believed one should have at least one pair of shoes good enough for church.

I found a sharp pair of Kenneth Coles – square toe, visible stitching – and was told first that they were men’s shoes. When I didn’t scare so easily, the clerk told me they only started at men’s size 7 which is at least a women’s size 8.

[sigh] I’m a women’s 7 & 1/2, max, usually a 7. [/sigh]

So I went to the women’s section of Kenneth Cole – just for shits & giggles, since I knew what I’d find – and found all these… scrawny shoes. Thin little ballet slipper shoes with thin soles or thin heels or both. It made me sad. There wasn’t enough shoe to any of them. I miss the era of unisex, urban shoes.

But, still optimistic, I went online and checked that shoe behemoth Women’s shoes : Oxfords revealed about 15 pairs, not all of which were actually Oxfords. I tried Men’s : Oxfords and found plenty, but nearly all of them started, like Ken Cole’s, at size 7. The ones that didn’t were either extraordinarily expensive or looked a little too much like the shoes an out-of-touch mom might buy her teenage son for his confirmation – or a funeral. And even he’d have the good sense to not like them.

So alas, I checked Dr. Marten’s, and they had shoes. Not the steel-toed ones I’d seen at Trash & Vaudeville, but shoes made for something a little less dainy than picking flowers.


At long last I gave in and checked ebay, where I bid on (and won) a pair of stand issue, unisex, black DMs. For $5.50. I bid and won another, slighly different pair, for $9. That will hold me for a couple of years, no doubt – the shoes I wear most often I bought before I met Betty. (We’re celebrating our 8th anniversary this April.)

And crossdressers wonder why I don’t like to talk about shoes. For me, shoe shopping is often a hostile universe, where my requests are so often met with comments like “these only have a small heel” or “but it’s not much pink.” As a kid, I wanted the round-toed sneakers the boys wore, not those pointy tennies girls were supposed to wear. Ah, to un-dainty my dainty feet. At least Betty & I got to laugh over the fact that if I ever transitioned, my feet would be my “tell.” Ironically, I grew up thinking I had very large feet, because – c’mon, you can guess this one – I had older brothers who convinced me I did. When I was 25 or so, I actually said, “I know I have big feet” to a shoe salesman, who then asked how tall I was. When I answered (5’6″) he looked at me like I was from another planet. “Those are small feet, for your height,” he said simply.

10 Replies to “Scrawny Shoes”

  1. And here I sit, in serious pain, because I thought I’d try these comfortable-looking ballet-type of shoes I had never worn but found recently at the back of my closet. I wonder if the students will care if I finish lecture in my bare feet.

    For shoes with not much to them, they outdo themselves. Next time I’ll wear bear traps.

  2. Helen,

    Well, having humongous feet (herring boxes without topses) I can get all I want of fetish shoes or the kinds of things you like….but simple dignifed pumps at a reasonable price, somewhere where I can try them on and so forth… I sympathize with you from the opposite direction.


  3. I second Diane……………I try Zappos in the womens styles I like and for size 10… 10,156 matches, size 11, 124 matches, size 12 (my size) 3 matches……………

    And so it goes………….


  4. Helen, I understand and sympathize with what you said about how hard it is to find men’s shoes in a size smaller than 7 — I was a men’s 6 for years and then a 6 1/2, and I could *never* find *anything* in 99.9% of men’s shoe stores. The only brand that ever seemed to have anything in men’s 6 or 6 1/2 was Rockport, and even that was hard to find in stores, as opposed to online. I still wear my Rockport men’s walking and hiking shoes sometimes. Who cares? But it’s a lot easier in general to find shoes in women’s size 8 than in men’s 6 1/2 (I always used to think the difference was 2 sizes, but apparently it’s really 1 1/2, because 8 1/2’s are way too long for me; even in 8, there’s usually a noticeable gap between the back of my foot and the back of my shoe, so I have to put something in the toes. But 7 1/2 is definitely too small.)


  5. If you want Oxfords, the best you’ll ever find are made up in New Hampshire by Peter Limmer and Sons. They make custom and off the rack hiking boots and oxford shoes, I’ve got a pair of their boots, out of the box they were the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn, and I’ve got all manner of bad orthopedic juju going on in my feet.

    You’re going to pay a lot for them, probably $500, but some pay that for hideously uncomfortable shoes…..

  6. Ah Helen,
    There are so many things we will never see eye to eye on.
    Shoes are clearly one of them.
    For the record, I love you and accept you for the person you are no matter what atrocities you put on your feet. At least you are a very stylish woman from the ankle up.

  7. No, I get the better end of that stick by far. You wear one, maybe two pairs of shoes a day at most. I on the other hand…

  8. Helen,

    The grass is always greener on the other side. I’m 5′ 3″. In men’s shoes I wear a size 6C (which is near impossible to find.) In women’s shoes I wear a 7 and ocassionally (mostly for boots) a 7 1/2. So next time you’re bitching about women’s shoes and sizes, etc. think of me. OK?

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