Shoes and the City
by Vera Marie Badertscher Tucson Guide, Winter 2004/05
A survey of what’s afoot in the fashion business tracks several new high fashion stores in the Tucson area. Pricey brands you never thought you would find east of Rodeo Drive have made the trek to Tucson. We are broad minded in Tucson–cowgirl and hiking boots line up beside the fashionista shoes but we do like having high style available in our own town. New trends for the feet include ballet flats and cowboy boots, both in brilliant colors and the latest shoe sensation comes with walking lessons.
J. Gilbert Footwear
“We make people happy,” says John Gilbert, acknowledging that nobody really NEEDS the exclusive shoes he sells. Gilbert started learning about shoes at age 14 while working for his father. Three years ago he added the Casas Adobes store to a twelve-year-old Seattle store.
A wall leans inward in the small shop where the narrow triangular shape forces a new perspective on the shopper. The shoes may shake up expectations of what footwear looks like, too.
Women actually come from Scottsdale and Phoenix to buy Gilbert’s shoes, particularly the special Taryn Rose creations. “We carry more styles (over 90) than anyone else in the country,” says Gilbert. “ Taryn Rose styles appeal to the woman who wants fashionable shoes that are very comfortable.” Their glove soft leather means that “Once you wear a pair, you’re hooked,” he says.
Other high-end brands include Donald Pliner’s dressy shoes and handmade Mexican boots by a company called Old Gringo. “The finest boots in the world come from Mexico,” Gilbert says. “These are real cowboy boots with wood-peg construction.” Not ready for boots? The same company makes a mule with stacked heel, open back and intricately hand tooled leather in the same brilliant colors as the boots.
Put your sunglasses on when you shop at J. Gilbert’s. They have declared red a neutral and black seems to be a last resort. Shoes come in hot colors like chartreuse, green and pink.
Much of the footwear on these shelves looks almost too gorgeous to touch the pavement. The Mobius shoe, designed by famed architect Rem Koolhaas, adapts the continuous twisted Mobius loop of the Barcelona chair. A pair of these slings in sleek red twists of leather-covered metal could be walking art or gorgeous bookends.
Icon shoes presents a “walk of art.” An impressionist painting may cover the inside of a shoe where the world will never see it until you do your Audry Hepburn number and kick your shoes off to wade through a fountain. Big square purses provide a canvas for Gustav Klimt, Gaugin or Degas.
For everyone tired of teetering on four-inch heels, the good news is that ballerina flats are back. What is new is the color—pink, khaki, shiny red/bronze and stripes and the look of foil. Gilbert buys flats made in Majorca, an island off Spain. “All this company makes is ballerinas,” he says. “For sixty years they have been making them by hand.”
Design is important, but Gilbert stresses quality. “When you pay $400 for shoes, you want them to last,” says Gilbert. Indeed.
Shoes Made for Walking
The latest sensation to hit the shoe world requires walking lessons. Although far from high fashion, Sid Hirsh says they will make you beautiful. And Sid ought to know. He has been selling shoes for 50 years at Hirsh’s in Broadway Village.
In Tucson, the MBT, which stands for Masai Barefoot Technology is only sold at Hirsh’s. Sid says, “I went on an African safari and I saw the Masai tribesmen. They stand tall and walk forever. All they wear on their feet is a thin piece of cowhide. The idea of the MBT is to duplicate walking barefoot in the Serengeti.” The shoes have a rocker bottom with soft heels so they create the feeling of walking on an uneven surface.
Sid Hirsh wears these “gyms for the feet” three days a week and testifies that they have made his knees feel better. Besides improving posture, strengthening your leg muscles and alleviating back and knee pain, the producers claim the shoes reduce cellulite.
Hirsh’s Shoes carries the pricey Masai in several unisex styles—sandals, athletic shoes and dress casual in both smooth or suede leather. He has trouble keeping these shoes in stock since articles appeared in the Washington Post and Today Show and Good Morning America featured them. The shoes may cost $240, but you get the training CD-ROM for free.
There they are, right up front—high heels by Jimmy Choo. The Choos are the bikinis of shoes, more reveal than conceal. The latest tease of toe-cleavage are designed in Britain, made in Italy and worn by rock stars…
This article continues with more about Via Veneto and Baudine’s Mad About Shoes, E & J’s Designer Shoe Outlet, and Avenue Boutique.