Thankfully Chicago women have both feet on the ground

  • Pin It

This column scares the heck out of me.

Because the last thing a chunky, boringly dressed guy like me should ever do is offer fashion advice to women.

Especially by writing a column about women's shoes and the scary things American women may be doing to their pinky toes, so they can cram their feet into ridiculously expensive, high-fashion shoes like Jimmy Choos.

"Fashion is the third rail of column writing for men," a female editor warned me years ago, when I mentioned that I was thinking about offering women some fashion tips. "You? Women's fashion tips? You'll kill your career. You step on that third rail, you'll get fried like bacon."

The prospect of frying myself like a sack of bacon was indeed terrifying. So for years I stuck to safe subjects, like Chicago politics, the Outfit, rogue cops, Combine bosses, gangbangers, race hustlers and the occasional poultry recipe. And coward that I am, I never touched dangerous women's fashion.

But then I heard about a frightening story on TV news and the Internet —- a story that may even be true — about a disturbing new trend: Fashion-conscious American women getting their pinky toes lopped off so they can fit into expensive high heels.

Or they do something almost as scary, removing the bones from their longest toe, allowing the shoes to fit, though this can leave the toe quite floppy, like a boneless veal roast, only much, much smaller.

"I saw that on TV too!" said a fashionably dressed young woman standing with my wife and me the other day. "They cut the pinky, or they cut the long toe to get into the shoe. Not the big toe, but the second one. I should know. My second toe is so long, my husband has a name for it."

What does he call it?

"He calls it E.T."

Like the Extra-Terrestrial?

"Yes, but I'd never cut E.T. off for a shoe," she said. "I love my E.T."

So I called the renowned podiatrist Dr. Michael Byrnes, of Oak Lawn. Full disclosure: He's also the Kass family podiatrist, and once he saved my life during an attack of gout.

"Why don't we call it what it is: mutilation for fashion," said Byrnes. "Thank God it's not being done in Illinois. We have very responsible podiatrists in Illinois. I won't do it, and no podiatrist I know would allow it. This started as an East Coast thing, then it became a West Coast thing, but not here. Not in Chicago."

He explained that sometimes the pinky toe is cut down. And other times the bones in the longest toes are removed, "although if you remove too many, and try to put a sock on, your toe could fold over and you wouldn't know it.

"Some people need such surgery, to repair structural damage, to relieve pain," he said. "But we don't do it for fashion to fit into fashion shoes."

Yet aren't Chicago women as stylish as the flyover people from New York and LA.?

"Sure, they're fashionable," said Byrnes. "They're just not crazy."

He said that on occasion, American female feet are often too wide or too long to fit comfortably into high-fashion shoes like a pair of Jimmy Choos.

"Jimmy Choos tend to be very difficult to fit for American women. They have a very narrow toe box. Have you ever seen a Jimmy Choo shoe?"

  • Pin It