Look At Those Clothes!

Musings on style and fashion

“Shoes . . . become like the person wearing them”

Photo by Sgarton

Photo by Sgarton

Are your shoes talking about you? Pulitzer Prize-winning Nebraska poet and former U.S. poet Laureate (2004–2006) Ted Kooser thinks so.

Ted has a poetry series called “American Life in Poetry” that runs once weekly in our local newspaper (thanks to The Poetry Foundation). He prefers poems that are accessible, precise, and vivid, and so do I. About this poem. No. 466 in the series, Ted commented that “the shoes we put on our feet gradually become like the person wearing them.”

I think poet Jim Daniels captures the visceral relationship we sometimes have with our clothes. He also gives us a poignant glimpse at the life of someone who does hard physical work for a living. I’m touched by the line “the promise of steel and the years to come.” We see the steel only because the boots are torn, so their promise of safety over those many years may be an empty one.


Next to the screen door

work boots dry in the sun.

Salt lines map the leather

and laces droop

like the arms of a new-hire

waiting to punch out.

The shoe hangs open like the sigh

of someone too tired to speak

a mouth that can almost breathe.

A tear in the leather reveals

a shiny steel toe

a glimpse of the promise of safety

the promise of steel and the years to come.

Photo by mclark photos

Categories: Fashion & Literature

Tags: , , ,

4 replies

  1. At the other end of the spectrum, away from boots and work shoes, The Brooklyn Museum is currently hosting an exhibit of high heels, called “Killer Heels.” It might be worth checking it out.


  2. Love this feature – really thought provoking!


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