What a week it was for . . . jelly shoes

T his week, in an annual ritual that may last only a few days, the British foot has been exposed to view. Temperatures in the eighties have meant that existing shoes just will not do; suddenly they look like discarded car tyres - heavy, black and obsolete. What to replace them with is the question in everyone's minds, but for some reason logic flies out of the window when purchasing the summer shoe.

In previous summers, one particular style has always seemed to emerge on top - cork-heeled ankle breakers in 1993 and minuscule thongs in 1994, which led to blackened feet. This year's undoubted winner is the jelly sandal, that plastic monstrosity that escaped from kiddyland. Young and old across the country have succumbed to this sweat-inducing, ridiculous looking, plastic thang.

Its rise could be charted from a distance. Last year at the Western Shoe Associates exhibition in Las Vegas, jelly shoes first reared their ugly straps. Patrick Cox offered them in his spring/summer collection (at pounds 35 a throw) and the multiples went into a frenzy of jelly. Then, because they were in the shops, people thought them fashionable.

Well, they were wrong. If fashion involves wearing items that cause blisters, make your feet smell, swell the coffers of plaster manufacturers, and reduces you to a hobbling crone, then I want no part of it.

Somebody should have warned the woebegone party-goers who trooped to Glastonbury last weekend for the festival. The weather was hot, and promised to get hotter. Young revellers enjoying a weekend of frantic dancing around campfires, and "returning to the source" (getting out of their minds) all wore these ubiquitous jelly sandals. Just purchased of course, but scuffed up a bit to look worn in. They schlepped around the vast array of sets and tents, feeling groovy, possibly dirty, and definitely in need of a real toilet. What they did not realise was that the combined heat, new shoes and schlepping would cut their poor tootsies to ribbons. Seasoned festival heads should now be respected for their choice of "comfortable" footwear: 10-year-old trainers and leather sandals so old they seem part of the wearer do make for relaxed partying, whatever the jibes about smell.

What is it about summer that this nation has trouble with? It's hot, it's gorgeous, we can throw away our clumpy winter shoes, bare our feet and be free. Yet foot freedom has never been achieved. Our feet are delicate. Wrapped up in socks or stockings and then shod all year has rendered the British foot unused to the elements. So being trussed up in plastic straps and wobbly heels after that is torture indeed.

Perhaps the reason that jelly shoes are so popular with the under-fives is that their feet don't smell or sweat. And their parents can indulge their secret childhood fantasies by putting them in shoes that are half sandal, half confectionery. But why do adults want to sport them? If Patrick Cox developed shoes made of marshmallow, would the masses, like lemmings, embrace them as objects of desire? Marshmallow shoes would, at least, be soft and comfortable. Look out for them at Glastonbury a year from now.