When I was about nine, I had a pair of lavender glitter jellies I bought from a place called Splash in St. Louis. I remember wearing them out of the store—which had fish tanks under the dressing rooms, by the way, we were so chic in West County—and watching in delight as they caught the light in the car on the ride home. Each subsequent day, for the rest of the summer, they tore a fresh gash in my feet. I still wore them, of course. You could tell who of us was suffering for our fashion due to our “jellies tattoos”—red, oozing sores in the shapes of decorative scallops. By fall, I was hobbling around the house in a tangle of plastic, yellowed and cracked and caked in a summer’s worth of blood. My mom made me throw them away.
Every time I wear a pair of jellies today, people stop to tell me the same stories. Don’t they tear up your feet? Don’t they smell? I assure you, folks, the jellies of today are not your childhood jellies. Plastic shoe technology has come a long way.
The best jellies are made by Melissa (I buy them from the Brooklyn store Epaulet). This is a Brazilian company that teams up with designers like Zaha Hadid and the Campaña Brothers. The shoes are made from a nontoxic PVC material called MELFLEX which is molded into shape, creating zero waste. They can be recycled at the end of their life. They require zero maintenance—I wash them in the sink with soap and water then put them outside to dry. They’re affordable. They’re vegan. I even like the way they’re packaged.
But how do they feel, you ask? I swear, I’ve never had a Melissa blister. After a few wears, the soles conform to your feet, giving you a cushy fit. With their forgiving curves, they are maybe the best shoes ever for walking. (I wouldn’t wear them if they weren’t, right?). But the best part is, I can wear them all day while I’m schlepping on the streets, then prance into a cocktail party and will immediately get complimented on my shoes. They fit in everywhere.
My newest pair arrived this week. When I opened the box, the smell of lightly-scented plastic brought back all those jellies memories—Splash, the fish tank dressing rooms, the sparkles in the sun, the pain, OH GOD THE PAIN. But this silky duo slipped onto my feet like a pair of cozy socks. I can’t wait to take them for a walk.