Hello, Nurse! Put on the Clogs; Spiky Blahniks Mean New Hips

Uptown girls continue to Blahnik themselves into an early hip replacement. It’s become a tradition. But downtown, there is change afoot–I’m talking about the new nurse chic. Yes, the “It” girls who live south of 23rd Street have, rightly or wrongly, discovered the comfort, and the fashion perversity, of nurse shoes.

Avant-garde, wacko artist Libby McInnis is in the vanguard of this jolie-laide trend. Ms. McInnis, who spoke to me on the eve of her recent art opening, made a compelling case. “Every girl should do the nurse clog at least once in her life,” she said. “Mine are by Brasko, in white–natch.” Though Libby also loves nurse uniforms (“‘Outback nurse’ is one of my favorite looks”), she does not recommend a head-to-toe look. “Wearing nursey things with nursey shoes? It’s just too … samey.”

Where to buy them? You may prefer the anonymity of the Web for this risk-enrobed fashion purchase. AllHeart.com has the best deals: The sling-back clog style called Cherry is only $34.94; buy two for $65.94 and garner a spectacular saving of approximately $1 per clog. My recommendation: head to the Upper West Side and try on a fine selection of Brasko and Dansko nurse clogs at Tip Top Shoes (155 West 72nd Street). Ask Hank Lester to show you his Dansko Ingrid in white. With any luck, you may even exorcise this iffy only-good-on-someone-under-25-ish trend from your fashion psyche before parting with any cash.

Re: loopy Libby’s art installation–it’s entitled Lip-stick and consists of a giant, scary cardboard replica of a woman applying maquillage . Highly recommended. It will be in the window of the Shiseido Studio (155 Spring Street) until Libby dismantles it on May 5–which is, coincidentally, the day before Nurses’ Day. But don’t expect Libby to be wearing her nurse clogs when she takes the window apart; by the time this piece was written, she had already chucked them out. “I’ve moved on–but it’s still a valid look.”

What do nurses make of this insane postmodern doublethink? I called staff nurse Michelle Brouillet of New York University’s neurosurgery staff and asked if she was aware of this irony-drenched trend, and I got quite an earful. “I’ve seen trendy girls wearing nurse shoes–they think it’s hip. Pah!” railed an exhausted Ms. Brouillet, at the end of a 10-hour shift. “These fashion chicks with their inflated New York salaries! A third-rate makeup artist makes more in one day than I make in two weeks. It’s so insane, but, for the record, I wear white Birkenstocks–Birkies. They are much groovier than Dansko and Brasko” (the Tokyo style is $107.95 at Bencone Uniform Connection, www.bencone.com).

But according to Nurse Brouillet, the hippest medical accessory is not a pair of dykey shoes but rather a sleek penlight. “It’s my favorite, so cool and Gucci-looking. I use it to look at people’s pupils, but I also use it when I’m walking home,” said Ms. Brouillet, who lives in a walkup on Ludlow Street behind Katz’s Deli. “Pickle Alley, I call it. There are treacherous pickles all over the sidewalk. But I’ve never fallen–not once–’cause I spot them with my penlight” ($2.95 to $45 at the N.Y.U. Health Science Bookstore, 333 East 29th Street).

I begged Nurse Brouillet to recommend another must-have medical accessory. She relented: “A small bottle of alcohol. It’s the best thing for getting blood off white shoes.”

I love nurses. I’ve been hospitalized twice; on both occasions, my nurses busted a gut to make sure I had an unforgettable stay.

In 1978, just before emigrating to the United States, I popped a hernia (talk about busting a gut) while lifting a heavy male window mannequin–you know how you do.

I was placed in an open ward with about 45 cigarette-smokers, most of whom had undergone leg amputation as a result of diabetes and thrombosis and were being driven crazy by phantom-limb pain and itchy stumps. I was in this ward for about 10 fun-packed days (hernia ops used to be a bigger deal). I passed the time daydreaming about my new life in Los Angeles, chatting to the other patients and scratching their stumps with a little bamboo back-scratcher thoughtfully provided for this purpose by the head nurse. The days flew by.

This particular nurse was most concerned that my op would be successful: She warned me that “a sturdy plastic mesh” had been inserted into the wall of my groin and that, if I exerted myself prematurely, I would “sieve the adjacent intestines” through the aforementioned mesh. Thanks to this thorough nurse, I avoided making paté out of my own internal organs.

Some years later, I developed another hernia on the other side of my groin while yanking yet another unwilling mannequin off its spigot. I anticipated a short, uneventful hospital stay, but the enema-crazed nuns who ran the hospital–which overlooked the Hollywood freeway–turned hernia op No. 2 into a Ken Russell movie. (Rent the 1971 classic The Devils , starring Vanessa Redgrave as the hunchbacked nun and Oliver Reed, the actor who died filming Gladiator , as the lascivious priest.)

The nuns’ favorite trick was to administer a massive enema and disappear to vespers for a day or two, leaving me cross-eyed in my stark white cell. They were also mad about shaving. Even though it made my legs look great, I still do not understand why it was necessary for a hernia operation.

Talking of hip replacements, did you know that we are in the grip of a hip-replacement manufacturer’s recall? This must be the first manufacturer’s recall in history for something which was actually embedded inside a human. When I read about this fascinating occurrence in the March 20 Examiner , I immediately envisioned thousands of seniors being transported to Detroit like a bunch of defective Lexuses.

But seriously, folks, if you or your loved one received a hip implant after 1997, you might have been the recipient of a Sulzer implant with a “defective acetabular shell.” You better have your surgeon check the lot number of your device. Once you have that number, cross-reference it with the serial numbers listed on Vanosteen.com. Compensation is estimated to be in excess of $100,000, which could buy you approximately 224 new pairs of Blahniks.

If you have one of the “lucky” numbers, scream “jackpot!” and then call one of the many ambulance-chasing law firms (e.g., Weitz and Luxenberg, 800-476-6070, or Van O’Steen and Partners, 800-883-8888) who are au fait with this drama. Then brace yourself for another bit of highly remunerative hip surgery. Hello, Nurse! Put on the Clogs; Spiky Blahniks Mean New Hips