I went to graduation this morning. I scored a seat in the front row, perfect for getting up to congratulate students I recognized as they came off the stage, and also giving an unobstructed view of the footgear. My students this term told me they knew it was important to wear interesting shoes to graduation, to keep the faculty entertained. So let’s see what shoes stuck in my mind. (I did not take notes; this is purely what was memorable.)

There were many tasteful pairs of black high heels, some shiny, some open-toed, some serious spikes, some platforms. I also saw a lot of red patent leather, a few flats, some spikes, one dark red lizard print. High-heeled gladiator sandals were also popular, and there were several pairs of metallic gold pumps, as well as a glitzy silver-sequinned set.

Of my current students, the only one whose shoes I recall was a young man who always came to class in loafers and a leather blazer, but today was wearing olive drab canvas sneakers and a headwrap under his mortarboard (he does not have the kind of hair that needs to be wrapped to make it smooth). I don’t know what that was about. Oh, and the double major (Art and English) wore her usual red ballet flats with jeans; it’s her signature look, sort of Audrey Hepburn-esque.

A student from last fall had a lovely pair of sapphire blue suede heels, with a chunky heel. I added to my congratulations, “Nice shoes!” and she said, “Thank you! I wanted something special, and you know, there are so many people wearing shoes that just don’t say ‘Graduation.'” I had to agree. I don’t care how many crystals and gewgaws you add, or how good your pedicure is; flip-flops just don’t seem right for an occasion like graduation, in the opinion of this old fogey. In fact, I prefer closed-toe shoes rather than sandals for such an event, though I would accept a nice pair of peep-toe slingbacks. Someone wore such a pair, in a black-and-white spectator style.

Another black-and-white pair I liked were flats, a floral print. I noted a pair of sporty yet fashionable athletic-style shoes, in tan, on the feet of a woman probably in her fifties getting her bachelor’s degree, and I thought, “There is someone who knows the value of comfortable feet, but she did get new shoes for this, all the same.”

There were two pairs of high-heeled, pointy-toed shoes that stood out for color: one bright pink, one neon orange. I admired a pair of wedges where the top was brown and the wedge was a sort of houndstooth print in brown and cream. One young lady matched her golden yellow honors stole to golden yellow high-heeled sandals, with toenail polish a few shades lighter: that was impressive. And a doctoral student had very high-heeled leopard-print shoes, which stood out because usually the Ph.D.s wear much tamer (and often more comfortable) shoes: these students are older, busier, concerned more with substance than style.

Men usually don’t have memorable shoes. One wore very pointy-toed shoes with a black-and-white chessboard effect; that got our attention. And I find I do not care either for tassels on men’s shoes, or for patent-leather tipping on a plain leather men’s shoe. If you must have patent leather, let it be the entire shoe.

My prize-winning most memorable: pink wedges, where the top was hot pink and the wedge was pink with white polka-dots.

Congratulations, graduates!

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