The Palace has an official position on just about everything, including, of course, shoes. New York City is notoriously tough on shoes, especially when urban hiking is a much loved pastime. I have a shoe guy on Hudson Street who makes a pretty good living year-round strapping Mars rover-grade tire treads to the soles of my perpetually worn out footwear. Given this ongoing state of affairs, you might think that a sensible Vagina-American such as myself would place the utmost value on comfort and durability when purchasing shoes, sandals or boots. You would be wrong. For in the environs of the West Village, one simply does not venture forth from one’s Palace without wearing fashionable shoes.
Now before you judge me a shallow and vacuous snob, allow me point out in my defense that it is nearly impossible to find shoes here that are not fashionable, even at secondhand shops (where I do not buy shoes anyway because eew). The nearest shoe stores to where I presently sit are Steve Madden, Jimmy Choo, Chrisitan Louboutin and an absurdly trendy boutique on Bleecker Street called Verve. I do not shop at any of these places, unless by “shop” we mean “stare in the windows and mouth WTF.” (Madden and Verve are expensive enough, but Choo and Louboutin are in the stratosphere—as in a thousand or three. For one pair. Of shoes.) As savvy New York women know, if you want a great deal and a vast selection, you wait patiently for a shoe sale at Macy’s on 34th Street, proceed to the fifth floor, and survey the vast sea of (fashionable!) footwear that spans the entire length and breadth of the iconic building. This ain’t your local Macy’s. I mention my neighborhood shoe shops merely to set the backdrop against which one’s footwear is displayed.
It’s been a long time since I clattered to and from a midtown office gig in patent leather pumps, sneering dismissively at all those women who had the good sense to commute from the ‘burbs in hideous sneakers and keep nice shoes under their desks. In fact, I hardly ever wear heels at all anymore, except for the occasional date night. Which brings me to My Amazing Lover™’s recent proposal to take me hiking. Not in Central Park, not even in Manhattan, but in the actual woods. In…New Jersey.
Believe it or not, I actually like this idea. When I was a teenager, my family lived in a house that backed up to a deep woods. Every spring my sister and I would clear a path with a sickle, which would remain well worn until the winter weather became unbearably cold. A stream ran through it, narrow enough to jump the rocks across in some places. Upstream a ways, the water made a 90 degree turn and formed a wide arc, flanked by a rocky beach on one side and a tall bank on the other. It was magical. In the heat of the summer we swam there, enjoying the cool water and the company of fish and frogs and birds.
My Amazing Lover™ tells me there are spectacular parks with trails in New Jersey, and I have no reason to disbelieve it. So, you know, I’m game. One look at my (fashionable!) footwear collection, however, would quickly disabuse anyone of the notion that I possess anything even remotely appropriate for trudging around in dirt somewhere in the wilds of New Jersey. “Come on,” My Amazing Lover™ said to me. “Let’s get you some hiking boots.”
Off we hiked (hahaha) to Union Square, where there is a sporting goods store called Paragon. I’d been there once or twice. It was Labor Day and the place was bustling. We made our way to the second floor and into a room wrapped on three sides with displays of hiking boots. I had no idea there were so many types, styles and brands. I don’t know what I was picturing—maybe a couple of waterproof Timberlands or something—but this definitely wasn’t it.
As I scanned the ladies’ and then the mens’ section, I became more horrified by the minute. There was not one hiking boot in the entire store that I would be caught dead in. Ever. Anywhere. Not even in New Jersey.
Olive green with red trim and shiny black and white zig-zags? Tan with orange patches and black laces? Navy blue with dark green leather strips and thick black soles? Who does that? In what world is that okay? Is there some charitable initiative I’m not aware of wherein the entire hiking boot industry now hires only blind designers? Because damn.
But this was it. If I wanted to go hiking, I needed to find something here. Where else was I going to go? (Jimmy Choo? I think not.) I had a brief flashback to those women commuting from the ‘burbs in their hideous sneakers: I envisioned making my way to a remote park in New Jersey in my sparkly flats—or maybe my chocolate boots—then surreptitiously slipping on these ghastly things in the car upon arrival and making a mad dash into the woods before anyone could see me. Fortunately, there was an adorable young salesman named Isaac who spent the better part of an hour patiently bringing me one box of boots after another. Once I had surrendered my sense of color (and dignity), the process of shopping for hiking boots became more and more bearable until the pout nearly disappeared from my face. Isaac knew the merchandise, and had me walk up and down a ramp with a rocky surface in each pair I tried on, making a series of adjustments and recommendations based on the precise fit.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the Palace’s first acquisition of its kind: hideous hiking boots. Behold: