Elizabeth Heathcote: My strappy little numbers? Sandals

Should I choose Birkenstocks or Crocs? Sometimes it's hard to be a middle-youth edgy urbanite

Share

Alas, the early burst of summer has drawn to a chilly close. But not before the spring sunshine had a chance to germinate one of the great wardrobe moments of the year. The move into sandals.

My joy at this annual event is increasingly tempered by the unpleasant baggage that comes with it. The first glimpse of those white legs, unpainted toes and calloused feet, veterans of another year's trudge down the long march of life - all of these need to be confronted and dealt with. But they are mere sideshows to the main event. What the hell to buy this year?

If you are over 30 the chances are that your choice will include, and very possibly be limited to, Birkenstocks or Crocs.

For anyone who hasn't left the house for the past 20 years or so, Birkenstocks are the leather Jesus creepers (and variants) that have dominated the comfy sandal market for most of my adult life. Crocs are the johnny-come-latelys - those brightly coloured American rubber clogs beloved of surfers and health care workers that have been the surprise summer hit of the last couple of years. Crocs look even more absurd to the untrained eye than Birkies, but to be fair there's not a lot in it. Both brands cruise on comfort cool, which storms many a fashion edifice, and both sides claim celebrity fans. Al Pacino and Teri Hatcher apparently swear by their Crocs; rock stars have been kicking back in their Birkies since the Gallagher brothers had their first number one. Both come in his'n 'hers versions and crucially, both are available in children's sizes for the ultimate me-him-and-mini-me, aren't-we-adorable, one-stop shopping experience. And of course there are cheap copies galore.

Now, I am no fashion head, as may be evident, but like most women, I still want to be a contender, and that means I need to get it right. I don't have an office to contend with and the mums in my playground are not a judgmental bunch, but naturally there is sly note-taking. (It always makes me laugh when men think we're eyeing each other up because of our lesbian side. It's the outfits, stupid.) I am conscious of falling into the "older mum" and "still carrying baby weight" categories, which, as in the rest of life, don't help. And comfy shoes are a fashion knife-edge - nothing dates you faster than getting it wrong. Shallow as it may seem, the idea that I might be described as "mumsy" brings tears to my eyes.

A trip to the local Birkenstock stockist is a journey through my past. How I smirk at the two strap Arizona that I bought in brown a good 15 years ago - so Nirvana then, so frumpy today! (Interestingly, most men got stuck at this first stage of the Birkenstock "journey" and are still replacing their Arizonas when they fall apart. More evidence of unsophisticated wiring? Or are they just less gullible than us?) A row of single strap Madrids brings back summer after summer in the early Zeroes, first in white or brights, then flowery, then pastel shades.

Madrids were casual with skirts and groovy Scholl-wannabes with jeans, but they look so girly now, flimsy somehow - and definitely wrong. The Ramses T-bar style looks promising - I've clocked those on cool girls, but how recently? And what colour? Plain black or brown? Khaki? Silver? "Can I help?" asks the assistant, in a pair of ballet pumps that I recognise as "directional". I panic - could it be that that all possible variants of Birkies are for has-beens? Is it finally over?

The Crocs supplier is heaving with mums and children, and the air is tense with the sort of shrill urgency that jettisons three-month-old babies into music workshops. One woman has five pairs piled up in different colours and sizes and is still shopping; another looks edgy as she waits to bag an assistant who might finally be coming free. There are Crocs spilling out of open boxes by the storeroom entrance and women are rifling through. I pick out a pair that seem to be my size - my soles are floating on a lawn of rubber grass; I can see the appeal. The woman with five pairs picks out another, in orange, "for Michael - we'll need them in Cornwall". I try to find out how much the children's Crocs cost but can't get anyone's attention, so I ask another mum "£20, I think," she says, and eyes the pair in my hand. "What size are those? Are you buying them?"

I give them to her and push my way back on to the street through a group of women clustered outside the door. Phew! What the hell just happened? I'm not sure but one thing I do know, those were Posh Mums. It makes sense of course, there's something distinctly beautiful-children-running-through-sand-dunes-near-the-holiday-home-in-Padstow about Crocs and I can't risk getting confused with all that, not in my playground.

In the end I settle for a pair of Birkenstock offshoots, T-bar flip-flop style in metallic black and with a diamanté buckle. I wear them to take my daughter to playgroup in the local park and the sporty twentysomething who runs it makes a beeline. "Oooh, they're nice," she says. "I can't wait to get my Birkies on."

Ding! Round one to me.

Rowan Pelling is away

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Content / Copy Writer

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has bec...

Recruitment Genius: IT Desktop Deployment Engineer

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A prestigious IT & Telecoms Sales and Su...

Argyll Scott International: Senior Perl Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Argyll Scott International: Senior Perl...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultants - GERMAN SPEAKING

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Rochester by-election: UKIP did less well than expected (and Labour suffered a malfunction)

John Rentoul
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Shanghai  

Is Russia and China’s ‘Nato of the East’ more than a Potemkin alliance?

Nigel Morris
US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines