Wearing Weejuns without socks was part of my college rebellion that also included discarding my girdle, nylons, pencil skirts, and matching sweater sets. Of all of these wardrobe changes, I think this rebellious act was a bigger affront to my mother than short skirts, jeans, or sweat shirts. After all, she had worked very hard to put shoes on my feet that were sturdy and appropriate for a girl growing up in the 50s. Bare legs, especially in winter, were unthinkable.
Weejuns represented my journey in college to becoming my own person.
As a baby, I know she stuffed my little feet into high top white shoes so I could learn to walk properly. My bronzed baby shoes, featured below, are evidence of her reverence for proper foot wear.
Unfortunately for my brothers and me, my parents’ good friend Lou worked at and later owned a children’s shoe store. The choices at his store consisted of sturdy (translation ugly) shoes. If you remember Buster Brown shoes featuring the logo that included his dog Tige (“I’m Buster Brown. I live in a shoe. That’s my dog Tige. He lives in there too.”), you get the picture of what Mom thought constituted good foot wear.
Perhaps you remember the jingle for these shoes, which was very popular in the early days of television:
“I got shoes. You got shoes. Everybody’s gotta have shoes. But the only kind of shoes for me are good old Buster Brown Shoes!”
Because I was a girl, I could get black patent leather Mary Jane (Buster Brown’s friend) shoes for special occasions.
For extra fun when we bought our sensible shoes, we used the fluoroscope countless times to x-ray our feet inside of the shoe. This supposedly ensured the shoe was a good fit. Because Lou was a family friend, let us x-ray our feet as much as we wanted. In high school, saddle shoes worn with rolled-down ankle socks were also acceptable for me. My brothers could have sneakers for outdoor play, but I don’t remember having any except for the flimsy white Keds I wore for gym and left at school. It was very important to keep my saddle shoes clean and polished. The ones in the image below would never have passed muster in my house.
The only exception to sensible shoes were dress shoes for special occasions. We bought these at Chandler’s Shoes. They were often dyed to match a dress, along with a purse. Of course, these shoes had to be worn with nylons held up by a girdle or garter belt until panty hose made the scene. So, can you blame me for loving those Weejuns in college?
I wore my Weejuns everywhere. If they were the penny loafer style, I never put pennies in them. I favored the scruffy, unpolished look. I also had some with tassels on them like these:
I remember the pain of breaking in a new pair with bare feet. But it was worth the Band-Aids and blisters to have the sock-less look I loved. Weejuns represented my journey in college to becoming my own person, even if that meant cold legs and sore feet. The more my mother disapproved, the stronger my devotion to these shoes. They were a symbol of my emancipation from my parents’ values, and they helped me step forward into the world as an independent young woman.
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.