My love of patent leather shoes started pretty early on.

I remember at the age of 11 going into the local shoe shop with my mom. She found some practical navy Mary Janes that she thought were just the ticket for me. And they were on sale.

But my heart was pulled to a pair of rich brown patent leather numbers. They tied with a bow and had a heel! Not much of a heel mind you, but a heel nonetheless.

It was my first experience with wearing “grown up” shoes.

I’m sure they were pricey. And Lord knows my parents couldn’t afford pricey.

I guess Mom must have seen that dangerous “shoe lust” look in my eyes, because in the end she sighed and gave in. When I walked out of that store with my new purchase, I felt like an elegant lady indeed.

It was at that point that I understood the power of shoes. They were far more than just something to protect the feet. They could summon the gods of happiness and self-confidence.

The right pair could turn the worst of days into the best of days. Given half a chance, I bet they could even lead to world peace … think what would happen if soldiers exchanged shoes instead of bullets!

Dorothy’s red shiny pumps in The Wizard of Oz weren’t the only magic shoes going. The world was full of magic shoes.

Fast forward a dozen years or more.

My husband Joe and I were wandering the streets of Florence and came upon a shop that had what were probably the most beautiful shoes I’d ever seen in my life … red patent leather flats with little clip-on bows.

I looked at the price. They weren’t cheap. We were on a budget. I probably didn’t have room for them in my backpack. We were still some weeks away from going home and they stood the chance of getting banged up in my travels.

I reluctantly left the store and headed back to our hotel for a nap.

As Joe slept, I lay there thinking about those shoes. Pining. Yearning. And I realized what I had to do.

Anyone who’s been to Florence knows that the streets are a maze, with no rhyme or reason to them. And anyone who knows me understands that I have absolutely no sense of direction.

But remember of the magic of shoes? They were calling to me and they led me right back to them, where my money belt and I quickly surrendered to their power.

They did not disappoint. I wore those shoes for years until they literally had holes in them. It was a sad day when I had to say good-bye to my dear friends.

Now a new pair of red patent leathers has captured my heart. They’re more mature and “life worn” than my last pair, perhaps having seen the seedier side of things.

But they’re still fun and optimistic. They haven’t given up on the belief that love can conquer all.

The heel is clearly phallic (the designer himself admits it takes balls to create a heel shaped like a penis!).

It’s from an anti-AIDS line that John Fluevog put out several years ago called Body Parts. Written on each sole is the sentence, “Your body parts are not communal property.”

These shoes came to me second-hand via eBay, although they look as if they’ve only been worn once or twice. They were a fraction of the cost of buying new.

Still, I now know the telltale signs, and suspect that even at full price I would have had a difficult time resisting them.

Such is the nature of “shoe power”.

By day, Janet Patterson is a corporate spokesperson. By night, she’s a freelance writer with some pretty snazzy shoes.

Whitehorse writer Janet Patterson was runner-up in this year’s Foreign Correspondent competition. She and her son recently vacationed in Italy.