‘I Love a White Shoe’

posted in: Family, Fashion 6
White shoe, c. 1950. Image: Wikipedia.


Some months ago, my sister told us a story about a very special sweater.

It’s one of my favorite posts of all time (perhaps because it’s in my sister’s voice) and it had a life outside the ol’ PG, actually; I shaped the text into proper monologue form, tweaked/polished it, and then shared it in a writing seminar last semester. Just like you, my cohort was charmed by my younger sister’s fashion concerns.

Well, there’s more where that came from.

The other day, sifting through WikiCommons (the site where I get all the strange-but-free images you see on PaperGirl), I found the above picture of a white shoe. I think it’s a terrific picture on its own, but it’s really terrific because it made me think instantly of my sister Rebecca, because Rebecca loves a white shoe. In fact, that’s how she said it to me one day:

“I love a white shoe.”

Now, that’s a thing we say. We say, “I love a white shoe.”

What you have to know is that my sister didn’t say this in a dreamy, effusive kind of way. She didn’t see a pair of white shoes and go, “Oh! I looooove a white shoe!!!”

It was more matter-of-fact. Rebecca spied a pair of white shoes — I’ll get to what kind in a minute — and said it like it was a foregone conclusion, like it was a truth held to be self-evident. “I love a white shoe.” And then she probably pursed her lips, shrugged, and respectfully put the shoes back on the rack. Because that particular white shoe? At that particular time? Hm. Maybe not.

But it wasn’t just the tone, the inflection of her “white shoe” comment that made it so meme-y for us. There was intriguing syntax going on, as well. My sister didn’t say, “I love white shoes.” She said, “I love a white shoe.” There was something awfully aristocratic about it. Very landed gentry. She said “I love a white shoe” as though we all have so many pairs of the same kind of shoe (e.g., Red Shoes, Paisley Shoes, Pom-Pon Shoes, etc.), that when considering an outfit, it makes perfect sense to say, “I think a white shoe. Don’t you? I do love a white shoe.”

What’s crazy is that for my sister, saying this does make sense. Not because she’s a wealthy landowner in 19th century Britain who lives off the rental properties she owns (see: landed gentry), but because she has this incredible style and the most extraordinary luck finding cool white shoes. Rebecca’s white shoe is a cool white shoe, the kind of shoe I do not even notice when I’m looking for “shoe.” Rebecca doesn’t wear white pumps (eek), or bright-white sneakers. No, my sister finds cool shoes in her shopping excursions and these shoes are frequently white. The shoe is often canvas/leather and has a touch of hardware on it, but never much; maybe a clasp. Maybe a small clasp. The shoes she finds are minimalist, you might say, designed by Opening Ceremony, or Jason Wu, or some obscure Italian footwear designer no one has ever heard of. She gets everything on sale, too, and usually on clearance because not everyone can pull of a white shoe, so they languish on the rack.

Rebecca wears a white shoe with dark clothes. I can’t figure out how she manages to make it so chic, but she does. Dark sweater, dark pants, neutral jacket … white shoe.

“Rebecca,” I ask her. “How do you do it? What’s your secret?”

My sister just makes the “What can I say?” gesture. She puts on her Ray-Bans. She takes a sip of her beverage and her beverage is something sparkly. “I love a white shoe,” she says.

And she wiggles her feet.