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A pocket-sized shoe closet


A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More

By Linda O'Keeffe

Workman Publishing, $11.95.

Reviewed by MARY JANE PARK

Breathes there a woman who lacks passion for shoes?

There is at least one in the Northern Hemisphere, and she is my friend nonetheless. Her shoe wardrobe, when last I checked, amounted to a couple of pairs of athletic models (Reeboks, which she wears with office dresses, even); golf cleats; white sandals (trotted out well past Labor Day); and scuffed, low-heeled black dress pumps.

You will not find her spending so much as a lunch hour in search of shoes, let alone participating in a daylong expedition. On the matter of footwear, we could not be more different.

Even when I was a being fitted for Buster Brown oxfords as a toddler, I was fascinated with the sliding scale that measured the length and breadth of one's foot, the slanted footrest attached to the sales representative's footstool, the shoe horn that eased the heel of the shoe over my own. I teetered in my mother's cast-off heels and was impatient to shed the constricting ties and straps of saddle shoes and Mary Janes. My tootsies belonged in Bass Weejuns and dress pumps.

Only a month ago, I watched in amazement as a man dropped to his knees before my sister in the shoe department of a Nordstrom store in Washington. He slipped a pair of spectator pumps onto her tired feet, and all I could think of was Cinderella and the slipper that fit. My sister beamed.

Linda O'Keeffe's tiny but seductive little paperback, Shoes, reports that the average American woman owns at least 30 pairs of shoes. I'm pretty sure I have fewer than that, and far fewer than did Imelda Marcos. An inventory at Malacanang Palace in the Philippines turned up 1,060 pairs, and those were just the slippers Mrs. Marcos left behind.

I did once buy a pair of leopard-skin print suede platforms (the '40s version, not the clunky '70s style). Even if I couldn't summon up the nerve to wear them, I reasoned, they'd be terrific props.

O'Keeffe's little book is a wonderful thing. It is art, history, trivia, psychology, sociology, mythology and memory.

You can thumb through its comprehensive collection of photographs and remember your first Keds, your first Converse All-Star "Chucks," your first high heels, your ballet slippers, your silk wedding pumps, your dancing shoes. You can marvel at what other cultures in other centuries regarded as attractive or useful. And you can stash this little book in a purse or backpack and carry around all the shoes you'll ever want or need.

Mary Jane Park is a Times assistant Newsfeatures editor.