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First few days in Paris (plus a treatise against Uggs)


Unreasonable passion, irrational exuberance

First few days in Paris (plus a treatise against Uggs)

Daniel Yudkin

Well, I already made my first egregious error: I forgot to load up my duffel bag, as planned, with six months' supply of RedZone deodorant.  Now I’m faced with the choice of using Mennen UltraFresh stick (which clearly hasn’t changed its formula since the days of pomade and pocket-combs), or getting my parents to ship the supply in a cardboard box at fifteen bucks a pop. In other news, Paris seems more or less how I left it: while there have been some renovations at Café Madeleine to replace the traditional lighting with large reddish orbs that hang down rather ominously from the ceiling, the waiters are still bustling around on the streets in normal fashion, pulling up chairs and taking food orders from unsuspecting tourists, usually before they even knew they were hungry.  Autumn-wise, Paris is a little more advanced than home was: there are already leaves carpeting some of the sidewalks, and there is a distinct crispness in the air, the kind Parisians get really excited about because it means they get to crack open and make a selection from their scarf-closet.             

Scarves, and shoes: factors that may even in the best of times stand as two irremediable obstacles to reconciliation between our cultures.  The scarf is the very symbol of Parisian aesthetic sensibility: pretty, eye-catching, and kind of pointless.  Americans, on the other hand, would take a good hood or zipped-up coat collar over a scarf any day of the week.  Shoes work much the same way.  Americans, prudently, like shoes that have the same qualities as feet—tough and practical, and occasionally pretty (with the exception of Ugg boots....oohhh don’t even get me STARTED about Ugg boots.  OK THAT’S got me started!


In the history of mankind, art, architecture, and design have always grappled with the same dilemma, that of Form versus Function.  Take any architecture 101 class and that’s the first thing you learn: things need to EITHER be pretty [as in a sculpture, or earrings] or functional [as in an elevator, or rain boots].  Now every once in a while, a true genius figures out a perfect way to combine these two elements, as in, some might say, the Guggenheim museum, or an awesome sexy winter jacket.  But never, NEVER in the history of design has anyone failed so utterly at achieving EITHER objective as in the case of Uggs.  Uggs are mankind’s crowning pinnacle of ugliness, and simultaneously, uselessness. 

            Think about this for a second: yes, Uggs look good on the rack in the shoe store.  You look at them and think, “Oo!  These could make me look like a little snow bunny!”  And I can’t blame you: in the store, there is a certain softness, a certain visual and tactile appeal.  But it’s a trick.  I repeat: DO NOT BUY THEM IT IS A TRICK.  Because, first: you know that that silly excuse for a rubber sole won’t provide any semblance of support for your foot and so you’re going to end up actually walking on the part of the boot that was meant to be around your ankle.  So much for function.  And second, be honest here: when are you going to wear Uggs?  In the summer when the grass and sidewalks are clean, free from dirt and moisture and other sullying agents?  I think not.  No; I think you are planning to wear them in the winter, when conditions will at best cause that disgusting layer of street-salt to be drawn by capillary action up around the ankle-line of your precious boots, and at worst leave the entire fuzzy lining [and tassles!  Oh god the tassles!] to be caked in grit and mud.  My point is, that while Uggs may not be the worst thing that has ever happened to the world as a whole [there are other contenders for that...the Holocaust, the Black Plague], they may be the worst thing that has ever happened to clothes, and are unquestionably the worst thing that has ever happened to boots.)

            Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes: shoes.  Americans on the whole like shoes that are tough and practical, Parisians...Parisians...oh, I lost my train of thought.