Saturday, April 05, 2008

If the shoe fits

Pointure à la ligne! In this month’s Marie Claire, French journalist David Abiker reflects on his wife’s wall of shoes. And on French men’s and women’s relationships with women’s shoes.

I realize as I'm reading his column that in English we don’t have an equivalent verb for chausser, to put on or wear shoes. Shod, which is more befitting of a horse, doesn’t even come close. We don’t have a separate word for “shoe size,” which is pointure in French. The French relationship with shoes, according to Abiker, is another world.

So before you slip on your Birkenstocks or head to your Imelda Closet of Shame, here are a few of the salient points of his essay to ponder.

1. His wife’s wall of shoes is the architecture of her life, in a way. French women don’t buy just a shoe, he claims. They “put their foot in a parallel universe,” a life in color, to create a story, paint a picture. A woman's shoe is an intimate reflection of her femininity.

2. According to his brief survey, French men like on women:
1) high heels 2) tall boots 3) high heels. Period.

Why? It rounds the curve of the derrière, emphasizes the chest.

3. He says, “For girl-watching in the streets, all I have to do is follow a shoe. The other day I was awestruck by a high-heeled boot that I saw emerging from a big leather Gestapo-style trench coat. I didn’t even see her face. Didn’t even see the boot. I saw a movement and the drape of fabric on an insolent calf, heading across the crosswalk. Sometimes just a brief nothing is enough to drive me wild.”

Speculating on what other men are thinking of his wife while she’s at work, he muses, “Is that colleague watching her cross her legs and eyeing all the way to the tip of her shoe? Bastard!”

4. Abiker admits that sometimes he’d like to see his wife wear a pair of fire-engine-red patent-leather hooker heels, rather than the latest trendy pair of sober grey strappy pumps. But its more important for her to love the shoes she’s wearing. It affects – creates -- her mood, her allure.

5. He says “I can’t conceive of a woman being mal chaussée.” In general, worn or damaged shoes are simply unappealing. “It pains me,” he says, “ to see a woman wearing shoes that aren’t pretty. In every Frenchman there lies a Prince Charming waiting to help Cinderella find her perfect shoe.”

6. Ballerina flats: “Though I realize they are the latest fashion, at first I didn’t like them: no curves, no legs, no breasts.” Ditto for fat furry boots. But he says part of the appeal of any woman is when she knows she’s looking good. Makes the men want to run after her!

7. Simply put, the shoe makes the leg. And a François Truffaut line from The Man Who Loved Women:

Les jambes des femmes sont des compas qui arpentent le globe terrestre en tous sens, lui donnant son équilibre et sont harmonie.”

"Women’s legs are like compass points, circling the globe in every sense and giving it its balance and harmony."
illustration from Marie Claire

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