It was 1966, and everyone in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn "and perhaps the whole world" had go-go boots but me. The teenagers on American Bandstand and Shindig danced the Frug and the Monkey and the Twist and the Mashed Potato in bright white boots every week on TV. The kids pictured in my mother's Parents magazines and in the Children's Fashions of the Times modeled them. Nearly all the girls at P.S. 209 had them.
My second grade teacher, a mini-skirted fashion plate, got in early on the craze. Even the teacher in the next classroom, Mrs. Rausch "middle-aged, decidedly dowdy, and the antithesis of "mod" "galumphed down the hallowed halls of learning in her go-go's.
At night, I dreamed about having a pair of those boots of pristine white leather" reaching just below the swell of the calf, with their one-inch, shiny black heels" for my very own. I thought about them every waking hour too, as one does with a crush on someone who doesn't know you exist.
"They're ugly," my mother insisted. "And it's ridiculous to wear them indoors; boots are for snowstorms." I couldn't convince her that go-go boots were a thing of beauty and a joy forever. If I never got them, I informed her in all seriousness, I'd never be happy ever again. (Of course, being eight years old, I played the "everyone else" card, but mothers never care what "everyone else" has or what "everyone else's mother" lets them do.)
Finally, my best friend Wendy Lava got a pair of go-go's. Her mother didn't exactly love the boots but she was more understanding of a child's need to fit in...or perhaps less tolerant than my mother of a young daughters' nonstop whining.
Wendy wore the beautiful boots daily and worshiped them nightly, admiring them for hours at a stretch. The day she brought them home, in a half swoon, she wrote "Boots and You" in black Magic Marker in a big heart on the cover of the sacred white boot-box.
So jealous was I of Wendy (not to mention Mrs. Rausch)...so heartbroken and dispirited, that my mother finally relented and bought me the boots, although not without commentary along the lines of, "If you want to walk around looking like an idiot, go right ahead."
We went to the Stride Rite store on Sheepshead Bay Road, where they measured my feet and brought out the coveted footwear. The moment I pulled them on over my diamond-textured white tights, I was no longer that clumsy kid from Avenue Y whose mother dressed her for school like a small business executive in little jacketed dresses. I could now dance in a discotheque cage like the young women on Hollywood Au Go-Go or Hullabaloo, or sing "Downtown" onstage like Petula Clarke. I was hip, I was with it. I was a Yardley girl; all I needed was white lipstick, a flip, a slicker, and "Eau! de London" cologne.
The following fall, a new kind of boot came into fashion: higher, in patent leather, preferably in black, with taller, covered heels. Those boots were made, not for walking, but for transforming a little lump like me into a third-grade Nancy Sinatra. A Carnaby street wanna-be, I already had a Twiggy haircut and stovepipe slacks; I only lacked The Boots.
Wendy's mother immediately bought her the shiny black boots. By now my own mom was a bit more accepting of my footwear fetish and she agreed to take me to the shoe store for a look-see.
Alas: my sturdy legs were too big in circumference for the new sleeker, to-the-knee creations. I would have to get the "wide calf" equivalents. The store only carried them in off-white, a pale second to the jet-black beauties I craved.
The boots wrinkled a bit at the ankle, hugged the calves a bit too tightly. My legs didn't look like Nancy Sinatra's, and even when I added a brimmed poorboy hat and a short skirt, I didn't feel like a Yardley Girl at all. But my mother wasn't fighting with me not to get them, so I settled for them; at least they were boots.
Alas, at nine, my fate was already sealed: I was never going to be a cutting-edge fashionista. Too hippy for hip-huggers, too poor for Huk-a-poo, and often too clueless to know what was "in" or "out." Now that I can buy anything I want to, I don't even bother to try to be first in line for what's new and hot; in my late 40s, even if the trendy stuff fits me, I just look silly in it. But for one brief, shining moment, I was a part of it all. I had The Boots.
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