Perhaps my proudest fashion moment at school was the day I walked into my Grade 2 classroom wearing white go-go boots.
Expo ‘67 was just around the corner (“One, two, three, four Canadians, now we are 20,000!”) and my teacher had the coolest hairdo, a beehive. I was wearing a printed cotton minidress, a sleeveless shift. Now, to be considered go-go boots, the footwear must have the following important qualities. They must be white: check. They must have pointy toes: check and check. They must have a low, flat, almost invisible heel: got it. And they must reach no higher than mid-calf: kicky!
Desert boots came later, also with strict rules plus a new, liberating caveat. To be a Desert boot it must be ankle-high, with a toe that starts to point then is cut off square. No more than four eyelets for the laces, and the colour is sand, beige, or light brown: desert-y. Here’s the twist: they were unisex! Holy Adam West, Batman and Robin! Boys could wear them, too.
I may have been the only girl in town to foresee this trend, ride the wave, then keep flogging it long after the horse barked up the wrong tree, but I loved Pilgrim shoes. Big chunky heel, aggressively squared-off toe, and, most important, a large, square and purely decorative buckle. When I outgrew them in Grade 4, I got a new pair for Grade 5. Passé by then, but cared I not, Brethren.
The original wedge shoe was also squared off, with a Frankenstein-like height added for my junior high years. Here is the ideal outfit circa 1972: wedge shoes, plaid wide-leg pants sweeping the floor, short, tight vest, and long sleeved button-up shirt. Think Bay City Rollers and try not to grimace. I loved that look! All my paper dolls wore it!
A fashion-related tragedy occurred in Grade 8. The must-have item was brushed-cotton wide-leg pants. They were like a delicate corduroy, velvety in texture. The most coveted were in earthy jewel tones of dark blue-green or wine. I explained this to my mother in December, and she almost completely understood, because on Christmas Day my only-in-Grade-4 sister got them. Girls Size 8! No way could I steal them, I needed at least a size 10 or even 12! She did not realize the value of the gift, just said thanks. I burned in jealousy.
Just then, something amazing occurred. My town of Steinbach had always had, in my memory, men’s clothing (Reiger’s), women’s clothing (Kay’s Fashions) and children’s wear in department stores (Stylerite, Marshall Wells, and Robinson’s). Now there was a new store with clothes for teenagers, The Happening! That’s their exclamation mark! A young couple, in their 20s, ran it: he dressed like he was from Bay City, she was more like Stevie Nicks. It was unbelievably wonderful.
They displayed jeans in stacked-up wooden crates, they had racks of colourful 100 per cent polyester shirts, they sold WIDE belts! It was an instant hit.
Thank goodness for them, because high school was tough. The official dress code had been rescinded just before my friends and I got there: girls no longer were required to wear dresses. The new dress code was much stricter. Peer pressure meant we could only wear straight-leg jeans, and they must be Levi’s or Lee’s. Any other brand was an off-brand, like wearing K Tel’s Greatest Hits – gauche!
Plus, it was too embarrassing to wear brand-new jeans: not done. For you youngsters out there, this was in the days before pre-stressed jeans, you had to stress them yourself. Wash them at least 10 times til they were good enough to wear to school.
Then, one day, the unthinkable happened. It was my friend Sharon’s older sister, a Grade 12er who did it. She came to school one day wearing STAR jeans, brand-new, wide-legged. I am not exaggerating to say everybody talked.
It was like a spell had been broken, and then anyone could wear anything.
I’m glad the rules have been relaxed, because I have a confession to make. My go-go boots? They should have been leather or vinyl, not rubber. Yes, I admit it now: they were puddle boots.