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How Many Shoes Are Too Many?

Overboard, starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, makes it onto the all-time-top-ten movie list of almost every woman I know. Sure, there are some great lines (“I’m a short, fat slut,” for one), but the mechanical shoe closet that she has built on her yacht is the real highlight. In case you haven’t seen it: Hawn’s character is filthy rich, has a walk-in shoe closet with rotating shelves made, treats everyone badly, falls off of a boat, gets amnesia, redeems herself, gets her shoes back, and lives happily ever after. It’s a classic.

It’s just one of a few key images that were burned on the young brains of nearly every future shoe addict—like Mariah Carey’s shoe room on MTV Cribs, or the Sex and the City episode when Carrie realized she’d spent the equivalent of a down payment for an apartment on shoes—that we’ll never shake. Gorgeous shoes equal glamour, femininity, and membership to an exclusive club that frequents high-end department stores that sell footwear in “salons.” But while the absence of a savings account coupled with a raging shopping addiction make for good TV, in real life, it’s not as cute.

How many shoes are too many shoes? That depends on the number of zeroes in your bank account (and your credit card balance) and the extent to which you’re willing to go without other indulgences, like dinner. Consider, for instance, that the money spent on a pair of Jimmy Choo jeweled sandals or Azzedine Alaia round-toe flats could buy a round-trip coach ticket to Paris (where, of course, you’d love to go shoe shopping. But that’s beside the point) from nearly any major airport in America. It’s a night at a great hotel, with breakfast in bed and maybe a massage. It’s a sink, a toilet, and maybe some dry wall for Habitat for Humanity. Or for some more common-sensical people, it’s a good portion of a mortgage payment on a home you may own, or hope to some day own. Going mindlessly into debt and living in a studio apartment in order to stay current with the latest platform wedge is a less than substantive choice.

As an Overboard fan and a shoe obsessive, I cannot judge. But I can suggest an experiment: try taking a season off. Wait it out. Are six-inch animal print platforms the must-have this minute? How about five-pound black ankle boots with a cloven hoof toe? There’s a virtual guarantee that they won’t be in for long. By the time they hit they sale rack, the urgency will have expired like last month’s milk. Next season, ease back into it and buy the one perfect pair, and make it so exquisite that you’ll wear it every chance you get. Keep it up, and soon, you’ll have such an impressive collection that one of those pairs will likely come back into style some day and break out of the archives. Just don’t hold your breath.

If, however, you wake up from your bout of amnesia tomorrow and realize that you have untold amounts of cash and a yacht with a revolving, mechanical shoe closet that needs filling, don’t hold back. In which case, I’d recommend the calfskin, closed-toe, Manolo pump in every available color. It too is a classic that will hold up twenty years from now.

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