Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spectators Only

I'm feeling spring in a major way, which always gets me thinking about spectator shoes. These are interesting, gender-bending footgear in that both men and women can stylishly wear them, given slightly different rules. For men, they must be oxfords or brogues (or most commonly, golf shoes), and they can be worn all summer. According to the lengthy and fascinating history offered at Atomic Magazine, the distinctive contrasting leather at cap and heel may have originated to disguise grass stains picked up while on the links or otherwise enjoying life outdoors.

For women, spectators -- or co-respondent shoes, as they're known in the UK -- are likewise sporty but in a more theatrical than practical way. Heeled and open-work versions are an alternative to the more masculine styles. You imagine them worn on the decks of a luxury liner, or on a Sunday stroll with the Borzoi hounds, or some other activity that Daisy Buchanan and her flapper friends might have enjoyed on a sunny day out. Like daffodils, they have a brief seasonal window -- that special navy-and-white period that runs roughly between the switch to Summer Time and Easter.

What I didn't know before this morning: the word co-respondent means the "other man" in a divorce case! So these shoes, which seem so quaintly old-fashioned today, had a racy reputation in the Jazz Age. Maybe you can find a cool pair in a vintage shop. They deserve a wider showing than on the back nine.

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