Once upon a time, we wound up in Milan during Fashion Week.

Alex favors Pitt t-shirts and Levis, (mine are Levis, funky shirt, and hiking sandals). He had no idea what Fashion Week mean. I knew and cringed since I am so not that woman. Everything I travel with gets stuffed into a Junior Weekender e-Bag:  sandals, hikers, limited hair products, mascara, and face powder. No curling iron, flat iron, or iron for that matter.

Being surrounded by dressed-to-the-nines women and men wasn’t something I happily anticipated. However, I’ve gotta say that for one Sunday afternoon … it was fun to see the parade of fashions and wonder again: How do they walk in those heels?

Make no Mistake, I Found the Shoes Most Interesting 

This is humorous because I am so not a fashionista in any way. Seven years working in retail did not endear me to clothes shopping. The last huge shopping expedition I had during my corporate career, involved swinging into J.C. Penney’s on my lunch hour. (Back when they sold professional attire.) I gathered anything in my size that was even a little appealing, checked out, and carted it home. The next day three-quarters of it went back not fitting or looking ugly. So, clothes shopping, yech.

What I do Love, Though, is a New Pair of Shoes

A girlfriend was showing me something in her closet and I asked what was in the 80+ shoe boxes stacked on the shelves. She looked confused and answered, Shoes, what else? Eighty plus pairs of shoes. I had no comprehension. I have no comprehension. Now, if owning a zillion shoes is your weakness, more power to you. Keep in my mind sock fetish

I, however, at my highest, owned 25 pairs of shoes. That included winter boots—one dress, one practical, summer sandals, and flip flops. Oh, and slippers. That’s a shoe, right? I like to thoroughly, completely, and with great gusto, destroy shoes before replacing them. Hikers through hiking? They become mowing shoes. Last year’s mowers are tossed.

One of the (many?) things I was legendary for as a kid was walking as if I weighed as much as The Rock. Yep, I’d traipse through the house, a parent would be in the basement and yell up: Stop pounding your feet! Huh, I’d say, I’m just walking. Little kid, big noise—rather like me as a adult. Ha.

Clothes Shopping, no. Shoes Shopping, Yes

Sadly, my nearby REI store closed, but happily Squirrel Hill boasts Littles Shoes of Pittsburgh. What a selection shoes! Guess what else they have? Real sales people! Like, real people who help you pick out the right shoes, the correct fit, the whole shebang! After catching their ad on Facebook for Jerry Garcia splotched Keen hiking sandals, I assessed: how old are the current ones (2016), how many trips have they been on (at least 20*), and how worn out are they? Dead, dead, dead. (*Hikes in Italy, Wales 2x, Hawaii, New York, Montana+++, Virginia, DC, AZ, our 2017 road trip west, GA, FL. Unlike the trekking poles I adhere travel stickers to, I don’t know how to do that to shoes and sandals. Yet.

Why do I have a thing for penny loafers? Did I have penny loafers? I dunno, but when I tracked a pair down, Dad loaded them up with shiny pennies. The shoes are long gone, but sentimental me still has the pennies. 

Penny Loafers with pennies
Dad put pennies in my loafer

I got hooked on Keen sandals at least four pairs ago—the soles are thick and sturdy enough to stand up to me. That’s impressive. In the airport on my way to Montana, I espied a gal my age sporting cool hikers. I had to ask—Oboz, originated and still HQ’d in Bozeman, Montana. By now, I’ve lost track of how many pairs of Oboz I’ve demolished. And trust me, it takes sheer determination, or just being RM, to wear out an Oboz. Alex, weighing nearly 100 lbs more than me (okay, okay 80 lbs) wears Oboz outlasting mine. What can I say? Maybe heavy trodding is my way of making sure to impact the planet while I’m here. Oboz generally have high arches, which means replacing the insoles. But the new Sawtooths I’m walking around in have been perfect from day one. 

Shoes are Tied to Memories

Walking around in these colorful hiking sandals prompted a memory of getting new shoes when we were little kids. At the start of the school year, we had an exciting trip to the Thom McAn store in downtown Johnstown. This is back in the day when Thom’s was its own store with a vast family selection. Not the current racks tucked into crevices at K-Mart and Sears—if you can find one of those open. An outing to Thom McAn’s was a thrill. We each got one new pair of dress shoes to start the year. Our mom would usually utter a prayer, please don’t let them grow out of these before they’ve worn them out. After that, we’d pop over to K-Mart and pick up a pair of Keds—still one of the coolest, simplest looking shoes ever.  

Lest you think, what? Only two pairs of shoes? We country kids were hard-pressed to wear shoes when playing outside. Our big yard saw us barefoot as often as possible. Poor Mom. We’d get our nightly bath and she’d say, “Your feet turned the bottom of the tub black!” Yes, yes, they did.

The other day, Jackie and I discussed flip-flops—a “shoe” that I abhor. I hate these shoes anywhere and everywhere except for poolside or on a beach. Whatever idiot decided flip-flops, like sweat pants, were okay for public wearing—well, I deplore you, okay? Rant aside, I’ve never been very good at walking with that thingy-doodle between my toes. I finally found a pair without that whatchacallit and cart them with me if there’s a water-connected event going on. I still hate them.

More Preferred Footwear

Give me flat shoes. Spoil me with leather! Win the lottery, I don’t have a lot of things I’d want to suddenly own. But oh, to have a pair of handmade-just-for-me-Italian-leather shoes! Wow.

Back to the stunning array of foot wear we saw during Fashion Week … Do I admire the skill it takes to traverse Milan’s stone streets in heels? Oh yes. I can no longer walk in heels even on a flat surface. Wonder why I ever bothered trying to master the skill. Give me these snazzy Jerry Garcia Keen Hiking Sandals any day of the week.


Read: How to pack for Italian hiking or the Flavors of Florence