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Why I Swore Off White Sneakers

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On Shoe Size and Sole Searching

I’ve always had huge feet.

By the time I hit sixth grade, I was wearing a size 9.5 shoe, and Adidas Superstars were all the rage. I’ll never forget wearing my brand new pair to school, only to have a classmate point and laugh at my “clown feet.” I cried in the bathroom and shoved the shoes into the back of my closet, vowing to never buy flashy white sneakers again.

Then I grew to wear a solid size 10.5 — sometimes an 11 — and realized that most designers and popular shoe brands cap their production at a size 10. When I moved to New York City for college, I found the siren call of sample sales too tempting to resist, and spent most of my early 20s squeezing my toes into deeply-discounted Lanvin flats and Dries van Noten boots that were at least a half size too small for me. Sure, my shoe collection wasn’t comfortable, but as The Devil Wears Prada and countless episodes of Sex and the City reminded me, fashion can be painful. (Remember, this was the mid-aughts.)

Eventually, inevitably, my body rebelled. Five or so years ago, I developed a painful ulcer on the pinky toe of my left foot that left me limping. After visiting a podiatrist for the first time, I learned that the injury (along with a pesky ingrown toenail I’d developed) had been caused by hours spent pounding the pavement in too-small shoes. I wound up wearing a surgical boot for several weeks until the toe healed, and vowed to stick to properly-fitting footwear from that point on.

A woman in a nice dress.

The Repetto ballet flats I’d lived in during college that, like many European shoes, run a full size small? Donated them, along with the size 10 Maison Martin Margiela knee-high boots I’d scored for $200 at a Barneys Warehouse sale and a handful of other too-snug shoes that tortured my toes. To replace them, I purchased roomier new versions from brands like Stuart Weitzman and Topshop, both of which sell plenty of options in size 10.5 and up.

Ultimately, I’ve come to accept (if not necessarily love) my larger-than-most feet. True, there are certain brands and shoe styles that have sized me out, but while I wait patiently for that to change (please, Rag & Bone, won’t you make your Harrow Boot in an 11?!), there are also tons of great retailers who happily cater to women who wear extended sizes. I still prefer to shop for shoes in person rather than online, but now, instead of going with the largest size available on the sales floor and hoping it’ll stretch to fit, I typically do the actual purchasing part online, where extended sizes are more plentiful.

A few months ago, I even picked up my first pair of Adidas Stan Smiths. They’re blindingly white, they don’t do a damn thing to minimize my feet, and I love them. After all, you know what they say about girls with big feet: They know where to buy really cute shoes. Elana Fishman, entertainment editor

Diabetes Can Be an Invisible Disease, Until You Have to Wear a Dress
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You’ve probably seen an insulin pump, even if you didn’t realize it. Most of them look like clunky pagers connected by medical tubing to an injection where the insulin is delivered. Another kind is "wireless" and looks like a little pod, which is controlled by a separate remote. With the first, the wearer is dealing with a Game Boy-like device strapped onto some part of her clothing or tucked away in a pocket. With the second comes an ovular bulge protruding from her arm or stomach.

Neither option is particularly subtle, and newly diagnosed 17-year-old me was repulsed by both.

Like most high school juniors, I was full of insecurities about literally everything from my shoe size to my handwriting, but mostly about my skin — I also have a genetic condition called “keratosis pilaris” which causes my skin to be dry, bumpy, and often reddish. My body and the way clothes fit on it was one thing I was confident about, so wearing a bulky insulin pump (all the time, forever) was highly unappealing.

“What if I want to wear a dress that doesn’t have pockets? What about prom? What about dance competitions? What about the beach?” I was a busy high schooler and I didn’t want to take the time to think about these things while I got dressed every day. I certainly didn’t want to draw negative attention to myself. I didn’t want to answer questions from rude mean high schoolers about my disease. I didn’t want people to treat me like a sick person. Most of all, I didn’t want to give up the freedom of getting to wear what I wanted and look how I wanted when I felt like diabetes had already taken a sizable portion of my freedom away.

I was 17 then. I’m 25 now, and I still feel the same way.

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Rhys May Custom-Stamped Cuff, $48

Athens, Georgia, is home to many things — the Dawgs, the birthplace of R.E.M., at least a handful of stumbling-drunk 19-year-olds at any given time, and a very unique little fashion scene, the heart of which lives in a boutique called Community.

Community is, for the most part, a vintage shop, but before a lot of those pieces hit the sales floor, the in-house seamstresses will rework them, modernizing the fit and style. On top of that, the store hosts sewing classes, does alterations, and sells the work of local and student designers and jewelry makers. So whenever I’m in town, I try to swing by, which is how I ended up with this cuff that hasn’t left my wrist since.

My dad and I were Christmas shopping for his girlfriend when he spotted the display of “Rings That Say Things” by Rhys May. Rhys makes everything from spiky drop earrings to opal and diamond rings, but I immediately loved the lightheartedness of the rings stamped with messages like “Barf,” “Ugh,” and “Merde,” — French for “shit,” so, like, it’s a little bit fancier than regular “shit.” When my eyes landed on the cuff that said “Fuck Yeah,” I was instantly sold. And at only $48, it wasn’t too unreasonable for a pre-Christmas impulse buy.

The rings ($42) and cuffs ($48), which are both completely adjustable, can be customized with any message on Rhys’s Etsy shop. (For both these reasons, they’d make a great gift, too.) So you could go with something standard, like your initials, or maybe you have a catchphrase you’re hoping to #brand yourself with, although I highly recommend sticking with some kind of profanity. 

It tickles me to no end to occasionally see the F word on my wrist throughout the day without the commitment and mom-shaming that would come from an obscene tattoo. Plus, it’s the appropriate phrase in nearly all situations. For example, it’s a great motivator: “‘Fuck yeah’ finish those emails, Stephanie!” And a serious warning: “If you’re reading this ‘fuck yeah,’ you’re standing too close to me, random subway person!” Clearly, you really can’t go wrong here. —Stephanie Talmadge, social media editor 

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