The most popular footwear for men on North Street Thursday was a stylish red pump, in larger sizes.
It was the preferred shoe for most male attorneys in the Berkshire County District Attorney's Office, as well as for state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing. Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn went with a camo platform heel to match his khaki kilt.
It is doubtful these footwear fashionistos will wear their ensembles into court or the Statehouse, but they were dressing the part for a fundraiser benefiting the Elizabeth Freeman Center.
The event, "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes," is meant to raise awareness of issues related to domestic abuse.
PHOTO GALLERY | Third Thursday in September
Participants had a wide selection of large-sized high heels to choose from, or they could adorn their men's shoes with decorative flowers.
Mike Hinkley, an attorney with Donovan & O'Connor, sported a Superman costume with red pumps. His 5-year-old son Michael, in a matching superhero costume, chose black and red sneakers.
At least 200 men, women and children participated in the walk.
"The shoes are symbolic," said Susan Birns, spokeswoman for the Freeman Center. "We do this because it hurts, literally and symbolically, to walk in women's shoes."
She noted that abused women are stigmatized by many "in some really hard ways. And this helps people to think about what it is like to be an abuse survivor."
The Elizabeth Freeman Center provides free, confidential 24-hour services to help survivors of violence with a hotline, shelter, emergency transportation, counseling, court advocacy, supervised visitation and special services for immigrants.
Last year, the Freeman Center served more than 5,000 men, women and children in Berkshire County, where the number of restraining orders issued is 37 percent higher than the state average.
"Domestic violence is a difficult issue and a serious public safety concern," said Wynn. "While we all wish that we didn't have to confront it. It deserves and requires all of our attention."
"This walk raises awareness of a hidden problem," noted Pignatelli. "Sometimes we feel immaculate, but domestic violence is here in the Berkshires and we need to stop the scourge it has become."
Pignatelli, in his first outing for the third annual event, had a secret for walking a mile in his red pumps -- socks. And he seemed quite pleased that his pumps matched his tie.
Both the Taconic High School football and soccer teams turned out for the walk.
According to Jim Ziter, Taconic's football coach, the team captains requested the activity for the team.
"I think it's good for the kids," he said. "They don't understand a lot of the things that go on outside their environment."
He noted that many high school football players are just beginning to forge relationships with their female peers, and an event like this will help them to think about how they interact with the women in their lives.
"This event highlights the critical role men can take in helping to eliminate violence against women," noted Janis Broderick, executive director of the Freeman Center.
To reach Scott Stafford:
or (413) 496-6241.
On Twitter: @BE_SStafford