Shoes talk.

First to the wearer.

“Think you can walk one block with us? Sure, we look good, but you’ll pay the price.”

Shoes also speak about the wearer. They can reveal personality, age, income and environment.

On a local visit, Clinton Kelly, former “What Not To Wear” TV fashion consultant, described Seattleites’ footwear: “A lot of them wear shoes that look like baked potatoes.”

Maybe. But in our often wet, hilly terrain, those “baked potatoes” are comfortable and sensible. That doesn’t mean they’re dull.

Colorful glass sculptor Dale Chihuly said, “My life wouldn’t be fulfilling without constantly creating new art.” His paint-splattered shoes are art themselves — inadvertently. Danielle Zarrella, who works at his studio, says, “Over time, they became their own thing — he wears them all the time.”

The late Seattle Post-Intelligencer photographer Phil Webber could be counted on to wear custom shoes not seen on anyone else. A pair in the MOHAI collection has hand-painted scenes of his Lake Union houseboat before and after renovation. He owned more than four dozen different pairs, including clear plastic ones.


About Webber, former P.I. Managing Editor David McCumber says, “Sometimes I suspected he used them to start conversations, to say, ‘I’m Phil, and don’t you forget it.’ A genuine, warm, generous man.”

On the presidential campaign trail, Vice President Kamala Harris often wore a timeless style: Converse All-Stars, aka Chuck Taylors. “It’s either Chucks or heels … Always has been.”

Not the podiatrist’s choice, they’re comfortable, fashionable and the ones worn mainly by professional basketball players until the mid-1980s. But, they have little arch support, which can mean plantar problems and tendinitis.

Lenny Wilkens, former Sonics’ star player and coach, and three-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, wore them in high school in Brooklyn and in the pros.

But, when Wilkens became a pro in 1960 drafted in the first round, Converse came out and measured his feet. “They made my shoes with the toe wider,” and he had them put in arch supports. “I never had ankle or knee problems.”

Imelda Marcos, former first lady of the Philippines, reportedly owned more than 3,000 pairs of shoes. She could go more than eight years without ever repeating the same pair. Seattle photographer Daniel Sheehan, formerly of Newsday, said that when Marcos was on trial in New York for racketeering and fraud, the paper sent three photographers every day to photograph her shoes at her comings and goings to court.


When she was acquitted of all charges, the paper’s headline was “Imelda Walks,” along with a dozen images of her shoes.

Warren Pope wore red patent leather shoes to the opening of his exhibit “Blood Lines, Time Lines and Red Lines” at the Northwest African American Museum. His wife, Lizbeth, bought them, and they’re an homage to David Bowie.

But, “They never felt really good on my feet.” The shoes had spoken. He sold them.