Yesterday afternoon I played hookey from work for a couple of hours. I got a manicure with a beauty voucher I’d received then called into the supermarket for some flowers and edible goodies. While there, I noticed that the new clothing section had a large display of slippers. Useful, I thought, as I’d binned my past-their-best pair last week and had been suffering from chilly feet ever since.
My excitement at the array on offer soon diminished as the first cursory glance revealed that I didn’t really like any of them. Am I fussy about slippers? I am fussy about everything I wear. I take a strange pride in being very particular about my clothing. No pattern. No scratchy fabrics. Nothing requiring a strapless bra. No tops cut lower than my handily placed mid left bosom mole (this particular stipulation makes me on trend according to the latest Vogue declaration, although not everyone agrees).
Stood between fleecy pyjamas and equally fleecy footwear, I realised that I am just as precious about slippers. Pattern and supercharged embellishment – my worst nightmares – ran amok over the thirty something options to choose from. I tried to cajole myself with rallying thoughts (‘Oh I can live with festive themed Fair Isle in dayglow colours’) but to no avail. I must have looked like a shoplifter as I repeatedly tried on the same pair to see if I could tolerate self-coloured grey diamantes. Turns out the answer is no, nor could I even bring myself to remove the jaunty Fair Isle number from the wrack.
In the end the bootees that seemed most subtle won the day. I reasoned that I could not bother and look elsewhere instead, but the warmth of this pair was indisputable and I didn’t want to face any more days with icy cold feet tucked under my desk. Sitting at my desk now, I can confirm that yes, my purchase was a good call on the comfort front; my toes are toasty. The other advantage of my slippers being under my desk is that I can’t see them. In the cold light of day, away from the supermarket’s strip lighting and the even-more-gaudy rivals, I can clearly see that these are not to my taste. They are not my style at all. My feet may be warm but so are my cheeks with a slight glow of embarrassment every time I catch sight of them.
What is so wrong with them? They feel too silly, too frivolous, too girly. I favour a darker, plain moccasin shoe design. These have pattern and multicolour and fur and pompoms and bows and bright soles. They are not a serious slipper. I feel strangely like I’m wearing a fairground prize on each foot.
Crucially these slippers challenge my most treasured self-image. It may seem like a ridiculous overstatement, but wearing something so far removed from my usual aesthetic feels like my sense of self has gone awry. I treasure an image of myself as sophisticated and even if I don’t hit that mark, it is the ideal that I unconsciously aspire to. One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received is that I was immaculate. So who am I if I wear these blue, white and pink fluffy numbers?
If you’re wondering what I’m on about, think of your closest friends, people you love and value. Now imagine spending a day wearing their clothes. Feel crazy? That’s what I’m getting at. It’s like I’ve borrowed someone else’s slippers. They are fun and silly in the best sense, and on another person I would probably admire them. However what about on me?
I’m wondering if the slippers are a prompt to play with being other, to experiment with pushing my comfort zone around my appearance and even character – because let’s be honest, being so fastidious about what I wear isn’t always much fun. I get very uptight about the subject. Maybe the slippers can help me to ease off, to relax, to not pressure myself so intensely about every aspect of how I am. Perhaps they are providing a much needed lesson in not having to always strive for perfection, a curse that afflicts many of us. So I’m going to see if I can learn to live with them. I may need to snip off the pompoms though.
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