Few things can match the comfort of switching into a pair of plush sneakers, that make you question the ethics of the footwear industry, for selling torture packaged as fashion for women. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against women who can trot around in stilettos with elan all day long. More power to the amazing souls who jump from one local train to another, climb multiple flights of stairs and basically power through their life in a pair of footwear that I can’t manage to walk a few metres in, let alone a mile. Which is why the sight of US Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris campaigning in sneakers always gets a nod from me.
A lot has been written about Kamala Harris’ sartorial choices for the 2020 election campaign. Opting for pantsuits over skirts and pearl jewellery over diamonds, Harris has successfully managed to distinguish herself and seems relatable. However, it is her sneakers that seem relatable on a personal level to me. For years, I have watched my mother wear what we commonly call “sports-shoes” under a saree to work every day. Being a primary school teacher, she spends her day running up and down numerous flights of stairs, from one class to another.
For her, the comfort that shoes, bring have enabled her to carry on with a job that could have become tiring and troublesome in the latter part of her career. Aren’t there numerous fifty something women who look at stairs with detest, well aware that their feet and legs won’t be happy to make this climb?
Even as a thirty-something woman I always prefer sneakers over any other form of footwear. An accident 10 years ago ensured that wearing heels, or any footwear with a narrow base left me cursing myself in pain. And thus trainers and walkers became my best friends. But choosing comfort over fashion often comes bearing criticism in our society.
Sneakers are meant to be worn while exercising, as per many. They are not “feminine” or fashionable enough to be worn under a saree or a suit or a dress unless you are a celebrity who defines what fashion is. Today, we may see celebs sporting limited edition expensive sneakers under short skirts or minis and before you know it, the trend would have run its course. But for those who could trust their sneakers with their life, it is all about efficiency and ease. It is about reclaiming your comfort, no matter what others have to say.
So do we let social stigma or fashion pundits decide what we should adorn our feet with? Or should we let each other be, and make choices based on personal preferences? Again, what matters is a woman’s agency at the end of the day. Be it Harris, or my mom who is approximately the same age as her, or women with tender knees like me, what matters most is to own our choices and to not give in to peer pressure and social stereotypes, to look a certain way.
Shoes and feet are meant for each other, how and when do you want to team them up, and with what attire is a matter of personal choice. Kamala Harris has embraced this choice and is owning it too!
The views expressed are the author’s own.
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