WALK LIKE A MAN:
As I sat on a stool at Kicks Exceptional Shoes rubbing my poor toes, I realized it wasn’t going to be easy. On Thursday, I’m participating in the Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands’ Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event. April is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the event’s goal, according to a press release, is to help men understand that sexual assault isn’t an issue dealt with only by women.
Men who participate are asked (or is it required?) to wear women’s high-heeled shoes. Before I walk a mile in heels, I needed to practice. I bought the shoes — black and red zebra with a pointy toe — at Shoe Show (more on the shopping trip shortly), but Trenholm Buyck Hardison at Kicks was kind enough to give me a few tips. First thing she noticed: I don’t have a platform, which makes it harder to walk.
“Walk on the balls of your feet,” she said as we stepped toward a mirror. “Stand on your toes.”
It helped. I think I even sashayed. Hardison also put pads in the shoes, a women’s size 12.
“It keeps you from sliding forward in the shoe,” she said. “It gives you a better fit and makes it a little more comfortable.”
I wasn’t so comfortable when I walked into Shoe Show, a store on West Beltline Boulevard, with Elizabeth Wolfe, the development coordinator for Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands. I was singing “Walk Like a Man” by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons before I opened the door. Since I wanted to look good while walking — and because I’m a shoe fiend — I figured it best if I pick out my own shoes. I wouldn’t be caught in a wedge. (Only one person — friend, Melinda Edwards — has picked a pair of shoes for me in the last 25 years, a white pair of Vans with assorted skeletal images. I detest most white sneakers, but I love those Vans.)
It took a few attempts to find my size. And the selection was limited because I was determined to find a heel. Sadly, it’s not open-toe. Dwyane Wade, a shooting guard for the NBA’s Miami Heat, said in a recent issue of GQ Magazine that he paints his toenails black in summer, and that it will be a fashion trend in two years. He’s a sharp dresser, so I wanted to try the look.
The zebra pumps looked right with my cuffed jeans and they were only $9.98. I took them to the register and the cashier said, “There’s supposed to be a 9 in front of that 9.” We laughed. Then he said, “You Otis Taylor?”
I suppose this is a good place to write that I’ll be walking alongside esteemed gentlemen such as Attorney General Alan Wilson, Mayor Steve Benjamin, Assistant Solicitor Dan Goldberg, USC President Harris Pastides, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and City of Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott. Benjamin told me he was going to ask the illustrious Patti O’ Furniture for walking advice.
“I’m trying not to break my ankle,” Benjamin said. “I don’t want to have to wear a cast.”
I asked Patti for help, too. She is the one who sent us to Shoe Show, a store that carries sizes that fit the larger woman — or man who wants to wear women’s shoes. She told me to practice, boots work best and, “I’ll be there to assist.”
At the recent Congaree Vista Guild’s forum for City Council, Patti co-moderated with Larry Hembree, Trustus Theatre’s executive director. Both wore heels.
“Whatever you do, put whatever heels you are wearing on — the exact pair — before that day and really get used to wearing them,” Hembree told me the day after the forum. “Do not — and I repeat, do not — try them out for the first time at the event.
“Depending on how high the heel is, they can kill your calves. I wore pink sequined pumps for about an hour at the city council debate and my calves are still hurting. Maybe it’s because I am over 50.”
Men wearing heels is trending up. Derek J, an Atlanta hairstylist, wore them with regular men’s clothing on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” An October New York Times article about men in heels said stiletto-wearing men are repeating history.
“Until Napoleon banned them, high heels were considered a sign of nobility in France during the 18th century and were favored by men as well as women,” the author wrote.
And Prince always wears heels. (To be clear, I’m not thinking about doing the same.)
“He also wears a lot of purple,” Erin Shaw, The State’s features intern, pointed out. “I’m just saying he’s an exception.”
Fine, but he always looks good. What a man.