Late last September I found myself in a most unusual predicament. Due to a massive breakdown in communication with my parents and the movers, my entire shoe closet was accidentally packed up and put into storage amongst 243 other identical boxes. The movers refused to go hunting and so I was left with the pair of sneakers I was wearing and oddly, four pairs of Birkenstocks they had neglected to pack. My initial reaction was utter panic (I may have shed a couple hundred tears) but soon after, calmness descended and all I felt was the oddest sense of relief.
At boarding school I wore standard black Dr Martens 1461s five days a week—our strict uniform codes negating any margin for one-upmanship. The benefits of limited choice are in fact, liberating. What I found when I didn’t have a fully stocked library to choose from was that it took me a lot less time to get ready in the morning. More importantly, I also felt far less self conscious when having to get dressed; I didn’t have to think of when I was last seen in a certain pair of shoes because I didn’t have a choice—I only had one pair of shoes.
The day after the moving debacle, I made a quick dash into Dr Martens in Pavilion and got myself a pair of 1461s in a smooth black with contrast yellow stitching. I’ve worn them almost every day since September last year, occasionally interspersed with a pair of Birkenstocks (when I find myself too hungover for shoelaces). In the beginning, reaching for my one pair of Docs filled me with a sense of melancholy; the emptiness of the shoe closet matched the emptiness in my heart. As the weeks dragged on, I found that I began to care less and less about what people thought of what I wore, or whether I fit in.
Fashion is a funny place in that while its denizens are a motley crew of misfits, outsiders and in-betweeners, it can also be the most viciously judgmental industry. Not having shoes showed me that it was enough that I loved my pieces and that I felt comfortable in what I wore. I didn’t feel the need to compete with my peers to have the best, biggest, brightest or most Instagram-worthy—my lack of options allowed (forced) me to be comfortable with what I did have. I also found that my shopping philosophy has been ever so slightly altered. I no longer make as many impulsive buys—rather, I give myself time to deliberate and think about how much I love a piece and how it will fit into my wardrobe. Oddly, I find myself focussing on variations of a theme, harking back to a time when I had less decisions to make and no bills to pay.
My boxes are due to arrive next week and with it, my precious shoes. The first thing I shall do when I receive them is a serious edit of my collection. I am dedicated to doing away with extraneous materials in my wardrobe and am looking forward to a massive cull. I have given much thought to the fundamentals of my closet and in my head, I’ve boiled it down to the essentials of what I feel comfortable in and most importantly, what I feel represents me. Once the wardrobe is done, I am looking to apply the same practices to my social media and then hopefully, to my social life. In essence, what I have learned from losing my shoes is that I no longer need 10,000 shiny things to occupy my life and to keep me entertained. I don’t need to hold on to things for the sake of nostalgia or because of a path we may have walked together in a distant past; I prefer to think of my heart as a forever home, not a halfway house. Autonomy and a capable mind afford me my own decisions and for now, mine is to separate the wheat from the chaff and to hold on only to things that matter. And to those who don’t make the cut: bye, Felicia.
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