Friday, June 13, 2008

Bootiful Memories

A New Zealand reader commented:
"Boots are great because they're warm(ish), cover your calves if you don't like your calves, and I guess they make me feel like a grownup. Probably because I remember my mother wearing them in the 70s and thinking she was so cool."

Like it or not, our mothers do influence our perception of what is acceptable attire. Mothers, did you know your appearance matters to your daughters? Here's a story of a mother's bootiful influence.

David and Isabel farewell their wedding guests, May 1972.

My mother loves boots. Her favourites were white, "Wonderful in the wet and when you were on playground duty," she says as she recalls her early teaching career. She wanted to wear them as part of her going away outfit on her wedding day, but they didn't look new enough to go with the suit she'd made, so she bought a new pair. A confident seamstress, she made most of her own clothes and this suit was the latest in style.

I never saw the white boots, but I do remember a black, fleece-lined pair with a stacked wedge heel 4 or 5cm high. A weary mother of six, she didn't often wear heels. She looked oh-so smart when she wore those boots, though. Then came the extra-ordinary occasion when she let me wear them.

At a time when slouch socks and pristine white lace-up sport shoes were a new and trendy thing, I wore unscrunchable knee-high socks and strange lavender kung-fus or dark lace-up shoes with my skirts. Neither the skirts nor the socks ever seemed long enough to keep me warm. We lived in an immense old house, only heating a couple of living areas where we spent most of our time. Feeling warm in winter was a haphazard affair.
One day when I was 13, Dad was to drive me to the city where I would spend the week helping with a children's holiday program. Mum offered her boots to keep my tootsies warm. I'd chosen for the rest of my 'going away' outfit a brushed drill, denim blue skirt and matching jacket that some kindly, unknown city family had passed on to us when their daughter outgrew it. It wasn't warm enough to wear around home, but it was store-bought. I was game to wear it now because I wanted to look smart. With the boots instead of trainers, I certain didn't look my usual self. I was thrilled. I would be staying with a family I didn't know and the outfit helped my confidence a great deal. When we arrived there, a Kent fireplace raised inside temperatures to a summer-like swelter. The boots quickly unzipped, leaving me in my long socks again, but I got a kick out of just seeing them there, floppy but very much mine for the week.

That was the only time I wore the black boots (until I purchased my own at 18). They died shortly thereafter. Mum replaced them with a low-heeled brown suede pair more practical to her lifestyle, which remained exclusively her domain -- we weren't a family inclined toward wardrobe-loaning or -borrowing. Eventually the brown suedes died as well. A millenium trip to Canada found the best pair yet -- white suede Hush Puppies with quilted lining and a label proclaiming "Waterproof/Imperméable". They'll last forever, which is a good thing, because "White ones," she says, "only come every so often."

This year my tom-boy sister Sarah surprised everyone by showing up in white 3-inch (7.5cm) heeled boots. At 28, she'd never worn heels before and her boot adventures had strictly adhered to the rubber kind. (Curiously, she's the same age Mum was when she got her first white pair. Sarah insists that hers are cream, not white, but that kind of spoils my analogy here.)

She says the boots enable her to walk with a more feminine gait -- that is, they shorten her vigourous stride. They look very stylish, too -- something folks aren't used to associating with her. She's enjoying their amazement very much.

She's also very happy about the price. She got them at Number 1 Shoes for NZ$40 -- no chance of real leather at that price, but a bargain's a bargain, right?

Did you mother wear boots? Your grandmother? Ask them about it. You may be surprised at what stories come out. And one thing's for sure: boots have always been loved!

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