I Couldn’t Help But Wonder… – Six Inches to Sanity
As I packed for a weeks-long stint in New York City, I couldn’t help but wonder… in such a sartorial city, what is the quintessential New York shoe? For a 30-something woman, one will come to mind immediately. 4 inch heel. Satin. Bejewled. Glittering. Blue. The cost of one month’s rent in the late 90’s, in a very rent-controlled iconic New York brownstone. Manolo Blahnik. Carrie Bradshaw. The Sex and the City shoe. You know the one.
Candace Bushnell wore her first ever pair of Manolos to do research for her first ever Sex and the City article (She wore them to a sex club! One hopes they didn’t get too sticky.) “Manolo Blahink,” she said on her decision for such a prominent feature on the subsequent TV series, “was the most classy fashionable shoe brand only super-insider fashionistas knew about. It was the ’90s, and Manolo was a code word that meant super-fashionable and super-stylish.”
Now, twenty years later, all the little girls that grew up watching Sex and the City are Carrie’s age, they have the disposable income to copy childhood fashion icons as they hunt for their own Mr. Big, and Manolo is as synonymous with footwear as Louboutin.
Of course, one particular pair of Manolo Blahinks was elevated to the status of the shoe, the one that everyone had to have, in the proposal scene by one Mr. Big, and cemented by one very memorable movie wedding. The shoe, that for so many girls is even reserved for their very own most-important-day-of-my-life, so important that they can’t trust themself with unique thought and instead must copy Sex and the City, often down to the very same cobalt blue color.
I refused to own these for so long.
But with my impending New York City fantasy playing out in my head, I did it. I finally relented and purchased the same shoe that every high heel collector, every style blogger, every fashion intern in any major city, already has.
The Manolo Blahnik Hangisi.
This is the original, the classic 105mm heel pump, soft leather inside and a silk satin finish outside. (And the only ones anyone should ever wear, though now there are a variety of heel heights, special edition patterns, fabrics… All to which I say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.) Mine are a slightly different shade of blue than Carrie’s, if even. More of a mint green. And I took a vow, that should I ever get the colbalt version, I would give up completely and wear them with yoga pants to brunch.
As the story goes, Mr. Manolo was inspired not by New York, but rather the 19th and 20th century French and Italian artists who’s paintings he saw depicting women in buckled slippers in various states of… carnal ecstasy. The name itself is an unrelated Turkish word meaning “Which one?”; Blahnik simply thought it sounded romantic enough to match the source material. This tantalizing history is what sold me. I am writing SIX inches to sanity after all. Not… two and a half inches to anything.
Ubiquitous as they may be, things that are popular (for more than one or two hyped-up, spon-conned mass marked season) tend to be popular for a reason. It works. It’s GOOD. These heels are flattering and eye catching and certinly detailed enough to be worth the price point. They are extremely showy while still being very classic, which I will begrudgingly admit is a rare and fantastic combination.
I arrived in the City, believing leather pants and the shoes would be my New York uniform, I would wear them everywhere. It was January. I arrived in the middle of a school-closure, office-shut down, public saftey issuance warning full on blizzard. So while I did wear the leather pants, even the act of climbing in and out of a cab would have destroyed my precious new high-heeled acquisition, and any shoe small enough to discreetly change out of at a restaurant would leave me slipping and sliding all over the sidewalk and ridden with frostbite in seconds.
And thus, I resigned to wearing hefty grey snow boots every time I left my Soho hotel. Quintessential New York City winter shoes, the Hangisi are most certainly not.
Holed up at The Soho Grand for much of the trip but still a believer in my romantic New York fantasy and my covert stiletto love affair, I wore them alone in my hotel room, wrapped in a fluffy white bathrobe, my feet kicked up on the settee, flexing the ever-so-slightly pointed satin toe, watching the 144 crystal stones in each buckle glitter and sparkle as I drank morning coffee and evening wine. I wore them in the hotel lounge, and at the dimly lit bar. I spent hours admiring how perfectly they contrasted The Soho’s dark mahogany tables and blue velvet chairs. I fielded compliments and questions and a few free drinks. It was so grim outside I never wanted to leave anyway. And I never wanted to take them off.
I brought them back home to the streets of San Francisco, where the weather never changes, safley intact and pristine as they first were. A little bit of Sex and New York City glamor to our little world of AllBirds and Patagonia pragmatism, where one can go months, years, forever, without ever seeing another person wearing the defining Big City shoe.