Friday, May 24, 2013

At Great Harvest Bread in Anchorage, Leigh Newman read from Still Points North, her excellent memoir of growing up in Alaska. Her footwear struck me as quite odd for wearing in Alaska in the springtime. I'm not sure if her shoes were uncomfortable or her feet were cold. I must say anyone who wears snake skin pumps for breakup in Anchorage is quite a gal. I understand she now lives in Baltimore, which might explain the choice of shoes.
The footwear of the audience ran to boring but practical black walking shoes.
Notice the red wool socks.

Footwear for the Alaskan Fashionista

Alaskans for the most part ignore fashion rules. Want to wear white shoes in the winter? No problem. We don't really care what color socks you wear or even if your socks have holes. Socks with sandals? We're good with it. However, we do have one social rule regarding footwear--shoes come off at the front door.
We share this practical custom with the people of Japan, Russian, Canada, and Scandinavia. It keeps snow, mud, and worse from being tracked into the house. Some hosts and hostesses offer slippers to visitors, custom knitted booties. Most don't. Sandals and clogs are great for dashing from car to front door and then removing, but only if they're worn with socks. Some Alaskans wear the sock and sandal combination for longer outdoor activities. I've witnessed a Buddhist monk wearing wool socks with his sport sandals, the socks appropriately colored saffron orange.
Most of us wear boots for longer outdoor winter activities: Sorrels, Extra Tuffs, and bunny boots, bulbous white monstrosities purchased from military surplus. It is perfectly acceptable to wear white bunny boots at any time of the year. Forget about the etiquette rule limiting white footwear to summer usage. We like any kind of boots as long as they are warm, waterproof, and practical.

In the winter many Alaskans slip on ice creepers, metal studded crampons stretched over boot soles for walking on ice. It's extremely rude to wear ice creepers inside. The studs damage floors which is part of why we remove footwear at the front door.

Despite the hazards of weather, we love wearing fashionable footwear. We just wish it was more practical. Alaskan women can act a bit giddy when given the opportunity to dress up. They might be traipsing around on stilt-like heels at cultural events. What is the fashionista to do while attending the theater? The solution, carry stiletto pumps in a shoulder bag while wearing Sorrels, Extra Tuffs, or Bunny boots with that lovely gown. Change footwear and leave the bunny boots at the coat check.

--- Lizzie Newell


Lizzie Newell writes science fiction set on a planet resembling Alaska: fjords, glaciers, and nasty tides. Due to fishing accidents, the planet Fenria has a shortage of men, so women are in charge. Lizzie crafts costumes, sculpture, and art, exhibiting and winning awards at Worldcon and NASFiC (North American Science Fiction Convention). She's interested in relationship between clothing and culture. She facilitates Northern Speculative Fiction, a Facebook page and website for speculative fiction writers in Alaska and Yukon. She also takes photographs of Alaskan writing events. Currently, she's working on a novel, The Stud and the Sperm Thief, about a man valued for his genetically determined altruism who becomes a stud for hire.



Lynn Lovegreen said...

Yes, I saw someone wearing bunny boots today! :-)

DeNise said...

I LOVE this post. It is so true, form over fashion up here. One does have to consider frost-bite. I will never forget my first winter up here, I went to an outside event wearing a lovely pair of boots. After sitting in the car for 1/2 an hour, in in pain-filled tears, did I learn that looking like boots doesn't doesn't make them minus -10 degree warm boots.