I am writing a series about travel for vain people (as a vain person myself I know, dahlings, I know). I believe it is possible to look good and travel well, it just takes a little bit of thought sometimes. I hope these posts help those of you who want to keep up appearances wherever you are going. Or at the very least learn from my mistakes.
We all know accessories maketh the outfit.
Or as the great Patsy Stone once said
So I am starting with shoes
Okay, I am the first to admit I am particular, bordering on the neurotic, about shoes. Some of the first posts I wrote for this blog were about my quest to find comfortable shoes. And that quest continues – I am not sure what it is about my feet but most shoes I try hurt my feet – if not when I try them on inevitably after a few hours of wear. So I have learned, the hard way, that while you can compromise comfort just about anywhere in your wardrobe to look good, travelling with uncomfortable shoes is just.not.worth.it.
Everyone is different, so what works for me might not work to you. But here are some tips on how to make sure you look good and don’t end up in agony:
Break your shoes in before you travel
And by ‘breaking in your shoes’ I don’t mean wear them around the house for an hour. I mean only pack shoes you have worn A LOT and know are reliably comfortable. Don’t buy a pair of recommended walking shoes – no matter how expensive, no matter how much your friend says they are like walking on feathers – and not wear them until you travel. Wear them for at least a week. Wear them for hours (plural) at a time. And no matter what they cost, if they hurt your feet, don’t take them. Nothing ruins a much wished for and planned for trip like being unable to walk more than 50 metres at a time because your feet hurt so much. And even if you can walk through the pain – wincing and stumbling is not stylish. Wearing a great outfit but looking like you can barely walk defeats the purpose.
Know your terrain
Know what kind of surfaces you are going to be walking on. If you try to navigate Istanbul’s uneven, broken, sometimes-there’s-a-sidewalk-sometimes-you-are-on-the-road terrain in heels you are doomed – even the local fashionistas stick to flats most of the time because they don’t want to break their necks. Are you going to be dealing with cobblestones? Potentially wet and slick paths? Do you plan to encounter nature at any stage – dirt tracks, walking up hills, sand? Those wedge sandals might be the cutest but falling on your arse and getting grazes isn’t. Just saying.
Know the weather
I love boots. Like adore them. And have been known to wear knee-high black leather boots in the height of German summer. But walking for hours in the heat in boots can be super tiring. Ditto cute dainty sandals when it is cold and wet will make you super miserable, super fast.
How to look stylish and be comfortable
It is possible to wear flats and still look great. Ballet flats and sandals for summer, any kind of boot (even a chunky heel is pretty stable when it is with a boot and not above around 3″) for colder months. Despite what you may have been told, trainers are worn pretty much universally and will not automatically mark you out as a tourist.* If like me you are not really a trainers/sneakers kind of person there are still plenty of options that you can walk around in all day, look stylish and still feel okay. I currently love the Merrell Siren Wrap – casual, comfortable but I would still feel perfectly fine walking in to a restaurant wearing them.
Pack shoes that go with everything, or are a statement
I wear a lot of black. One of the many advantages to this is that I can wear pretty much any colour accessories, and that includes shoes. My orange and green shoes might clash with a purple dress, but not a black one. If you are particular about these things, it is easier to find stylish shoes in black than any other colour so you can pack one black bag and a few pairs of black shoes and look super-coordinated. Or wear statement shoes (or shoes in a statement colour) so that everyone is too busy noticing your shoes to care if they match anything else. For travelling I currently love my Dogo flats (my fox print are no longer available) and my Vibram Furoshikis in black (added advantage – they fold up to a tiny size). One is a funky print that doesn’t go with anything, but that is the point.
Are you going to have to take your shoes off a lot?
There are various locations in the world where you might be taking your shoes off a fair bit. In Japan you might find yourself taking your shoes off not just every time you go in to a private house but also to go in to your room at a ryokan, when you go to a public bath, in to a temple or in to a historical building. So if you have to sit there and spend a lot of time untying (then re-tying) laces or manhandling your boots on and off, you might want to re-think your shoe wardrobe. Same issue for anywhere you are going to be visiting mosques – you will be taking your shoes off. And even before you get to your destination – how many airport security gates are you going through? If you are wearing boots, you will have to take them off almost guaranteed. I love my Doc Marten 20 eyelet boots but I don’t take them with me when I travel because they are such an arse to take on and off when dealing with security theatre, but actually take up a lot of packing room if I don’t wear them on the flight. If I really feel the need my amazing Doc Marten Bosch boots work.
If all else fails, distract
So all your shoes that are comfortable are ugly. And none go with the outfits you have planned. Fine. Just wear an amazing outfit so great no-one gets as far as the shoes. Seriously, make the ugly shoes part of your look. Think of how many crazy ‘fashion’ looks have seemed appropriate when most of us have thought ‘really?’ only to realise that whoever is wearing them is rocking the look. Be that person.
*Many websites and the like will tell you that wearing jeans and/or trainers will mark you out as a tourist. Which seems to ignore the fact that in large swathes of the world many of the locals, including very stylish ones, wear jeans and trainers. I sometimes wonder if obvious tourists are trying to find an excuse for why they were so obvious.
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