Pedestrian Lincoln Road, a guest post by Jennifer Hurst
Lincoln Road is crowded this temperate Saturday evening with sunburned, fleshy tourists, cigarette-smoking, bony beauties, muffin-topped teens, movie-bound families, stylish dogs and strollered children. The pedestrian open-air mall now rents to the expected names, GAP, Williams-Sonoma, Macy’s, (it is a mall, after all) but is anchored by an architectural adventure in the form of a parking garage. On a night like this food is eaten al fresco, and we watch each other as much as we eye the merchandise. This is a part of town where purchasers sometimes have to pull out a second credit card after the first has been declined.
I’ve been icked-out by feet and shoes lately and so, of course, I’m drawn to them. 1999 was the first year women at my employer, Northern Trust, were permitted to wear pants in the Miami office, and that only after a fashion show of dos and don’ts. Until the millennium, for women, the uniforms required knee-length dresses or skirts, hose and closed shoes. Peep toes are now officially permitted in the written code, but in spite of all the rules, toes are being revealed at Northern Trust. Shoes represent the slippery slope, and Lincoln Road is a parade of don’ts.
My friend Jane, who babysat me through months of my second husband’s dying and the following concentrated grieving for him, told me one long evening when she had nearly run out of stories to entertain me, that she had never seen her mother’s toes. Esther always wore slippers or closed-toed shoes. I thought of my mother’s feet after the day’s miles of waitressing freed from white brogans propped on an ash-tray-strewn, laminated coffee table, the smell like stale, damp popcorn, her nails tenting up the reinforced toes of her Supp-hose.
Lincoln Roadians use their feet as declarations of style and coolness more than mechanisms of propulsion. The 84-degree evening was dry for land so near the ocean. Crowds were out in commercially desirable numbers. Sidewalk cafes had few tables available. Though the black shod, rubber-soled wait staffs were active, they also had time to check their Blackberries and iPhones.
Three-story-tall cypress trees, draped with imported Spanish moss, trees which i thought when they were installed were dead, had been alive all along, and relaxed under full evergreen foliage. Thirty palm varieties with pinnate and palmate fronds, designer-lit from strategic angles, provided that regional, identifying silhouette against the dark sky. Hostesses in six-inch heels with narrow waists and deep vee necklines beckoned passersby to eat at Balans, or Pashas, or da Leo’s, or Tiramisu.
After my dinner of chunky gazpacho and vegan black bean hummus, from my vantage point in the Books and Books breezeway, I sipped decaf and quartered a Michy’s chocolate cupcake with inch-thick blue frosting and pearl-toned sprinkles as I judged the feet.
Young girls (which from my 60-year-old perspective is anyone under 40) this year wear a lot of toe-revealing, but heel- and ankle-concealing, sandals, decorated with metal chains, buckled straps and draped leather. There are clots of single women, theme-dressed as if they consulted before heading out. Three Donatella-like blondes float by in empire-waist, floor-length, bra-topped dresses, with fabric occasionally clinging to reveal thong-lines. They wear strappy, metallic-toned, flat sandals and perfect French pedicures. Duets of women, bosoms bursting from tight bodices, bare their jiggling thighs and totter on toe-pinching spiked platforms, always black. Their gait is hobbled by the structure of their footwear, their behinds ostrich-like. They stare after the postured models in strappy, platformed stilettos. Few carry shopping bags.
Footwear for men appears comfortable and utilitarian; sneakers range from elegant and form-fitting to scuffed and misshapen. The gray-coifed men wear expensive suede loafers, with buttons of tread for soles, or shined mocs to accompany their symphony-audience clothes. On their arms are women with bee-stung lips, streaked hair, and gym-toned bare arms in leopard (or is it cheetah?)-spotted flats or Chanel platform wedges.
Younger men whose fashion statements are limited by their budgets sport leather loafers worn a few too many times with elongated points ending some inches from their actual toes, the tips curling like elf slippers.
Shorts-wearing men of a certain ages sport sandals below hairless ankles worn bare by years of corporate socks. Twenty per cent of the shoppers wear flip-flops, rubber, leather, or plastic. These show toes calloused, hammered, jointed, stubby, dominant, recessive, bulbous or bony, with nails revealing various degrees of grooming. Some half-inch knife-protruding toenails remind me of idle Chinese monarchs, others are cut back to cartoonish ovals. The teenagers and twenty-somethings wear fluorescent or funereal polish; the rest of the women wear Mr. Lincoln rose red or fairy princess pale pink.
There are earth shoes, deck shoes, his and her trainers, fluorescent high-tops, knee-high leather boots with shot-glass-shaped heels, black and white Adidas shower shoes, and precarious mules. Even some of the dogs wear shoes.
When archaeologists reconstruct bipedal hominids, I wonder whether they get the real variety of foot shapes that must have existed then as now.
Me? I wear crocs whenever I can to relieve bone spur heel pain from years of wearing stupid shoes. For special occasions, though, I have adorable, pink-ribboned platform wedged espadrilles that ballerina-weave up to tie mid-calf. I also have them in blue.
When not settling estates for a local trust department, Jennifer Hurst is a reader and perennial writing course student from Miami Beach.