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The Continental

People say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. False. The road to Hell is paved in cobblestones, which means you can’t wear heels. That’s what makes it Hell.

When I first expatriated, I lived in a little village paved with the Devil’s bunions and it was a two mile walk to the restaurant that provided most of my sustenance. I walked eight miles a day that car-less summer. Heels were out of the question. I used bronze Roman sandals instead. After all, a girl must have some glamor.

Even when I had wheels, I still refused to risk a broken ankle –or worse, a scuffed heel– by wearing stilettos unless someone agreed to carry me bodily to my vehicle; a daunting task, especially if you’re not set up with the appropriate winches, pulleys and hydraulic jacks.

As luck would have it, I was the only woman in the village young enough not to know a time when mammoth was a nutritious part of your complete breakfast and I struck up a friendship with an enormous (and enormously smitten) former Golden Gloves boxer who bore a striking resemblance to Zeus, assuming Zeus was Latino and spent most of his life getting punched in the head for money.

Now I know I’m in a committed relationship and all, but seriously, if you’ve never tried Greek God as a mode of transportation, I highly commend it.

However, if you can’t find your own punch-drunk Olympian to haul you around your town like a sack of well-shod potatoes, never fear. The Continental heel is making a slow but steady return to fashion.

So wait, what is a Continental heel?

The Continental heel –pictured above lending its graceful curve to a pair of Robert Clergerie booties– is closely related and thus often confused with the Louis heel. Of course it doesn’t help that half the shoes labeled as a Louis heel are actually Continentals.

They’re both flared heels, that much is true.

However, a Louis heel has a height limit –a true Louis can’t be more than 3″ high.

See, good ol’ King Louis XIV of France was one of those pocket monarchs, so he took to wearing heels to give himself a 3″ boost. Then he forbade anyone to wear heels higher than his, because apparently that’s what you do when you’re king.

King Louis XIV of France, fresh off his fabulous Las Vegas revue, sporting a pair of Louis heels

A Louis heel also traditionally has a curved breast, meaning the front part of the heel –the part that faces the toe– tapers and flares the echo the back part. Continental heels have the same curved or tapered back, but the breast is flat or nearly so.

I think we’re due for a comeback of a thicker heel.

We had a few seasons where Prada was showing banana heels everywhere but it didn’t last. I’d really like to see a serious return to one of the original sculptural heels. They’re pretty, fresh-looking and –for my purposes anyway– infinitely easier to deploy on cobblestones. Not that I’ll be telling Zeus Golden Gloves that.


Fit Note:
Robert Clergerie runs pretty true to size for length, but designs for women with banana feet. If you’ve got narrow feet, you’re in luck. Everyone else, size up and pray.

Zanotti, Morrissey and the (almost) death of a cobbler

After our recent Is It A Shoe contest, I feel perhaps we’ve given Guiseppe Zanotti the fuzzy end of the proverbial lollipop.

True, he is guilty of the spiky horse hoof shoe, not to mention these:

Thousand dollar hooker shoesDavy Crockett should punch you in the face for this

(these are all from several seasons ago, and yes, the dollar sign shoes would’ve set you back a cool grand)

Yes, he does tend to err slightly on the Russian Mafia Call Girl side of things from time to time but he’s also capable of walking that fine edge of playful elegance just as well as his fellow countrymen Dolce and Gabbana.

Some of his more restrained offerings are among my favorites in my personal collection.

I once rained down fire on a cobbler who, without my permission, added grippy rubber half-soles in a particularly abysmal shade of Stalinist utilitarian gray to a beautiful pair of black patent court shoes with an exquisite lacquered wood heel.

He thought he was doing me a favor.

I don’t remember the entire conversation, but I seem to recall non-voluntary circumcision coming up somewhere. I’m not in jail though, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually do it.

He’s also got an irresistible whiff of Morrissey about him, (Zanotti, not the cobbler) which makes sense as before he found his, er, footing he was a DJ in the 80’s.

It also explains why I alternately adore him and want to throw him off a roof.

Still, in the spirit of fairness, I thought I’d offer you some of Guido’s more approachable efforts, all of which are available on considerable sale at The Outnet, though some sizes might be limited.

Just click the images for the links.


Fit Note: Zanotti builds on a comparatively generous last, so his shoes tend to be wider than many other premium designers. They run pretty true to size, so if you’re used to sizing up, you might not have to with him. Also, he does pony/calf hair (same thing, no ponies were harmed) better than any other designer I’ve encountered. It’s smooth, glossy and doesn’t tuft out everywhere a week after you bring them home. I’ve worn a pair of his pony sandals regularly for about six years and the calf hair has stayed in place marvelously. Highly recommended.

What Miss Plumcake is…

It’s Tuesday, time to find out What Miss Plumcake is…

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