Monday, March 23, 2015

You can't judge a woman by her abaya: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia photography project Al-Khobar blog
Fajer is a 21 year old soon to be university student from Al-Khobar.
Like Sarrah before her, Saja helps me find my next interview participant. We sit down outside of Saja's house, in her front courtyard.
What are your favourite pair of shoes?
Do you mean Tom's?
No no, Tod's.
I don't know what kind of shoes those are!
They're like Bottega Veneta shoes.
OK OK. So why are they your favourite?
They're comfortable, classy. I love boots, in winter only. And Tod's are nice, they have a lot of colours. I like them.

Do you wear your favourite shoes when you go out in public?
Yeah of course.

Do you match your shoes with your abaya? How do you put them together with your outfit?
Actually no, not with my abaya. With my clothes I always wear matching shoes with my jacket or pants or anything. 
When you put on your abaya, it doesn't matter.
No, no. Actually I don't go to the mall or to restaurants. It's always houses. In Bahrain I don't wear an abaya.
Do you cover your hair?

Think about all the different pairs of shoes you have? For me I would say I go to the gym with my sneakers, I go out with my friends with my flats, sandals downtown.
I love my sneakers. I would wear them all the time. I even wear them with jeans and a coat.
I could never do that with my sneakers. They're New Balance and it doesn't look good.
No no no. I wear Nike.
Yeah I think that it would look better. I'm so bad at exercise that I have the same exercise shoes for over ten years. 
Me too, me too! It's the same with my Nike pair.

How do you see or judge other women by their shoes?
I don't judge. I don't care. Sometimes I don't recognize them.

How do you think other women judge you by your shoes?
I love my shoes actually.
Do you think that some women would say that they're too masculine?
Yeah of course, maybe they like them or not, but I always wear standard, classy shoes. I don't do fashion.

Do you wear a different pair of shoes every time you leave your house?
So you must have so many pairs of shoes!
Yeah. I love boots.
Boots? Isn't it too hot to wear them here?
No. They're... um, like these - ankle boots.

I want you to think about your favourite pair of shoes again. How do they make you feel?
I love Crocs, I really love Crocs. I always wear them, everywhere. Airport, friends' houses, the market.
Really? I can't imagine it.
She laughs.

What do you want your shoes to say about you?
About myself?
About your style, your look, anything.
I'm a classy woman, most of the time.
So you're not classy sometimes?
Yeah, in the mornings.

To be honest, in the beginning of the interview I had no idea what shoes Fajer was talking about. Tod's? I Googled it when I got home and while I recognized the style and make, I also knew that these were shoes I would never buy or be able to afford. Fajer and her friends operate in completely different circles than me. But then she surprised me when she said that she loved Crocs. In North America, you see those kind of shoes in places like bingo halls, theme parks and daycares. What was this classy woman whose favourite shoes were handmade by an Italian luxury brand doing wearing them? It just goes to show that you can't judge a book by its cover, nor a woman by her abaya.


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