April 17-23, 2003
Foot for Thought
I learned about my feet one night, accidentally, at Dirty Frank's. My girlfriends and I had thrown back a number of lagers, and I began talking to a foxy Haitian guy at the bar. He offered to massage my feet. I accepted, under the influence of many drinks and a particularly fetching (yet monstrously uncomfortable) pair of black, wedge-heeled platform sandals whose straps made a geometric pattern across my recently pedicured feet. This man gave a spectacular foot massage. I wanted to moan, it was so tremendous. I probably could have; in a dive bar like Dirty Frank's, I doubt anyone would have minded. And while he opened up the flow to the chakras in my feet, and rubbed the weird little crevices beneath my toes that I didn't even know I had, this foxy man told me why my feet are beautiful.
The symmetrical toes, he said, are a sign of intelligence. A good arch, which is shown to advantage in every pair of truly sexy heels, is a subtle yet exquisite part of a woman’s body. Sitting there at 1:30 in the morning, my bare foot in a stranger’s lap, it felt more goofy than sexy. But the very innocence of the situation -- tipsy girl with aching toes, generous stranger -- made me feel like this stranger was being honestly complimentary. And, instead of taking his comments and crushing them under the weight of my own self-loathing, I looked at my feet with fresh eyes and discovered that yes, they are pretty darn adorable.
Opening my eyes to the way that feet can be beautiful yielded a surprising amount of conversation on the topic. Everyone has an opinion on feet, from beauty mavens to aficionados. We all have them, we all use them daily and we devote a fair bit of time to thinking about them and caring for them, especially as a component of our beauty rituals. In the interest of maximizing my own assets, I asked a vast number of people about feet, in coffee shops and boutiques and bars and parties. People are particular about feet, I discovered. I also discovered that four other women I know have had their feet massaged in Dirty Frank’s, which led to the disturbing realization that we’d all quite innocently been part of a nightly public-sex scenario staged by a podiatric predator. But. The people I talked to had a number of helpful recommendations for taking care of and showing off the feet. Below they’re distilled into five recommendations that constitute a unified theory, if you will, of feet.
1. Be stylish.
Foot fashion is an important yet profoundly underappreciated component of beauty. Every season has its favored shoes, and trends offer the opportunity to try different styles till you find the ones that make your feet look finest.
This season, three heels are hot: the kitten heel, a narrow, rounded heel indented from the back of the shoe; a tall, narrow stiletto-style heel; and the non-heel, or perfectly flat sandal, topped with a decorative thong. Wedge heels are still in evidence, and some hint that the platform will make a full-fledged comeback by fall. At Danielle Scott Ltd. in Rittenhouse Square, the hands-down cutest shoe is a pink kitten-heeled mule from Hollywould ($225). Adorned with a pink-and-green sequined dahlia at the front, the shoe bears a legend on the rubber pad on its bottom: "Comfort Pad. Because it’s hard to look sexy when your feet hurt." Some others to watch this season are the remakes of classic 1970s Dr. Scholl’s, as updated by Marc Jacobs in either red or black, and the patent-leather mules from Taryn Rose featuring straps that crisscross at the front.
Candy colors always surface in the spring, and this year any color that would be found in bag of Jordan almonds is an acceptable shade in shoes. Pink is, as always, the single hottest spring color. A pale, shell-pink polish from Bobbi Brown is very hip, though don’t ignore the option of a classic French manicure on toes. "Definitely, some colors show off the feet better than others," explains Emanuel, 34, a devastatingly attractive Lothario who is a devoted lover of women’s feet. Emanuel, who chose not to share his last name, has been known to meet a woman, look her up and down and exclaim, "Nice paws!" It almost seems insulting to call him a foot fetishist, since his appreciation for feet, like my swain in Dirty Frank’s, is honest and enthusiastic. Emanuel likes feet so much, he’s the kind of guy you
to tell you what makes feet beautiful. "On a dark-skinned woman, a French manicure looks really hot," is his advice. "On the right girl, almost any color looks good, but on a pale-skinned woman, blood-red toes are really sexy. It catches the eye, and draws attention to the feet." He recommends changing polish to match an outfit. "Some women color-coordinate all the way down, and that can be really cute," he says.
2. Show some toe cleavage.
"It’s all about toe cleavage," says makeup maven Scarlett Messina. "That’s my big secret when it comes to buying open-toed shoes; I don’t even know if I should give that away. But I refuse to buy a pair of shoes if they don’t show toe cleavage. I don’t care if they’re Jimmy Choo, or Manolo Blahnik or whatever -- they have to show toe cleavage." Toe cleavage, for the uninitiated, refers to the point where two toes meet the foot. Just as a low-cut shirt reveals breast cleavage, so does a low-cut shoe flash toe cleavage. That bare part, Emanuel explains, speaks to a hidden eroticism: "You can look down in a business meeting or something, and see a woman wearing a pair of shoes that shows toe cleavage. It’s exciting -- you can go from thinking about spreadsheets, to thinking about between the sheets."
3. Care for your feet.
"Clean, dainty, well-manicured/pedicured feet are the best," says Emanuel. "The feet have to be well taken care of; it matters." A biweekly or monthly pedicure is usually enough to keep the feet in top condition, but an intense beauty treatment at the beginning of the open-toed shoe season can set the stage for the months to come. For a truly indulgent experience, try the "Chocolate Decadence" treatment at the Body Klinic, which includes a chocolate paraffin wrap on the hands and feet. Like most hardcore beauty treatments, paraffin wraps sound sort of weird. Plunging your feet into a plastic bag full of melted paraffin wax, then waiting for it to cool and harden, doesn’t seem like the kind of experience one would pay for. But foot beauty involves a number of weird conventions, like paying someone to use a cheese grater or razor blade to remove calluses from the bottom of your feet as part of a pedicure.
For everyday maintenance, peppermint foot lotion from The Body Shop is a classic to revive tired feet, and is a must-have for a good foot massage at home. Walking on a sandy beach is the best way to naturally exfoliate the feet, but before beach season Kiehl’s ultra moisturizing buffing cream with scrub particles does an excellent job from head to toe.
4. Appreciate the feet.
Popular wisdom says that women love buying shoes because it doesn’t require us to take off our clothes. I think it’s more than that; even if we’re not fully conscious of the erotic connotations of feet and shoes, we know with absolute certainty that a pair of shoes can make or break an outfit. Our first fashion lessons involved shoes, when our mothers patiently informed us as toddlers that we had to wear Mary Janes, not sneakers, with our dresses. Feet are also the object of a dizzying amount of social and cultural cathexis. American units of measurement are called feet. When Jesus wept, Mary Magdalene bathed his feet. In Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, gangster Tony Rocky Horror was allegedly thrown out of a window for massaging Uma Thurman’s feet, because Uma’s husband was proprietary about her tootsies. In our culture, feet are profound, and yet profoundly underappreciated.
Underappreciated, that is, except by a few connoisseurs, and it is from them that we can learn the most. "I have a genuine affection for feet," says Emanuel. "Most women are very uncomfortable with a guy fetishizing feet, so I have to do a little spinning at first. But a lot of women have never had their feet touched; people don’t know how good it can be. Women absolutely lose control if you start touching their feet at the right time. Most women haven’t had their toes sucked on, and don’t know it’s an incredible turn-on. It also says something about the guy -- you have to be passionate … to get down and get your freak on. Usually women find it sweet, since nobody has ever paid that much attention to their feet before."
5. Never let a strange man rub your feet in a bar.
A cigar may sometimes be just a cigar, but a foot massage is never just a foot massage.