Picture this: it’s late on Friday afternoon. It’s been a long, particularly draining week and you feel unable to face the crowded train just yet, so you decide to have a quick and mildly therapeutic wander through the shopping centre before heading home. You look around, casually browsing through rails of miniskirts and chunky knits and wishing payday would hurry up and arrive just that little bit sooner. Then you see them. They are stylish, elegant, the very epitome of chic. Patent black leather and 4 inch heels perfectly positioned on the table ahead of you: in short, the perfect pair of shoes. When you realise that they happen to be your size, you find yourself incapable of resisting temptation, so you sit down and slip them on, quickly becoming convinced that even Cinderella in her glass slippers could not have looked this good. But before you can prevent it, the dreaded thought of the price tag rudely interrupts the fairytale. Beautiful as the enchanted slippers may be, there’s no fairy godmother to foot the bill. You try to dismiss this particular practicality with all the old excuses you would give to your girl-friends: ‘But LOOK how fantastic they are! They’re so PRETTY.’ And as usual, out of this inner turmoil, you eventually find that the old mantra has returned: ‘I want them. I need them. I HAVE to have them.’
This is the point at which the harsh light of reality, until now just a vague idea on the horizon, finally dawns. Much as we may loathe to admit it, there is a definite line between want and need. Like so many others, my gut reaction when asked if I actually need this ‘one last pair’ of shoes is a rapidly fired, fairly defensive ‘Yes’. Unfortunately, the more I think about it, the more I waver. It’s true that I already own more pairs of shoes than I will admit to counting. And that most of them have been worn, well, once. Yet another pair would only decrease my remaining wardrobe space, which is rapidly dwindling. Incidentally, so is my bank balance, whilst my student debt remains as robust as ever. All of a sudden, I am questioning just how good these shoes will look when I’m stumbling out of a nightclub at 3am tomorrow morning, when my party-worn feet are sticking to chewing gum and various other concoctions on the floor. Then before I know it, I am suddenly looking past the immediate purchase-related adrenaline rush of handing over the credit card, and doubting the ability of these shoes to significantly contribute to my long-term happiness. Chances are, my future well-being will not be entirely dependent on this particular pair of shoes (although if it turns out that I am wrong about that, I reserve the right to be very annoyed). So, no matter how much the irrational part of my brain might wish it were otherwise, it seems that I might not actually need them after all.
Thankfully, this doesn’t stop me from being almost completely justified in wanting them. After all, they are beautiful. They will look incredible. They will coordinate perfectly with an obscene number of my outfits and be suitable for any occasion – from coffee with friends to a black-tie dinner. There are very few shoes with such natural versatility. They will complete the outfit. No, they will make the outfit. This is not to mention the obvious psychological benefits of indulging in a purchase. Few women can deny the feeling of supreme satisfaction and excitement that goes hand-in-hand with successful shoe-shopping. Moreover, the subsequent attentiveness and compliments of others cannot fail to boost one’s confidence. In an age of some uncertainties, whether it’s economic, professional or personal, it does us good to start walking tall, head held high, feeling fabulous. And if it’s 4 inches of sleek stilettoed perfection that helps us on our way, I personally have no issue with that. In the immortal words of Carrie Bradshaw: ‘It’s hard to walk in a single woman’s shoes. That’s why sometimes, you need really special shoes.’. And if you can afford it, surely the loss of that tiny space left at the back of the wardrobe is a sacrifice worth making…
At the end of the day, like so many things in life, it merely requires a little judgement. Do you really need them? Probably not. But if you can afford them, justify them and potentially promise yourself to become a better person as a result of either your purchase or your subsequent good mood, what’s the harm? However, if the only thing you’ll feel in addition to those extra 4inches of height is a growing sense of guilt and concern about your impending bankruptcy, it’s probably best to walk away and accept that the forty-three pairs (that you will admit to) in the bottom of your closet may just have to suffice.