And the Bridal Party Wore Flip-Flops (Ugh)

From Crocs to toe shoes, fretting over footwear.

I was at two weddings recently where most of the young women wore flip-flops all the way to walking into the ceremony, and then put on their six-inch stiletto-heel, platform-at-the-toe shoes, for the ceremony. They simply walked in carrying their $2.50 Old Navy flip-flops, clutched in the same hand as their special occasion beaded handbags. They switched back to their flip-flops as soon as they walked out of the ceremony.

Sure, I’ll look for any reason to feel superior to girls in their twenties in skin-tight sheaths, but I have to admit, this flip-flopping into flip-flops did not look hot, it looked, well, silly. Not to mention how they looked when trying to walk in their heels: stumble-staggering with their hips thrust too far forward or too far back, legs shaking a bit with each step, not sweet and endearing like a doe on new legs, but awkward and clumsy, like Lena Dunham at the Emmy’s. I snicker, in my Aerosole wedges, and tell myself that confidence and the ability to walk, are sexy.

I have a kind of weird hubris and strong philosophies about footwear: 1) I take actual pride in being able to find shoes and boots that are awesome, but are comfortable and that I can run up and down subway steps in. 2) I feel like the footwear makes the outfit, i.e. boots matter. 3) I’m not one to don sneakers for the commute; I’d look like a spaz. 4) I don’t think people should wear flip-flops to work or out for the evening—they are just too casual and cheap.

About an hour into the reception, a buzz took over the crowd: Free flip-flops were available in the ladies’ room for all the female guests, baskets of them. Women squealed as if they were in the midst of an Oprah giveaway moment.

My daughters made a beeline and came back with three pairs. I thought I’d just keep them tied together with ribbon—the first practical wedding favor ever. I was comfortable in my strippy-strappy, three-inch wedges. But then, the dancing started and women were putting on their flip-flops, the bride, the bridal party, the cousins. You know those girls who had already changed into the flips they brought with them? They tossed them under the table with their heels in exchange for the new white flip-flops, everyone giggling and preening and comparing, even though it was the same shoe.

Footwear is personal. The other day on the train there were many more feet on display than shod, and those feet were in various states of cleanliness, nail upkeep, and general grossness. I feel pretty neutral about feet I guess, but I thought of how people who are skeeved by feet must not be able to use public transportation in the summer months.

I am skeeved not by feet, but by both toe shoes and Crocs. When I see very little kids in Crocs, I feel bad for them—as I do for kids who sport mullets or rat tails. How dare their parents impose such poor taste upon them. Yeah, sure I wore jellies in the ’80s, but they came in many colors and variations, and most importantly, they cost less than $5, so you threw them away when they started to stink. Crocs average $35 and make every wearer look like (an ugly) duck.

Good Housekeeping just released a study about the dangers of Crocs. Apparently, those wide-ass shoes, so much wider than anyone’s real feet—let’s hope—get “sucked up” along the sides of escalators, and people have been getting injured. A business report says Croc sales are down. I can only wave a stewardess “Bye bye. Bye bye now.”

Toe shoes, on the other hand, might be gaining in popularity. Since the original Vibram, at least six other manufacturers make them, and sales have flourished.

There’s a professor at work who wears them and students tell me they can barely make it through class. A friend of mine claims that she gets so physically ill from seeing them, and she doesn’t even have a naked foot aversion, but she has left both elevators and restaurants when a wearer has appeared in her eyeline.

My boyfriend, Mike, was in one of my daughter’s student films. He had to lay on top of an instructor from my gym (who is an amateur actress and a friend) and pretend they were having sex in a car. He teased me a lot about the impending experience. When she showed up for the shoot, she was wearing toe shoes. His high excitement levels went right “down” (wuh wuh wuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh).

I have always felt pretty lucky about my own feet. A size six, I’ve always been able to score big on the clearance racks. My two daughers and I wear the same size, so they were able to borrow my shoes for special occasions, and we have our own basket of flip-flops in every color imaginable in the downstairs closet. At the wedding reception, I danced a few songs in my wedges, holding onto my individuality, stubborn in my conviction to fashion. How could I wear a pair of $2 flips with my $158 Donna Karan but-got-it-for-$17.99 dress? But soon, and after a tequila shot from the ice sculpture fountain, I found myself snipping the ribbon on my own pair of white flips, and joining the community of rubber-wearing dancers. All hail the flip-flop.