Real living: Love and brothel creepers

Teddy boy shoes, especially when worn without socks, are much more to Deborah Levy than mere footwear; they represent beauty and truth, and the knowledge that love is fleeting

When I was seventeen and bought my first pair of brothel creepers from Shellys, I knew they would never be worn with socks. It has always been very clear to me that men and women who wear shoes without socks are destined to become my friends and lovers. These sockless people have a kind of abandon and suppleness in their body. They walk with zip. At the same time they manage to look both nonchalant and excitable. To not wear socks is to be alert, but not hearty. To not wear socks is to not pretend that love is for ever.

Five months pregnant and wearing my brothel creepers, I went to see a Peter Greenaway film called The Baby of Macon. The best moment was when a counter-tenor started to sing something that sounded like the fluids of the body ... love passeth quickly. These seemed such beautiful words to sum up everything that matters in life that I cried and cried until my white shirt was sopping wet with my own salty fluids.

Love does pass quickly and there is no time to waste putting on socks. To wear socks with your shoes is to have missed your date with love. If it's any consolation, people who wear socks are probably better adjusted than their sockless brothers and sisters. They are not in weather denial, they face up to things and always carry an umbrella when it rains.

They also fear sex and sensuality (particularly those who wear sandals and socks), and are terrified of revealing they are in fact libido-crazed sado-masochistic authoritarians pretending to be bird watchers and vegetarians.

The sockless are Godless. So are brothel creepers, also known as "teddy boy shoes". Walking down the street in my very first pair made me feel like I was wearing a tattoo that marked me out for a meaningful life. Not quite winkle pickers, their leopardskin tongue (V-shaped) was surrounded by two inches of thick black crepe sole. To slip my naked foot into them was to literally walk on air. My brothel creepers were beauty and truth, genius personified, never mind they were rock and bop - that was not the point. They were the metropolis, my ticket out of suburbia, my exit sign from everything women were supposed to become.

There was something in the brothel creeper design that seemed to put the world in perspective. The combination of brothel creeper and naked ankles made me feel sexy, serious, frivolous, confident. I wore them with tight black clinging dresses and I wore them with jeans. I wore them with pencil skirts and pin-striped trousers. I was never not wearing them ever. Their pointy black toes tapped to the beat of rebellion; the shoes my mother would never have worn, the shoes my father would never have worn, in fact the shoes not many girls wore but the ones who did were always gorgeous. My narcissism was confirmed when, hungry, I found myself waiting on the platform of a station somewhere in the sleepy shires. When I heard the train was going to be 11 minutes late, I sprinted over the bridge (in my beautiful brothel creepers) to find something to eat. Everyone in the local supermarket was olde and if they weren't pensioners they were younge. I grabbed a sandwich and ran to the checkout till, four minutes to go before my train arrived. And there was the checkout girl in her checkout overalls staring dreamily into the white strobes on the ceiling. Three minutes to go and her till roll runs out. As she stands up to get another one, I see she is wearing brothel creepers too. Except hers are electric blue suede and have even more attitude than my own. As I run for my train I know that she too will run out of her till roll life one day, because her shoes are a sign that she has hope. Hope! After the revolution every one will have a pair.

I have bought many versions of them since, but 20 years later that first pair still lie intact on the top shelf of my shoe rack; like jazz musicians they have improved with age because they have a kind of eternal, ugly grace.

The brothel creeper spirit will be with me until the day I die. They remind me of life before I became a mother when the maternal body is mapped in fluids - tears, blood, milk, just as that counter-tenor sang. I wore them to write my novels, to teach, to almost get married in Rome and then at the last minute to run away. My beautiful brothel creepers remind me that getting older means you become the people you once mocked.

I sometimes wear socks.

From 'A Second Skin: Women Write About Clothes' edited by Kirsty Dunseath, published by The Women's Press Ltd on 12 November , price pounds 7.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

Arts and Entertainment
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

    £22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

    Design Technology Teacher

    £22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

    Foundation Teacher

    £100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

    English Teacher- Manchester

    £19200 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you a ...

    Day In a Page

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes