My obsession with clogs began as most of my sartorial obsessions begin: slung on the feet of effortlessly, almost aggressively Cool Moms.
Historically, these obsessions start quiet, subtle, barely noticeable. They rise at the sight of a funky Anello backpack bobbling up and down between cracks in the crowd at Tokyo Disney Sea, fading in and out of view like a spirit tantalizing visions beyond this reality. They’re drawn out by the rolled-up sleeve of a loose, oversized denim shirt, its accompanying human hand snatching the bag of apples I had my eye on in the produce section at Harmons (when I look up, She’s gone, already turning out the corner and into her pastel-toned maternal dream of a future.) They’re evoked in the glint of the whimsical watercolor print on a Cath Kidston wallet peeking out from the bag of a woman seated across the way while lunching at the weirdly bespoke, garden shed inspired restaurant down the street from a friend’s apartment.
Moments like these plant obsession deep into my soul like a bulb. As I retreat back into my day-to-day, the images fester, flaunt, and flitter through my consciousness. It’s never long before the bulb breaks soil, sprouting into my inner world with the buoyancy and brashness of a daffodil. All at once, I become fixated on the backpack, the shirt, the wallet, the perfectly mussed bun, what have you with the focus and precision of a hawk. Something clicks and suddenly nothing else matters beyond my mother-inspired object of desire. Nothing else exists.
I’m routinely stumped by my transfixion with cool-mom culture, confused by its debilitating force on my psyche. It’s all self-inflated, a projection based on an idealized view of motherhood (which, I’ll add, is a liiiiiiittle sexist in that toxically subtle, internalized way. Motherhood isn’t the ultimate, defining quality of badass, aspirational women, nor should it be. Besides, I have no way of knowing whether any of my subjects are mothers in the first place, and it’s none of my business whether they are or not). Regardless, I’m under the constant spell of these fairy-dream projections. My thoughts spiral around the glimmering, radiant energy that emanates from these women. My life’s purpose, at least in part, is to harness that power for myself. I don’t just want to be like them… that would never be enough. I must cherish them, channel them, and ultimately become them.
My first exposure to the intoxicating, motherly nature of Swedish clogs was potent, electric. I was living in Portland at the time, working for a massive women’s lifestyle boutique (a household name that I’m too ashamed to admit here, but will hint at with these clues: pastels, macrame, candles shoved in every corner, and pARASITIC PILFERING OF THE CREATIVE, MAGICAL MINDS BEHIND COUNTLESS SMALL, INDEPENDENT BRANDS–though that last bit is just conjecture). The women of Portland are another breed of human. Their style is effortless despite giving off the constant, all-consuming vibe that they’ve just been uprooted from their decadently mussed, brilliantly colorful, and seemingly wild gardens.
I came in contact with countless iterations of these women, each a shock of individuality despite all more-or-less fitting into the same aesthetic box.
For your reference, I’m including this crash course in that box’s contents: organic-but-colorful tones, natural fibers, flowy silhouettes, avant garde handmade jewelry, tasteful tattoos swarming leathery-yet-supple skin, an inexplicably functional canvas tote, and, of course, Swedish. Fucking. Clogs. While the interpretation of these themes varies from mom to mom, clogs were ubiquitous in this grimily aspirational pool of women.
I sneered at first. “How do the Portland moms walk in clogs?” I’d ask my coworkers, obviously self-conscious of clogs’ absence in my wardrobe. Before they could defend the mothers’ decisions, I’d jump back in. “They don’t… They hobble! Mobility is shot in those things! No doubt they leave their poor feet sullen and BRUISED. They’re obviously designed by The Man to oppress women, I don’t get how they don’t see that. : ( how sad.” Of course, these comments rose more out of envy than anything else. These bitches were rad as HELL–no part of me didn’t want their lives.
My days at work were punctuated by the constant clock clock clock of the shoes on the raw wood flooring of the shop. A cacophony of wood-on-wood action… every clack both a reminder of my inadequacy in the ranks of these goddesses and a beckoning to step into their shoes, so to speak.
The store carried clogs, of course… how could it not? It was Portland for goodness sake. The shop must’ve held a secret grudge against larger-footed women, though, as size 42s rarely made it into the stock room (despite almost all of the brands the store carried manufacturing and selling that size, often larger, on their website). If I wanted a pair, I’d have to order direct, therefore forfeiting my generous employee discount. I was an underpaid, overworked retail worker in an increasingly expensive city. I had bills to pay. Even if I could afford it, there was no way was I going to drop that kind of cash on something I could conceivably snag at half that price. I am a man of principle.
Anyway, life shimmied along and I eventually quit that job and with it my life in Portland. I packed my Subaru and drove the 600 some odd miles back home to Salt Lake, my beautiful hometown. And as much as I love it here, the place is woefully devoid of clogs. My immediate desire to break in a pair faded my first winter home, an unseasonably cold and wet one that decimated any practical appeal.
My attraction never totally diminished, though. Like a perennial bulb resting dormant under the soil, my incessant need for clogs would spout and flower once more.
Now, despite being more recent in memory, the specifics of when my clog obsession swung full-force back into my life is hazy. Sometime in the last few months, I was reintroduced to clogs and subsequently re-submerged in all their handmade glory. It wasn’t long before the desire drowned me.
So, as mother-obsessed young men do (a platonic, super gay Electra complex? You be the judge), I participated in a blatant, brilliant appropriation of cool-mom culture. After years of Swedish clogs’ gentle gnaw at my frontal lobe, I caved at the sight of a pair of ~*ReDuCeD pRiCe*~ lilac Sandgren mules. In a glorious twist of fate, the motherfuckers were a solid 50% off.
Just like that, I gave into the the toxic, capitalist desire complex that modern consumerism gave me. “It was on sale, how could I not??” Blindly, I did The Suits’ bidding. Now I must deal with the realization that I am a mere c(l)og in their machine ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
If that is, then so be it. While I don’t want to purport that material goods can make a person happy (they can’t even come close), more closely resembling a Cool Mom makes me feel like a God, and there’s just no way around that.