Jeffrey Campbell’s roller sandals arrived at my apartment in the middle of Fashion Week, just before I was set to road-test them in the middle of the action at Lincoln Center. I was shocked at the box’s weight, but I found the cognac leather sandals inside surprisingly cute — though my taste in flatforms might err on the orthopedic side.
There were cutouts in each sole for wheels on metal brackets and a little knob for retracting them, so one could walk safely (presumably) in between skating sessions. The wheels on the left sandal refused to retract. I asked my editors whether they’d noticed this; one suggested pliers and another replied it was possible that she broke them, and added, “I cannot wait to see how this goes.” I assured myself these two thoughts were unrelated, and imagined how I’d look zooming between Sixth and Seventh Avenues in the 14th Street subway.
Rather than taking time to practice with my roller sandals, I considered what to wear with them. I thought a Sea dress with a flouncy skirt seemed like skatingwear, and accessorized with a Lauren Manoogian leather cuff that matched the roller sandals and could double as a wrist-guard. I also wore tights, because I figured I’d be ass-up at some point. I felt fairly confident from the outside in, which is saying a lot in the middle of Fashion Week. Except I was still wearing non-rolling Rachel Comey platforms. When the time came to buckle the roller sandals in the midday sun at Lincoln Center, surrounded by street-style photographers and ladybirds in stilettos flocking to their one o’clock show, I was scared. Though the sandals were probably more comfortable than many of the heels in the crowd, they felt like they had the potential speed of the rollerblades I once rode to middle school (now that’s out there), and the crap maneuverability of those wheels on metal brackets they strapped to our sneakers in the eighties. Plus, there were stairs.
I steadied myself for a few glides, and a security guard almost immediately threw me off the pavilion. He didn’t agree my sandals were more “fashion” than “skates.” So, instead of fulfilling my vision of arabesques around the fountain, I took my sandals to the sidewalk — via a ramp. There, I was met by showgoers exiting taxis, frightening cracks in the pavement, and a slight grade toward traffic I never noticed walking on Columbus Avenue. But I also got some smiles, and once I sped up I didn’t feel the sidewalk cracks so much. When I nearly took a digger, a not-unattractive bystander rushed to my assistance. I’ve never experienced this in plain old heels. I haven’t yet mastered the stop, but I sort of got the hang of a slow turn. I may have looked ridiculous (or juvenile — or like a futuristic granny, as some of the crowd’s aesthetic judges suggested) in my roller sandals, but they were fun. They pushed me out of my comfort zone and completely changed my perspective for an afternoon. Isn’t that kind of what fashion is for?