Tracy Strong wrote this essay for the “Shoes” Art Garden (and you can bet she won’t be wearing lime green in town anytime soon!
Image © Adroyt.
You Can’t Wear That in New York!
“You’ll never make it; you’ll have to wear shoes everyday.” Those were the supportive and parting works from my dear sweet mother in 1976 when I boarded the plane for NYC after trying to find a job in Florida on and off for three years.
Florida is an interesting place, so different from Minnesota where we had all grown up. The thing about Florida is that you can wear the most outrageously colored clothes and not feel the least bit self-conscious. They wear pants, shirts and shoes in lime green, hot pink, turquoise and lemon yellow and they wear them all at the same time. I wore gold shell belts with lime green shirts and hot pink shorts and scarves of every imaginable color. I would absolutely deny all of this if there wasn’t photographic evidence showing all the family dinners where everybody including my brothers and father are in absolutely blinding colors.
Moving to NYC was a big shift to the color black. I worked as a freelance production artist in various design studios. I would work intensely for several months on various projects and then fly back to Florida for a little r&r. I would come home and go through my closet and pull out all sorts of colorful clothes and go the beach or movies without a second thought as to how I looked. My mother would offer a shopping spree every now and then. We would try on clothes and if it was something in a bright color my mother would sigh and say “too bad you can’t wear that in New York”. Just to prove her wrong I would often take something back to NYC and as I would get off the airplane and walk amongst the sea of black clothes I knew my mother was right.
During one particular trip home I found a wonderful pair of very cheap lime green espadrilles. I wore them every time I was in Florida and eventually on one trip decided that I wanted to have them in NY. I was working at a design studio on 54th and Madison. On the day I decided to dress up my black outfit with the lime green espadrilles, the boss asked me to run some manuscripts over to a publisher we did work for on 58th and 5th Avenue. I got to 5th and 54th and was waiting with about 10 other people to cross the street when the lights changed and a school bus full of kids stopped to let us cross. The windows of the bus were all open on that summer day and heads and arms and legs were sticking out of almost every window. All of a sudden a very loud voice screamed “Look at that lady in the green shoes” followed by all kinds of laughter from inside the bus. I immediately felt sorry for the lady in the green shoes and then just as quickly realized the lady in the green shoes was me. I held my head high and continued on my errand, went back to work, walked home and put the shoes in my closet.
Lesson learned I packed the green shoes and took them back to Florida where they belonged. Last April some twenty-three years later, I was shopping with my sister and stepmother in Naples Florida. We were all trying on these beautiful silk jackets. I took the bright coral colored jacket from the rack and put it on and looked in the mirror. I was admiring how I looked when my sister came up behind me and said, “You’ll never be able to wear that in New York.”