In a time of some political angst, I find it joyful to muse on pleasant things – chocolate, snow days, shoes. And concerning the latter, today’s Joyful Musings will focus on those wonderful foot coverings: shoes. With us, is Jenn Parsont, a teacher at Dover High School, an aficionado of shoes, a woman who knows and loves toe covering options.
SDH: As you answer these questions today, a snow day, what would you be wearing on your feet as we speak?
JP: So many snow days…so many shoes! Typically, on a snow day I wear Halflinger slippers, beautiful boiled wool slipper clogs from Austria. My current pair is grey wool with felt owl appliques. Each foot has a different owl (wearing wool scarves) on them. I received them for Christmas this year, as Santa brought new slippers for my children and my sister (all from Red’s). My daughter slippers have a rainbow cat applique on hers; half of the cat is on each foot. My sister’s slippers are brown wool with a giraffe applique. My sister lived in Africa for many years, and misses the wild life.
If I am outside dealing with the snow, I wear my Keen Elsa boots, which have great traction, look fancy and keep my feet dry and warm. My Elsa boots also have boiled wool (in multi stripes) for the upper shaft, and rubber foot bases. They look similar to the ever popular LL Bean duck boot, which has come back into fashion, but at a lower price point.
SDH: How many shoes do you own? What are your top three favorites?
JP: Oh, I’m not sure if giving real numbers is a good thing…but I have many, many shoes. I have shoes that are designated work shoes, shoes for casual wear, dress shoes that I rarely wear, and several pairs of winter boots, as I like to keep my feet warm and dry. My top three shoes would probably be my beloved Dansko clogs (I have many pairs, as I have always gotten a new pair for back to school, they last forever and I grab them on sale) my Birkenstock sandals (again, I buy a fresh pair in the spring) and my black Frye harness boots, which I bought twenty five years ago when they were only $99. The harness boots retails for $319 now. Sadly, they mildewed one year, and never recovered, so I no longer have them, but boy, did I love them!
SDH: I understand you not only work at Dover High School but also at Red’s Shoe Barn. What has been your experience working with shoes? What do most people not know about those you assist with buying shoes?
JP: I have always shopped at Red’s, many of us do. I applied last spring, as I usually have to work in the summer, and thought that I would enjoy working there. I was hired by the manager who was also a parent of two former students, so he already knew what I was like as a person! I love interacting with the customers, finding shoes that fit properly and give comfort to the wearer. It is a great place to work, very connected to our community, and feels like a family (which honestly, it is). Most people have a mismatched set of feet, usually by a half a size, which make finding good fitting shoes a bit of an ordeal. I cannot tell you how many people are ashamed of their feet, or embarrassed by them. I constantly tell that they are not alone, and that we are here to help!
SDH: If you were a shoe, what would you be?
JP: A vibrant Dansko clog, a patterned one, not oiled leather. Or perhaps a Birkenstock, I have a pair of iridescent blue patent leather that I adore!
SDH: Your house is on fire and you can take only three pairs of shoes. Tell us what those would be.
JP: None. I would be busy grabbing kids, cats and the Guinea pig.
SDH: What are your earliest memories of shoes?
JP: Trying on my father’s sneakers. I have a series of photographs that captured this event, as it was also when I was getting my first pair of walking shoes. Back then, toddlers wore white leather lace up “hard sole” shoes for balance and stability.
SDH: What shoe fashion is happening now that you applaud? What fashion do you hope passes as quickly as the Trump administration?
JP: I love that shoes change with the season and are available in all price points and many sizes. When I was younger, you received a pair of good leather shoes for back-to school, and a pair of sneakers. Both pairs were to be worn until worn out, and hopefully last the entire school year. I have many memories of my mother taking my brother and me to the Buster Brown shoes store in my home town. The styles never seemed to change, and every year I would put on another pair of lace ups or penny loafers. My mother put dimes in my penny loafers, in case I needed to use a pay phone. I was mortified, who wants dimes in their penny loafers?!
I have learned to embrace all shoes styles, for there is a foot for every one of them.
SDH: Easy Spirit? Are you there yet?
JP: Oh yes, I own a pair of slip on clogs by Easy Spirit. As an older staff member at Red’s and as a teacher, it is my duty to showcase comfort. They are blue with purple polka dots, and have a marvelous sneaker sole. Very comfortable and supportive, not my grandmother’s Easy Spirit!
SDH: We did not see Betsy DeVos’ feet during hearings to become Secretary of Education. What kind of shoes do you think she was wearing?
JP: Ugh. Probably expensive Italian leather pumps, with a sensible kitten heel. Black or navy; depending on the color of her suit as she strikes me as being very “matchy-matchy”. I imagine she doesn’t put a lot of thought into her fashion or shoes.
SDH: What are men’s shoes of which you approve? What shoes should men just simply avoid at all costs?
JP: I approve of all men’s styles. Men should have foot fashion freedom too!
SDH: Finally, someone once said, “Tell me about your shoes and I’ll tell you who you are.” Thoughts?
JP: Once upon a time, shoes needed to be buffed and polished. They still do, but fashion and shoes have evolved. Sadly, shoes do not always last like they used to, causing you to replace them frequently, but I digress.
Shoes can indeed tell a story of who you are, but not the whole story. People wear flip flops all year long now, and sneakers are no longer worn only in the gym. Shoes, much like society, are reflective of the style of the moment. Styles recycle, what was once de rigor becomes passé, until trends swing back. I cannot imagine my great-grandmother’s high button shoes every really coming back into fashion, button hooks and all, but variations on that theme exisit in today’s shoe offerings.
Shoes offer a little bit of anything to everyone. Shoes sing of your choices and your thoughts and your passions. Shoes offer protection and a statement, all at once.
SDH: Thank you, Jen Parsont, for sharing your time, your energy, your joyful musings of footwear! Enjoy a most well deserved February Break…
Susan Dromey Heeter, a writer from Dover who recently let her hair go au natural white, debuts her new column “Joyful Musings” at InDepthNH.org. Dromey Heeter is a secondary Spanish Teacher at Dover High School and the mother of two teenage daughters. Writing has been her passion since her English majoring days at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Dromey Heeter has lived in The Netherlands, Alaska and currently basks in all things New England, including the frigid winters. An avid swimmer, Dromey Heeter’s great passion is to bring back body surfing as most children have no idea how to ride waves without ridiculous boogie boards. She also writes about thrift shopping and all things frugal in a column called “Budget Vogue” for the New Hampshire Union Leader.