By Christina Catherine Martinez
This is Wendy’s going-out shoe, a lace-up ankle boot with a six-inch heel chunky enough to keep it just shy of stripper territory. She clomps over to the Grimehouse in them, hoping to see Jeff, and later wears them while carving that dickhead’s name into a wall and almost getting arrested. On the way to Grimehouse she wonders if Jeff will like her outfit. The boots make her leggy and tall as fuck, so the answer is yes. Super high, super sturdy, and available in every color under the goddamn sun, Lita’s were the apotheosis of the platform and bootie/shoe-boot trend; standard Hot Girl footwear that were quickly dated by their own popularity. Jeffrey Campbell fueled this ubiquity by flooding the market with ever-more outlandish patterns and colorways until the once odd-but-versatile shoe became a jokey fad and surefire sign of fashion philistinism. The nadir was a ‘galaxy-print’ Lita boot seemingly tailor made for Tumblr webcam preening. Post-aughts, Lita’s carry a stigma of bloggery try-hard consumerism that would be an anathema to smart art girls like Wendy, so I hope she ditched these after Book 1.
Wendy’s best friend Tina drinks, drugs, and parties like Wendy, but instead of an art practice she works at a retail concept called Modern Myth. She promulgates gossip, fine tunes passive-aggressive gestures, and has sex with things she’s not supposed to. Tina is definitely more stylish than Wendy, yet she is unable to articulate the unease she feels around Wendy’s black-clad, post-marxist art friends—their vague European accents and variously positioned top-knots frankly intimidate her. Tina’s hostility toward Wendy’s “art shit” stems from frustration over what to do with her excess cultural cache, the result of a job that rewards her taste but fails to provide the means to fulfill it. She mocks Vienna’s vintage Etsy store while secretly jonesing to model for it, and channels her anomie into ironic gestures like wearing stripper heels to the mall: the one arena where the magic of her meager exposure to high fashion lends her the power to recast cheap plastic fuckwear into an avant garde statement. Her subtle challenge to the mall-goers—ascertaining the provenance of her shoes—is the ultimate petit-bourgeois performance, but I own these heels myself and will attest that the right styling can make them look very expensive.
Wendy wears these boots out for a day of writing an exhibition proposal at the local coffee shop before getting sidelined by local rape-stachioed mancandy, Jeff. The first Swedish Hasbeens designs were based on deadstock 1970s clogs unearthed in an abandoned factory in a small village outside of Stockholm in 2006, and have since expanded into a range of styles that run the gamut of dowdy-cute. Like Worishofer (German orthopedic sandals for the geriatric set) and Kork Ease (mid-century cork-wedge “day-to-night” Boomer shoes) Swedish Hasbeens are stylish by virtue of their ugliness. It only makes sense that Wendy would wear these on a day when she needs to feel like a serious artist, and not a party girl who draws.
Wendy definitely missed the boat on this one. When she returns from seven weeks abroad at the Flojo Artist Residency, everyone and their mom is wearing this sneaker—Tina, her new boyfriend Jeff, their gay BFF Screamo, and most importantly, local medi-couture designer Maya de Vanegas, whose clinical body braces are the toast of Modern Myth. Like the ghost of St. Hubbins come down in the form of viral social-media discourse, it seems N—core* has hit Wendy’s town. Suddenly puffer jackets and running shoes are equally apropos to both art openings and stocking the freezer at the local health food store. Suddenly Wendy’s vintage coats and modish little hats helplessly betray all that is un-chic about her, namely, her desire to be chic, to be arty, to be an artist. Caught between her provincial, lovesick boss and banal party pals, Wendy moves through her days in a miasma of awkwardness that drains her mentally, emotionally, and artistically. If she copped a pair of these and went for an actual jog once in a while she would feel loads better, but that’s not what they’re for.
In the final panels, Wendy disappears in the flow of pedestrian airport traffic, resolved to give herself a new start. We know she’s marching away, but it’s hard to tell what will happen next; we can’t see her feet.
*Full utterance of the word violates the personal ethical and journalistic standards of the author.
Walter Scott, Wendy, (Koyama Press, 2014)