Ever wonder how things may have turned out if you’d taken a different path? The Zoe Report's Hypothetically Speaking is an essay series that explores the various ways even seemingly small decisions can dramatically impact our lives. Here, writer Leeann Duggan shares how buying a pair of Sies Marjan boots made her feel like a brand new person.
Can a pair of boots change your life?
The difference between someone who merely likes fashion and someone who truly, deeply loves it, is that for those of us in the latter camp, the answer is: Of course it can. So can a particular dress or coat, and they don’t transform you in the sense of a style makeover, which can only ever be closet deep. There are some items that can change you in an acute way, harnessing some quiet quality within you and manifesting it for the world, and you, to see.
Once you’ve felt that transforming power, you’re forever on the hunt for it. You no longer “shop” — you sense your way through a rack of potential selves, always looking for a piece that resonates with some hidden part of you. I feel bad for people who’ve never felt that alchemy.
This fall, I found my magic in the form of Sies Marjan’s Jessa boots. I first saw them on my weekly jaunt through The Webster in SoHo, a six-floor store-slash-ode to the magic of fashion. They’re silver leather with an iridescent sheen containing every color of the rainbow, broad white laces, and a fat, wood and rubber platform heel. Their shape is emphatically not elegant, but chunky — almost bulbous. They’re whimsical, winking. The classic logger boot, but make it roller boogie. I had to have them because they felt like an extension of my future self.
I sensed something in them that I needed. It went beyond style; I needed them to evolve to the next phase of my life.
As I often do, I spent a few weeks trying to talk myself out of them — a $900 boot was not the most prudent choice for a woman whose income is subject to the whims of the freelance writing market. Plus I was in a funk the day I saw them, one of those days when a vague dissatisfaction I can’t quite name grips me. Never buy designer boots when an ice cream cone will do, I always say. Still, the weeks didn’t weaken the Jessas' pull. I sensed something in them that I needed. It went beyond style; I needed them to evolve to the next phase of my life. The day I woke from a dream in which I wore them on stage at a conference, I grabbed my credit card and clicked “buy.”
It sounds hyperbolic, but it’s true: I’m now building not only my style, but also my life around these boots. The surface changes are easiest to detect: I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to clothes that complement the boots’ kooky disco vibe: Think '70s-style rainbow stripe tees, wide-leg denim overalls, an ethereal pink mohair sweater. BTB (before the boots), I’d favored a “natural” beauty look forged from a shelf full of foundations, contours and highlights, layers of powdery, taupe eyeshadows buffed to airbrushed perfection. I’ve since ditched the full face of faux-natural for something both bolder and simpler — clean skin, a swipe of mascara, a little glitter on my eyelids like constellations. My friend Sara complimented my new look. “Thanks,” I replied, “I’m doing soft glam this season.” She raised an eyebrow: “You call this soft?”
These boots are bold, shiny, futuristic, optimistic, a little extra, and definitely luxurious — all things I aspire to be.
Other shifts are harder to track. Like my not-so-soft glam, these boots are the opposite of subtle — they announce themselves. They’re made to be noticed, and they always are. Strangers now yell compliments to me on the street. When people approach me at parties, I know what their opening line will be. I’ve found myself talking about T.Rex and David Bowie with strangers at a gallery opening. At a wrap party for HBO’s 2 Dope Queens, I shouted the designer’s name to Jessica Williams over a Missy Elliott song: “Sies Marjan! S-I-E-S…”
I’m a Cancer, shy and emotional by nature, but these boots bring out my Leo moon. For me, that means embracing the boldness that doesn't always come naturally to me. It means learning to reopen myself in the wake of a tough breakup that still stings. As a person who gave up the comfortable-but-stultifying security of a salaried job for the freelance life, and recently joined a fledgling startup as cofounder, it means saying "yes" to risks that put me on new, (hopefully) more rewarding paths.
These boots are bold, shiny, futuristic, optimistic, a little extra, and definitely luxurious — all things I aspire to be. They remind me to be bigger, more forward-thinking, to assert my place in the world. They change my energy — you can't not stomp in them. And I’m convinced my little corner of the world is responding to that newfound confidence.
I was wearing them, strutting down Greene Street, the day my friend Abby asked me to be cofounder of Novella, the women’s writing club she’d started. It was something I’d desired in the most secret part of my heart but hadn't dared spoken aloud yet. I stopped in the middle of the cobblestones to hug her and say “yes of course!” Was it the magic of the boots? A bit of self-fulfilling prophecy? Proof of the Vivienne Westwood maxim, "You have a more interesting life if you wear impressive clothes"? Maybe all those things. Maybe I had all that in me, and just needed a spark to bring it out, to make the invisible known to the world.
As I enter my (deep breath) late 30s, a time that for women has been traditionally fraught with fears and the specter of shrinking options, I think a lot about the ways my life has defied those conventions by expanding, becoming riskier, more exciting, promising more than ever before. I’m digging deep into my capacity to change, to stay flexible, to remember that my self is not a static thing, but dynamic, fluid, open to new possibilities. I am not the same person now as I was at 15, or 25, or even 35, thank god. If I’m lucky, I have many more selves yet to come.
For right now, my Jessa boots are both who I am and who I want to be. They open me up to the world. I’m trusting that the universe has something better in store for me than the predictable old life I left behind. I’m stepping into my future, excited to see what’s next. You listening, 2019?