Tuesday, July 22, 2008


An ice-breaker, the opener, or a pickup line, regardless of the terminology used the introductory line has always been a source of mystery and intrigue. Love them or hate them, it is guaranteed you have uttered or heard them!

Those who have delivered a line with a shoe observation will know, it is undoubtedly a surefire way to get a woman’s attention and if executed with charismatic poise, it’s powerful stuff.

Having been on the receiving end of some pickup tsunamis, I am wondering if the shoe opener is given equitable gravity by the male population.

“Those shoes look so good, they’re about to turn up missing”. What kind of man says something like that? I wasn’t sure if he was about to roll me for them or if he was suggesting I let him try them on? Quite clearly, this sounded far better in his head than it did when it was verbalized.

Women will find a strong, confident (clearly heterosexual) man who can open with the line ‘love the Louboutins’, significantly impressive. While the glossy red sole is typically a dead giveaway, it takes a skilled eye to decipher a Louboutin from its mimics. Even if he gets it wrong, he’s made the effort, the shoe bond is made and the suitor is instantaneously at the forefront of his competitors.

Do men not understand that a woman will dress from the feet up without a second thought and be so delighted with their outfit of choice that it can dictate how the entire evening will materialize? How a woman feels when she dresses and the type of evening she plans on having can from time to time, be illustrated by her shoe of choice. The average girl is not going to slide on a pair of red satin stilettos to go home early, solo.

Men of the world listen up, a woman’s shoe can tell you far more than you give it credit for. If her shoe de jour isn’t a result of her emotions, it most certainly can guide them.

To verify this declaration take a woman wearing flats, pop her into a pair of sassy strappy sandals and watch that walk become a strut before your very eyes. If she’s wearing ballet flats to meet you for drinks, she’s telling you she is comfortable, girly and cute. If she turns up wearing a slick pair of patent platform peeps that dwarf most of whom are six feet tall, she seeking calculated domination and most certainly means business.

So we are clear this doesn’t apply to all women, just shoe gals. It takes a shoe enthusiast to understand the power of the Choo. If you are dealing with a shoe gal the number one rule to live by is; compliment the shoes, even if you don’t know your Hush Puppies from your Manolos, shoe praise will always be well received.

In the name of research, I embark on an excursion to a local hip bar. Popping on a delectable pair of patent platform Jimmy Choos a grey knit dress and a trench, I head off to the crowded establishment. Not wanting to make it too easy for them, my selection is a beige and black patent sandal. My shoes say groomed and confident with a dash of sexy.

I am with a girlfriend so I am not flying solo on this mission, which means to make an approach can be more treacherous, but I am determined to deploy the strong from the weak.

First cab off the rank is a slightly graying forty-five year old gent who announces, within the first two minutes I might add, that he has more money than God. When I question where he had the occasion to glance at God’s P&L, he gives me a look that accuses me of having a smart mouth, surveys the length of my body and says, ‘hot shoes’. In an attempt to reconcile his financial broadcast, I contemplate whether or not he has decided I like nice shoes and quite clearly am out seeking someone to buy them for me? In a gesture of peace, I offer to buy him a drink in our next round and am met with a venomous ‘Jeez, a woman with shoes like that, that wants to buy a drink for a bloke… that’s a first’. Handing him another Corona, we politely disembark from angry man and abscond to seek a more secure conversationalist.

The second contestant is groovy guy. A well put together guy in his mid thirties who opens with ‘So you’re obviously not from here’. Puzzled at his erroneous observation, I enquire as to why he would make such a prĂ©cis? ‘Women who live here just don’t dress like that’, he tells me. Clearly, he’s never met any of my friends.

Moving on to a new corner of the bar we are approached by Mr Smooth. Mr Smooth is thirty-one, attractive and fit, in a not-too-over-the-top way. One beam from his immaculately whitened teeth and it’s clear he is well rehearsed in such circumstances. He opens with, ‘You’re killing me with those shoes.’

Impressive. Really impressive. I envisage that countless women have been awed by Mr Smooth and I imagine that I am but another impending conquest. I would have been far more impressed had an associate attempting to get some wing-man action not informed me a mere five minutes earlier that Mr Smooth was getting married next Friday. See, what wing-man desires is the knowledge that Mr Smooth already has. The shoe compliment is gold.

So as not to confuse things it is important to note that there is such a thing as going too far with the shoe compliment and transitioning to creepy. Any peculiar admission about a foot fetish you may have is really, well, disturbing. Most women don’t want to know, under any circumstance, what you would do to her feet should she not be standing in the bar she is currently standing in. This is not smooth; it is disconcerting and is more likely to have a woman reaching into her handbag for a can of mace than it is her business card.

I have had the unfortunate occasion to appreciate what happens when foot fetishist meets shoe addict and it is all kinds of wrong!

As a treat, I am intermittently contacted by men who have read my columns and gleefully bound onto my website to further their research. Once on and faced with the gift of my email address, an insatiable desire to correspond and tell me all their dirty little foot fetish secrets apparently overwhelms them.

On the tame end of the spectrum was the thirty-nine year old man who read my column in Melbourne and emailed me to ask if I could send him a picture of my own foot in the pair of strappy gold bejeweled Jimmy Choos I was referring to herewith. To validate his request, he attached the scanned hardcopy version of the column in the publication, presumably in the event I forgot which specimens I was referring to?

Higher on the Richter scale was the twenty-five year old male who posted me a ten page diatribe outlining his shoe and foot loves, why he loves them and how he loves them… And yes, in this instance, ‘how’ is being used as a noun.

Not smooth. Not sexy. Just plain creepy.

A well executed shoe remark should have a touch of sexy or a dollop of humour. Don’t attempt to get too witty and distort the delivery, because what sounded first-rate internally may not come out as you anticipated and your good intentions may get lost in translation. There is a fine line between a woman throwing her head back with laughter and a woman tilting her head back to look for security.

Having scanned numerous male chat rooms and forums on the topic I can unquestionably advise not to carry out your research here. It is in these places I discovered such gems as; ‘Nice shoes, wanna screw?’ And ‘Nice shoes, but they’d look better on my floor’. Your buddies may find these comical but there is every chance serving this up to any self respecting woman may get you slapped!

The best place for you to pursue a line of investigation is with your female friends. Ask them for their thoughts and go from there. I can tell you emphatically that the shoe accolade is worth its weight in gold.

So Gentlemen, if you haven’t tried it give it a shot, what do you have to lose?

Tracey Gillinder

© Tracey Gillinder, 2008

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Thirty-five. There it is flashing indignantly in red LED.

Thirty-five is not a number most of us would usually be afraid of. It signals mid thirties, which is a thoughtful reminder that you do not yet have to deal with forty. It is the weight of a solid table, a vat of wine or a small child (and Nicole Richie). Not commonly a number to fear.

I had never considered I might fear thirty-five kilograms unless, of course, I unwittingly added them to my frame. That is until the number is flashing before me like a beacon alerting everyone of my indiscretion.

Not only is it flashing the numbers 35 in bright red LED, it is alternating this tattle tale with the word OVER in disingenuous capital letters.

Damn baggage restrictions!

Shrewdly believing I had solved the dilemma of appearing the quintessential spoilt princess I procure a suitcase big enough to conceal a decent size fridge, in a bid to avoid taking two, and have underestimated the weight of its contents.

Fitting enough couture inside to attend a cocktail party every night for a month, I zip it up with unfamiliar ease and celebrate my little victory with a cheeky glass of Sauvignon Blanc while congratulating myself on the limitless wardrobe choices I will be enjoying over the next ten days.

Sure, it's a little heavy and the taxi driver looks at me with disgust as I have to offer him assistance to lift it into the boot. Just put it in the car Pal, I'm not looking for judgment here. It has wheels for goodness sake. It's not like I'm asking him to carry it for me, just get it in the boot and be done with it. I know women who can bench press that weight you big baby.

Arriving in the midst of the airport’s early morning chaos I boldly stride to check-in and hoist my mammoth bag onto the conveyer belt. Distracted with locating my Frequent Flyer card and itinerary I almost don't notice the warning flashing before me.

'You'll have to fix that', comes the unimpressed tone of the woman behind the counter. ‘Fix what?' I reply puzzled, peering up at her steely gaze. The bag. It's over. You'll have to fix it. I feel my face turning crimson and break into an instantaneous sweat. Unsure of how I am going to remedy this problem I declare I have nowhere to put the surplus hoping she might let it slide.

An intensely serious woman in her fifties she is unimpressed at my response and rolls her eyes while whipping a small red, white and blue stripped bag from under her pedestal, shakes it with a loud flick and hands it to me. Start unloading, she demands unapologetic.

A male co-worker joins the judiciary and presents a level of empathy only a gay man could posses for such a situation and suggests I haul out a pair of shoes first. Unzipping my bag I hear some hecklers warming up in the queue and am horrified I have morphed from travel-chic to circus freak in less than five minutes.

I extract a pair of patent leather wedges from my bag and pop them on the scale, 1.3 kilos. Oh my God, I had no idea a single pair of shoes could weigh that much! 'There you go', comes my cheerleader’s reply, one more pair and you're off to the lounge. A pair of wood stacked platforms is the next one I can get my hands on and I consign them next to the wedges on the scale.

'Oh, she has to be kidding', sneers one of the hecklers 'where you off to honey, the Oscars?' I can take it no longer, ‘I appreciate, that a your shoe wardrobe probably contains one pair of RM Williams boots and one pair of Haviannas, but mine is a little more extensive', I sneer, 'so how about you do us all a favour and spare us the commentary, or shall I have this nice man fetch you a soapbox'?

Having caused a large enough scene, I remedy the baggage situation and retreat to the safe confines of the Lounge.

Further investigation leads me to discover the maximum weight of baggage can only go down if Unions, Workplace Health and Safety and baggage handlers have their way. Lower, are they serious? I appreciate the health concerns of those handling our wares but come on. If one pair of shoes is going to weigh 1.3 kilograms then we may be forced to limit our clothing or worse, our shoes, for any destination a plane is required.

A game has begun. A game that started innocently enough but is now an obsession. Baggage composition has become a strategic exercise involving laying out ones clothes in categories and envisioning shoe placement with each category. The greater the cross over between categories with the same shoe and bonus points are awarded. Only then can an utterly decadent and somewhat unpractical shoe can be added. These bonus points are best kept for the shoes you will only wear once, if at all, during the trip but feel you must have them with you anyway.

Once the contents of the baggage are determined, the bag can be packed and transported to the airport magistrate. No time for distractions now, the red LED numbers must be watched as intently as the super scale on The Biggest Loser, fluctuating from under to over and back again, finally reaching their destination of twenty-eight kilos – yes! A personal best for 2008.

Of course, this is a game that has to be played if the shoe addict within wants to exhibit her portfolio while abroad. Who wants to pop on that perfect dress without the perfect shoes for sunset cocktails, not me I can tell you!

I imagine that this is not a predicament the broader community of men will face. Questioning the males nearest and dearest to me, I am amazed at how little shoes factor into their packing equation. General consensus tells me that a dress boot, sneakers and maybe two pairs of casual and smart casual thongs is all they consider necessary.

Oh to be that nonchalant about the perils of living out of a suitcase. Most women on the other hand admitted to packing at least four days in advance and not considering any less than six pairs of shoes, which strangely, didn’t include the thongs they planned to take. I can only assume that thongs in shoe packing terms are equal to broken biscuits in diet terms, they don’t count.

In a vain attempt to blend into the background at the Lounge, I flick casually through the latest Vogue magazine and sip a glass of champagne. Resigned to the fact that every individual in the airport has witnessed my earlier humiliation I count down the minutes to boarding.

On the mere mention the plane is ready to board I spring up from my seat with enthusiasm that causes my mobile phone to go flying through the air and crash to the ground with an unforgiving thud. Retrieving the base and looking for the battery, a gentle man in his sixties approaches with his hand outstretched and surrenders my missing piece.

‘Thank you’, I manage as I scramble for the rest of my onboard luggage. ‘No, thank you’, he replies with a soft confidence reserved for men of his vintage, ‘You have made my day’. Witnessing the obvious confusion this proclamation brings me he smiles and admits he has packed six pairs of shoes for a three day business trip to Los Angeles. ‘You just never know, what might pop up’, he says.

‘Exactly’, I say, feeling vindicated. Anything could happen!


© Tracey Gillinder, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

BACK OFF SISTER! The Mummy Mafia versus Six Inch Stilettos

“They're not particularly appropriate now are they”?

To solicit this type of remark one may think my clothing of choice was French knickers for today's event but this is not the case. Appropriate how, came my reply? 'Well, we are at a Kindergarten morning tea now aren't we” shot back the other mummy. Had I just been reprimanded by someone else’s mother?

“Oh, I apologize; I was unaware that Kindy morning teas had a shoe code of conduct”. A tutt and a head shake from the enemy and I am instantly relegated to rebel status.

Let me start from the beginning.

There is an outlandish set of unpublished regulations compiled and governed by a select faction of mother's in modern day society. A set of guidelines all women who transcend from happy-go-lucky single gal to married woman with child are encouraged to follow.

Which political party prepared these rules and who made them superior you may ask? Quite frankly, I don't recall voting them in.

My initiation to this bizarre sect came when I was about seven and a half months pregnant. Looking as glamourous as humanly possible for a woman in that state, I was cleverly concealing my ever-expanding girth in a stylish black ensemble. I was not experiencing any foot swelling and given I wasn't large enough to fit into my husband's pants, I was fairly confident I was doing okay. In a bid to feel somewhat glamourous and chic, I had teamed said black number with a pair of utterly stunning six inch stilettos.

Having effortlessly pulled off the look for an hour, I was confused when asked by random mother-of-two, when I was going to quit the heels and get my haircut. Aghast at her reference to both my shoes de jour & my locks I ask why she would say such a thing.

Apparently, it is just not 'done' that a woman in her later child-bearing state should wear a heel at all, let alone a six inch stiletto. Completely ignoring the hair rule for fear she would tell me it was going to fall out anyway, I simply enquired as to what I should be wearing? “Oh, a nice sensible court shoe at most” came her reply.

I'm sorry, what? A court shoe? Do women under the age of 40 still wear court shoes? Kitten heel or ballet flat, but court shoe? I don't think so!

Consequently I have discovered that these shoe rules transcend pregnancy and go right through to the younger years of motherhood. Enter the Kindergarten Mummy Mafia. To date I have discovered that these women wear, ballet flats, courts, kitten heels and bejeweled sandals so I run with the assumption that these are all acceptable.

Unfortunately for them, this is not my modus operandi. I wear heels. Big ones. A lot. I adore my ballet flats and the occasional sandal, but for the most part I wear heels. Given they are not the transparent Perspex platform variety I’m a little puzzled as to what the big issue is?

It's a heel. Not a leather corset and a bondage whip!

Apologies to the Mummy Mafia but I didn't get the memo! These guidelines weren't published in my copy of What to Expect When Your Expecting.

Had these regulations been in some kind of pre-motherhood contract I am here to tell you that I would have been negotiating the finer points of my stilettos. There is no way I would have sold out on these terms.

As a result, I am determined to prove my point at every available opportunity. I do not, and will not, conform to such ridiculous fashion constraints. Besides, I am dropping my child off to Kindergarten not working there for the day. It's not like I climb the playground slide in my heels, although I am confident I could.

This has clearly become a them versus us issue and as such I have found myself lobbying other mothers who look at my shoe of choice on any given day with a hint of melancholy. Don't worry; you too can wear these shoes, its okay! You are not going to have an indecency wrap smacked on you. It's not bearing four inches of cleavage they're heels for goodness sake!

In the car park a mother sighs at the sight of my six inch Chanel platforms; love the shoes, they remind me of my former life. Former life? Is she in the footwear protection program, unable to wear any shoes reminiscent of her life BC (before children)?

I was always of the opinion there were two types of people in this world, those who got the shoe thing and, well, men. Problem here is that we have a grey area. These women still love their shoes; they have just been bullied into believing motherhood negates their right to wear them. A ludicrous notion to say the least!

This makes for the worst kind of enemy. Like the smoker who has recently given up smoking and is proudly bearing an imaginary medal racking up ninety days. Many have become unapologetic crusaders for fresh air. Not being a smoker, I applaud their new found gusto, but the shoe thing I don’t get. Just because they've decided they can no longer wear them, doesn't give them the right to barrel over those who don't subscribe to this belief.

Upon further investigation I discover that shoes aren’t the only matter the Mummy Mafia takes issue with. There is the stay at home mothers versus the working mothers; the ones who wear too much make up versus the ones who go natural; and finally there are the ones who like their husbands versus the ones who don’t. Get caught up in more than one of these issues and you are in for all out war.

Infringement punishments range from disapproving stares to total social exile, and not just for the mother but for the child. While extreme cases have caused children to move institutions, for the most part the insurgent mother will merely put up with stern whispers and critical stares.

What happened to good old fashioned sisterhood?

When did mothering become a competitive sport? Who can look better than who post children, whose children are smarter, taller or prettier? Women of the world need to stop blaming magazines and celebrities for this insane cutthroat one-upmanship and turn their attention to the packs that hunt in Kindergarten car parks. They are the ones advocating this nonsensical behaviour.

The sisterhood of mothering should be one of compassion, support and good humour. We all have to deal with most of the same issues, who cares whether we do it in ballet flats or stilettos? A child won’t discriminate when they throw up their birthday party sugar excess all over your shoes!

Sadly, this utopic form of sisterhood does not exist and while it would be nice to believe this situation is going to change, it seems it is here to stay.

To this end I have just one piece of advice. Walk confidently, hold your head high, smile, and put one stunning six inch heel after the other.

© Tracey Gillinder, 2008