I bought a pair of Birkenstocks last week. My first ever pair.
I had tried to resist, being more of an expensive designer sandal person. Or a lace around the ankle espadrille person. But since leaving fulltime corporate life, I now spend most of my time working at my kitchen table. Gone are the jackets, the heels, the tight clothes. I’m not in my dressing gown exactly, but I’m definitely headed in that direction. Birkenstocks were a logical progression.
It was a slow descent. When I first began working from home, I made sure I set an alarm and rose at the same time every morning. I would get dressed, put on perfume. I applied full makeup, foundation, brow pencil, the works. Jeans, ballet flats, a wool sweater. Gradually, the jeans gave way to track pants. Cashmere track pants at first. Black, with an elastic waist. And that, as we all know, is the beginning of the end.
I should have remembered the elastic issue from the time we were renovating the house and we moved into an apartment tower just above David Jones in Melbourne. Two lifts and you were in the food court. I had a specific outfit hanging on the back of the door, my “I’m just popping down to get some smoked trout pate” look that included elastic waist silk hippy pants. In six months I put on three kilos just from pre dinner appetisers.
I’ve since bought an $80 khaki parka at Zara. It felt very liberating after all those years of wearing serious jackets with price tags that now horrify me. Rebellious even. I wore it constantly, all through autumn and winter and the following spring, to a point where my friend Stephen said he was sick of seeing it and could I give it a rest. My Lanvin leopard flats had at this point been put back in the cupboard and I had moved onto trainers. Prada at first, but soon to turn into New Balance (bought online from J.Crew). Then, totally out of nowhere, the white $10 canvas plimsolls at Kmart started to look like a feasible option. I even considered Ugg boots.
My cashmere track pants had pilled, and the weather was becoming warmer, so I was now in drawstring silk pyjama pants. I paired them with a tshirt and light cardigan at first, but I did note that I was really only one step off working in full pyjamas. The full makeup routine had stopped. Now it was just a touch of mascara, so the DHL man didn’t get a fright.
I realised I had a growing problem heading into summer, when I looked down one afternoon to see I was wearing the satin slip I’d gone to bed in. I’d had a very productive day on the laptop in my nightie. It was time for an intervention.
There are beautiful labels in Australia such as Jac + Jack and Bassike who produce soft, relaxed pieces in silk, cotton and cashmere that are a perfect at home option, dressy enough to go to a meeting, comfortable enough to sleep in. Put with a cool sneaker, they say I’m not entirely corporate, but yes, I’ve made an effort and isn’t it chic.
Even though I’ve decided to up my game, my mind keeps going back to the Birkenstocks. I still want a shoe I can slide into rather than do up. In the store, the sales assistant fits me into a pair, in a nice navy blue. “You have lots of room in these, you could wear them with thick socks,” he says.