Whilst many people bemoaned the incapability of local authorities to run public transport and make the city streets safe during our brief snowy interlude, a Canadian colleague of mine had another criticism. Why was it, she asked (whilst modeling a pair of boots which managed to be warm, waterproof and stylish all at the same time), we Londoners were so inappropriately shod in these times of snowy surfaces underfoot? I had to admit she had a point. Unaccustomed as we Londoners are to snow and ice lining our regular commuting routes, recently we have had to improvise our footwear somewhat, with interesting results.
Children seem to have coped far better than adults - they already possess footwear suitable for stomping through puddles and mud, which are easily, with endless glee, applied to sploshing through slush. They also do not seem to mind wet feet and cold fingers, which are balanced out by the novelty of the snow; if only adults took life less seriously they too would merrily don green wellies with frog eyes on the toes and skip joyously through the puddles to work.
Those with jobs have to balance getting to work across treacherous ice sheets with looking suitably attired to attend meetings. The bravest still wear heels (the most foolish, spiky stilettos, the less stylish and more sure-footed, chunkier platforms). I personally never got very far with Physics at school (due to a mutual loathing my teacher and I shared for each other), however I grasped enough of the basics to understand the principles of stability and surface area, i.e. the narrower the stiletto heel, the more likely one is to go flying on unsteady ground. And businessmen are not immune to this hazard. The flat, smooth underside of a Jermyn Street brogue provides no more grip than the high heel; and the slush leaves a horrid water-mark on the suede upper!
One item of footwear which transcends ages and professions are the omnipresent Uggs; from summer to winter these furry boots cover the toes of children, teenager girls with bare legs and denim mini-skirts, yummy mummies and business women (even the odd metrosexual male). Warm as they may be when it's a little chilly, waterproof they are not. The sodden Ugg drying under radiators at home and at work has become a familiar sight. Is this a surprise? Of course not! Uggs are made in Australia, for heavens sake; the only country where a freak snow storm in a major city would cause even more havoc and surprise than in London!
School girls seem as unwilling to compromise on their style as the city workers, opting to wear their tiny ballet pumps and even tinier skirts rather than look geeky in wellington boots. (They seem to overlook the fact that falling over in front of all their peers would be a lot more embarrassing than wearing functional rather than fashionable footwear.) Some of the more "out-doorish" types have donned walking boots, although it is mostly men who can get away with wearing them under their suit trousers. I confess, I teamed a pair of boots which I had climbed the Andes in with a pencil skirt and received several odd looks; but my feet remained dry and cosy and I didn't slip over once. Ha! Take that, ye slaves of fashion.
A few wellies have appeared on feet larger than a size 3 as well. Gimmicky printed wellies, produced for soggy summer music festivals, adorned with army camouflage, garish daisies and leopard-print, have livened up the grey pavements no end. (Even a few traditional Hunters have been spotted on the streets of Central and South-West London, imported from second homes in the countryside, or usually kept in the back of the Range Rover for watching rugby games.)
One major mercy of the snow, however, has been the banishment of the hideous MBT trainers from our footpaths (a photo of such a specimen is exhibited to the right). MBT stands for "Masai Barefoot Technology", a system based on the movement of barefoot East African tribesmen yet devised (but of course!) in Switzerland. They are designed to optimise
joint protection in the legs and back as well as burn calories as you pound the pavements. It's a good idea, just a shame they look so strangely ugly; as if the wearer has trod on an enormous slug which has cemented itself to the bottom of their shoe. And they make the wearer look so ridiculous, as they bounce down the road, concentrating on "walking right", to bust their cellulite and tone their thighs. Let us not forget that the task of walking is one that most babies have mastered in their first year or so on this planet. Give me knee problems and pretty shoes any day. If the slippery ice keeps these horrors off the streets, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!