A while ago I did a scientific experiment (asked Twitter) if the season you’re born in is your favourite. Born in November, I adore autumn: how can you not love that tangy, bonfire flavour that fills the air for months. And how can you not find that glorious explosion of golds and reds to be the very best of colours? Dulwich Park in October – my God, just go! (I turn into shit Instagram captions just thinking about #autumn #bliss so please just punch me in the face and let’s have done.)
Unsurprisingly, my scientific experiment turned out to be nonsense, but lots of people agreed with me that autumn rules, partly due to the delight of “new school” syndrome. There’s something delightful about getting everything in a row, and probably forking out a ton on stationery just because this was hardwired into you at eight.
One of the reasons I started blogging again was a pre-autumnal restlessness, but the thing that clinched it was a lovely message on my About Me page from a woman named Lara Roberts (hello Lara!).
On behalf of my 11 year old maypole, who is now 5ft 10 and shoe size 9, thank you so much. I can now hopefully find some school shoes for her when she starts year 7. I know you mentioned being described as being large we really hate it when people say ‘by she is big’, my daughter has started to reply ‘I’m not big I’m tall’.
I mean, brilliant! Bloody well done, daughter of Lara. Language is so important when you’re growing up, in how you describe yourself, how you develop your identity, and how you show yourself to the world. #autumn #autumnalbliss #killmenow But also, annoying as it is, having a quick response to something some dimmock has shouted at you in the street is so much better than weakly smiling, or losing your temper completely. Anyway.
Not being able to easily find clothes or shoes that fit well is a nuisance when you’re in your thirties, but it’s mortifying when you’re a teenager (or before – I had size nine feet by the time I was 10). I’ll never forget the joy I felt when I could finally move from hideous lace-ups to slip-ons that were a dead ringer for the massively expensive Kickers the rest of my class were wearing. So this post is all about back to school shoes, and where to find them – however old you are.
Up to size 13
Long Tall Sally deserves huge praise for designing a range of size 13s that don’t look like shapeless boats (cough: everyone in the 1990s until ooh, about 2010.) Witness: these absolutely lovely green suede boots, made for walking comfortably (cone heel!) and getting shit done.
Yum, yum, yum. But I digress. OH HOW RARE FOR ME.
For actual school, try their Libra lace-up brogue (£55) or Misty leather lace-up brogue (£90), both of which have sensible heels so your feet won’t be destroyed by walking.
And – don’t shout at me quite yet – the men’s 12-14 section at Clarks. Not every Clarks shoe, obviously, but they do have some extremely glamorous brogues which are still very much en vogue. Men’s shoes are absolutely fine as long as you feel amazing in them, and arguably, that should extend to how you feel about everything you wear unless it’s a Sunday and you’re watching X Factor on the sofa in a onesie you spilled pie down last week and forgot about until right now.
Should you happen to come into some serious cash/the desire to be someone’s fricking Fairy Godmother, you can design shoes up to a size 13.5 at the marvellous Shoes of Prey. Prices start at £109 for a basic design. It’s loads, I know, and I’ve never bought a pair for just that reason but have a play on their design-a-shoe site anyway. They have newspaper print, for heaven’s sake! I came this close to designing my wedding shoes to be journalism-themed.
Up to size 12
A quick golden side note before we begin.
I realise we’re probably looking for black, but come on. Inspiration never killed anyone unless you were a painter in Paris in the 1880s and a bit clap-happy. These unbelievable fabulous shoes are available in a size 12 from the excellent UK company After 8 Shoes. They have a massive range of these in different colours, although sadly the black ones and the pink ones are currently sold out in a 12. But please do bookmark After 8 for good size 12s (and all sizes below) as they do proper supportive soles and heels rather than those evil paper thin pumps that should be consigned to the early 2000s in my view.
Anyway. Your friends for school are Shoesissima, Magnus, After 8, Cinderella Shoes (in Ireland, quite spendy, but ships). Tall Girls, who do terrific clothes (say yes to the jersey dress), also do shoes in a 12, but all their flats have that paper thin sole and heel that just aren’t worth the bother. Really, you may as well attach your money to your feet and walk across a pub after chucking out time.
I haven’t put pics of anything from Magnus here because they can be very practical rather than super exciting, but they have a wide range of heels and flats up to a 12, and are also worth mentioning because their shop is on Tall Street (aka Chiltern Street, home of Long Tall Sally’s flagship store and one other tall shoe shop nearby which always has a pleasingly random collection of stuff I would not wear but am glad to know exists). Magnus’s shop, I swear, has not been updated since the Nineties, if that, and its website is only slightly better. But still, options.
Skipping sizes 10 and 11 because all the above applies, sorry, but wide and extra wide size 10s can also drop into Evans
Right, home turf here, and it’s going to come down to one thing.
Yes, literally nothing has changed since 1992, including my bitterness at never having had a pair of Magic Step shoes. I was that child who wrote into Jim’ll Fix It and asked for a pretty pair of party shoes in my size, but before you cry on my behalf, I was also that child who wrote in a year later asking to be a maid in a Victorian house because You Rang M’Lord made it look like such fun.
I have pretty much lived in Clarks for the last few years, partly because the amazing and inventive Amber and Jade shut down, and because getting hold of Clarks shoes isn’t a massive faff. I love them so much I spent the money my old job gave me as a leaving present on a pair as “work investment”.
No, they don’t hold them in their stores – I nearly had a meltdown in the big one on Oxford Street eight years ago because it was just not the right day to discover your feet are incorrect – but you can order them online and they will deliver them too your nearest store, for free. I’ve ordered nine pairs to try on before. It’s brilliant. I felt like Louis XIV.
They are also very comfortable, don’t wreck your toes, come in various widths and have those sensible soles and heels that I keep going on about. But then, I spent years cramming my feet into size 8s. Let’s not be that person.
Here are some of my faves from this year, and there are a ton more online. If you or your daughter, or someone else fancy going mad on heels, they have some great ones available too.
I hope that’s given those of you with back to school shoes to buy some ideas, or at least a few new places to shop. I’d love to hear your suggestions – and your encouragement for girls starting the new school year.