A neutral shoe. Everlane block heel in rose tan.

A neutral shoe. Everlane block heel in rose tan.

When I talk about the color of certain shoes, I may use "nude" and "neutral" interchangeably, but I am decidedly in Camp Stop Making White The Default. To avoid participating in perpetuating the outdated practice of making white the default on things, I am making an effort to say neutral instead of nude. It's a small change but doesn't really change the meaning at all. They even sound similar. 

When I say neutral, I mean a color that has very low contrast with any given skin tone. It is neutral because it blends very closely with your skin tone. Everyone's will be different. Goldilocks.

For me, my neutral is a beigey-pink-taupe. That's my unicorn color, the color that makes my feet blend seamlessly into my legs. It's hard to find the exact shade, but sometimes a range will do. It allows the focus to be put on the other things I am wearing. A supporting role, but foundational. Not to say the neutral shoe is without style. On the contrary, it can handle more elaboration because it is so neutral to begin with.  

If you've been reading along over the past few months, you know I love a neutral shoe. I'm currently looking for a neutral block heel sandal and a neutral low/flat heel. I mentioned in this weeks recap post that I looked at some vintage shoe listings this weekend, and I spied some interesting contenders for these two. More on that later. 

Currently in my wardrobe, my camel-color boots are my neutral boot, and my Nisolo Serena sandals are a neutral flat sandal (and the perfect neutral shade for my skin tone — it's called Pale Honey).

A neutral shoe. Nisolo Serena sandal in pale honey.

A neutral shoe. Nisolo Serena sandal in pale honey.

Technically my patent camel-color flats should count as a neutral shoe since I counted the camel-color boots, but I feel like the flats function a little differently from the boots — with boots, I rarely wear them with bare legs, so there's not actually any blending with legs going on. The color isn't getting compared to your skin tone because you're in socks or pants or whatever.

On the other hand, the flats are worn with bare ankles and leg, so it's more important that the color match closer to the given skin tone if you are going for the holy grail of neutral shoeing, the shoe-foot blend. In this regard, the camel-color flat looks much more camel than light beige.

Anyone can wear a neutral shoe, but what's "neutral" to one person may not be to another! So when neutral shoe shopping, look for shoes with color names like "dark brown," "beige," "tan" "cocoa." These kinds of colors will be hidden among the blues and the red and the yellows, you just need to learn to their names and a world of neutral shoes will open to you. 

I despise when brands use the color-descriptor "nude" when what they really mean is "nude if you are a pale white person." I'd like to see more shoe designers using more inclusive language in their naming conventions but also in the design process itself.

For instance, for a person of color shopping at an average purveyor of shoes, a shoe color that is called "nude" probably won't actually be nude to that person. In this case, what they're calling "nude" is actually some kind of beige-y color, shorthand for "white person nude." That's not really fair.

It's lazy naming, number one. But number two, there's no acknowledgment that White Person is not an acceptable default. Just call it beige if that's the only option for a nude colorway. Bonus points if you are inclusive enough to offer a range of colors so that there was a true collection of nude options for a wide variation of complexions. Then OK, call it nude. Make-up companies have been doing this forever! 

A neutral shoe. Ecco sneaker in... beige I guess.

A neutral shoe. Ecco sneaker in... beige I guess.

So if I talk about looking for a nude shoe, my implication is that it is what's nude to me specifically. I don't support calling a color nude when it is the only nude option. Call it beige, call it taupe, call it dusty blush, whatever — but not nude. It is a misnomer. It simply doesn't acknowledge the range of nudes that are possible.

OK, getting off my soapbox now.

My original neutral sandal lust was over a pair of blush Maryam Nassir Zadeh Sophie sandals. I fell in love last spring and irrationally bought a used pair half-price on eBay.

The albatross sandals around my neck.

The albatross sandals around my neck.

The only problem was THEY ARE A SIZE TOO SMALL AND I KNEW THIS GOING IN. They were sandals! It would be OK! So my heel sticks over the edge of the shoe, it's only just barely, so what? Half price!

Haha. I even took them to the cobbler and had rubber soles put on, like I do with all my investment shoes. Then I wore them once and had blisters on my feet for a week. They were obviously, painfully, comically too small. I've been trying to sell them for a year now. It's a harder sell because I want to make at least SOME of the money back that I paid for them, but I know I'm losing on the investment of the rubber soles. Just gonna have to eat that cost because it doesn't really add value per se.

So did I learn a valuable lesson? To only ever buy things when I know it's my size because wishful thinking does not make things so? I wish. Nope, more like: only buy things in your size OR BIGGER because at least then you can take them in. Or add an insole. Yep, still buying things not in my size.

Speaking of, here's one of the contenders for neutral block heel sandal:

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Ooo cute, right? As you may know, I love a woven texture! This is the right color neutral that I'm looking for, and they have this interesting but not too tall stacked wedge-shaped block heel:

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What's the downside? Oh, they are size 9A — narrow! I once boughtt a pair of narrow nines on sale at Nordstrom Rack, they were a mid-height point toe stiletto. It was a mistake because a pointed toe shoe is going to pinch more anyway, much less a narrow pointed toe shoe. I should have known better.

But these would be different, right? Because my toes could stick out! The straps would stretch easier! And a narrow heel would probably hold the shoe on better anyway, as I usually find myself putting those sticky heel inserts in my shoes already.

I do really like them, I think they would probably be fine, and with shipping they are still less than $30 bucks. Contender.

But wait it gets better. This pair is spot on for a neutral low block heel, but it's a 9AA.

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This pair would definitely be a disaster, with the enclosed toe. Then again maybe not? I should probably not push my luck.

On the other end of the spectrum, I found this pair of vintage Etienne Aigner woven low heel flats... in 9.5 wide.

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They are also more of a golden tan than I am looking for ideally, however it's a handsome color. I kind of like these a lot. And the heel is wonderful:

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Surely I could throw an insole in these and make them work?

And finally, here's a pair of block heel sandals in the right size that are reminiscent of the MNZ pair languishing in my closet:

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Again, I like the woven braid-y detail at the toe. But I'm not completely wild about them and can't put my finger on why.

I obviously have a lot of idealism in my online vintage shopping. There are definitely times and circumstances where altering a garment or shoe to fit is an easy and rewarding task. Then there are other times when it's a lark. Starting out bigger is probably better than too small. At least there is material to remove or space to fill. But ill-fitting is ill-fitting.

So! That's that I guess. No major decisions made here. Still hunting... always hunting...

What are you hunting for these days?