I’ve never been any good with witty comebacks. So I could only stammer out an honest reply, when the barista’s comment dribbled with sarcasm: “Going hiking today?”
“Nope, not today,” I said, following his glance to my new boots with red laces.
Carrying my americano back to my table and opening my laptop, I could feel my cheeks warming—and as always, too late—the comebacks started popping to mind. Apparently hiking boots should only be worn on the trail? To the guy behind the counter, I probably seemed like a poser, jumping on the latest trend of boots with colored laces, probably never even wearing them on a dirt trail. And to him, that was something worth talking shit about.
A couple weeks later, I was running late to meet a friend at a different cafe. Clasping a necklace around my neck and stuffing a slouchy beanie on my head, I busted out the front door of my building, in those same red-laced hiking boots. The sun sinking low and shadows starting to creep out onto Colfax, I strode quickly along the sidewalk. I’ve walked enough laps up and down that street over the years to know that all sorts of people will approach you with all sorts of conversations if you don’t walk with enough speed and purpose.
I checked my watch after a few blocks, stepping quickly around a group stumbling around with lit cigarettes outside a bar and then picked up my pace to catch the walk signal through the next crosswalk. I’ve had enough drunken slurs directed my way to opt for a quick, focused stride when I’m walking by myself. So, giving a wide birth to one stumbling, mumbling character and hopping up the next curb, I thought: Damn, I love these shoes.
I felt supported. I felt strong. I felt fast. I felt like myself. I even felt a little bit cool—without drawing undue attention from the people I was passing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also had a few (emphasis on few) moments in my life when I’ve also felt pretty powerful and cool in shiny, sky-high heels. There’s certainly something singular in the first moments when you actually feel confident and attractive striding along on four- or five-inch heels—the magical moment when you make the jump from awkwardly clopping along like you did in your mother’s shoes when you were small. But over the years, the kind of effort—and foot and back pain—that usually goes into hoofing along in tall heels has mostly lost its appeal. Who had I been trying to impress? Now, I’m not so sure.
I ducked into the cafe and slid into a table barely one minute early. Crossing my legs to the side, I thought back to the snide barista. What type of shoes would he think were actually appropriate for walking to the neighborhood coffee shop instead? Would he have had a sarcastic remark about heels? Flats? Running shoes? Having put them to the test, I’ve found hiking boots do a pretty damn good job. So no matter what the next barista thinks, I’m pretty psyched that right now, at least, boots seem to be kind of cool. Maybe you’ll see me in the mountains. Maybe just sipping coffee down the block—either way, I’ll take it. Poser or not.