It took me 25 years, but I’ve finally found the perfect pair of shoes for summer — even if I’m just staying in town. Shoes during the summer can be trying: Sandals seem perfect at first, but most of them are way too flat to walk in for any amount of time. Sneakers are having a moment, but they have always made me feel like a backpacker headed for a hostel, and ballet flats are often too narrow in the toe to be comfortable for me. Then, on a whim, I bought a pair of Minnetonka Thunderbirds while clicking around the Vermont Country Store website, home of old-lady favorites since 1946. (But of course you can get them on Amazon, too.)
Made by the Minnesota-based Minnetonka since 1955, the mocs are stylish in that slightly off, quirky-aunt sort of way. (Drew Barrymore is a fan, which pretty much says all you need to know.) They’re attractive against almost all odds. And though I get compliments every time I wear them, compliments don’t matter if they’re not comfortable, which these really are. Made of ultrasoft, pliable leather, they formed themselves to the shape of my foot after just a few wears without blisters or raw spots in the process. I find that they’re surprisingly versatile, too, as cool with ankle-cropped jeans as with midi-skirts. I always wear them without socks and they never ever stink (though if you are prone to sweaty feet, get yourself a pair of these genius machine washable terry-cloth insoles, which can be taken out and tossed in the wash every so often).
I’ve figured out what makes them so sneakily charming: They flatter the foot because the vamp (the part of the shoe that covers your toes) is low, which helps create a long, unbroken line. A higher-vamped shoe (like a sneaker) tends to chop the leg up, making the ankle just a bit stumpy. The white pair is a cross between Keds and old-school nurses’ shoes, though my favorites are the dignified navy version. They also come unbeaded if that’s more your speed. Just devote some time for short jaunts to break them in before committing a full day to exploring in them — the leather is flexible, but you can’t rush the process.
If you want to get Drew’s exact pair, it’s the Thunderbird II in taupe.