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Hansen: Travel shoes don't have to be boring

You can thank TSA Precheck for airline shoe fashion.

Comfort and ease used to rule the day because of security inspections. Now, with the popularity of TSA Precheck, where people can leave their shoes on, we're seeing more flair.

There's still no mistaking the airport runway with the New York Fashion Week runway, but at least it's a little more interesting.

It makes sense. People would rather impress their loved ones at the baggage pickup wearing hip mega platform heels rather than sad flats.

And if you're going to wear sneakers, why not make them lace-free, crisp-white statements that will never see a tennis court.

One wonders how often Stan Smith winces when seeing non-tennis variations of his trademark white shoe worn by fashionistas who have no clue.

But when traveling, comfort is still the primary motive, and sneakers outnumber everything else by a wide margin.

In a recent non-scientific study while traveling, I spent three hours in an unexpected delay in Las Vegas before heading back to Orange County. As I sat, I looked at a lot of shoes.

I made a game of it by trying to match the shoe with its owner. For example, if I saw a classic women's high heel, I imagined a middle-aged business woman.

Admittedly, it was a completely biased, stereotypical assumption. But it was still a fun way to kill time.

The shoes fell into clear categories.

There were the sneakers, of course, but even they had subgroups. In other words, there were fashion or hipster sneakers, functional sneakers and sneakers that should have been retired in 1986.

The second most popular group: flip-flops. There was bling and non-bling, flat soles and high risers.

Then there were several variations of slip-ons, which were essentially slippers. Some were "businessy," and some were like bedroom slippers. In fact, while in Vegas, there was a group of young women wearing feathered slippers, probably still on a bridal scavenger hunt.

After those three main categories, we start to delve into the more interesting shoe types. Next is boots and booties.

Right now, silver- or gray-colored booties on women are popular, along with tan or light leather. Black is still popular, and more often than not, black boots are always knee-high or even above the knee.

Those are sometimes paired with yoga pants or tattoos. Sometimes both.

There were some guys wearing boots, but not as many as you'd think. At least in Vegas and Orange County, if guys wore leather shoes, they were either hiking-type shoes or a trendier, Euro-looking shoe. Basically, it was a spectrum between REI and bowling shoe.

Then there were the business travelers and older people.

To a person you could almost identify those groups just by their shoes.

And by the way, a sidebar piece of advice for power-hungry men trying to climb the corporate ladder: Don't try to define yourself with colorful accent socks.

If everything else about you is a dull, dark gray, rainbow socks won't fool anyone. You're still a bore.

Young people, generally, are always more adventurous. Again, I could almost always guess the generation based on the shoe flair.

My main takeaway here is that as people age, we get boring. We get practical. We know that shoes take up an inordinate amount suitcase space, so we can't be rash: maximize, utilize, mix and match.

Eccentricity will always lose out when traveling. But does it have to? Is the TSA giving us license to be creative?

Put it this way: The next time you travel, and you're leaving behind your favorite shoes because you don't think they're flexible, do yourself a favor and wear them. Flaunt them. Take some moleskin and wear them proudly.

Because angels want to wear our red shoes — not the brown ones.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at hansen.dave@gmail.com.

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