IN the days when I had my shoes chosen for me, my mum used to inflict the most horrible footwear known to man upon my feet. Plain black, low heeled, and in stiff leather, they were ugly and characterless.

“Like boys’ shoes,” I would grumble, when hanging around in the playground with my friends.

How I would have loved to be allowed to wear, as some girls were, more feminine, delicate footwear, with T-bars, small heels and maybe a flower or heart motif.

I would probably have loved “Dolly Babe”, the shoes that recently hit the shelves in Clarks.

I would have revelled in their shiny surface and pink insole printed with hearts. I am sure they would be popular with many of today’s young girls. Some may have been able to buy a pair before they were hastily withdrawn from sale.

The shoe provoked accusations of sexism, especially since the boys’ the equivalent - which remains on sale - is called “Leader”.

Marks & Spencer faced similar criticism for its “sexist” marketing of trainers and John Lewis became the first UK retailer to remove gender labels from its children’s clothing and scrap separate sections in stores.

Has the country gone mad? Next they will be forcing Lelli Kelly to remove the glitter and bows from their party shoes to appeal to more lads. Such political correctness is stopping girls being girls and boys being boys.

Of course, not all girls are into “girlie” things and many boys are not into pastimes traditionally seen as male. But if they are, so what?

When I was young I loved playing with Barbies, their sports cars and ponies, while my brother had Action Man with his tanks and Jeeps.

Did I need taking in hand and told not to be “such a girl”? Of course not.

I would often borrow “Ken” but only to dress him in civilian clothes and date Barbie. On the other hand, I never liked pink, hated wearing dresses (I still do) and loved playing with my brother’s Matchbox Superfast cars.

Children find their own way in life and don’t need to be made to feel guilty for enjoying certain typically feminine or macho pastimes, or wearing clothing that spells out gender.

Some schools across the UK are implementing “gender neutral” rules by preventing girls from wearing skirts.

I would have loved to have been able to wear trousers to school, not because I wanted to be one with the boys, but because I hated skirts.

Some schools have gone so far as to introduce gender neutral loos. How can you talk about the boy you fancy when he might be in the next cubicle?

Gender stereotyping was rife when I was at school. Girls were steered towards housecraft and needlecraft, while boys did the far more interesting wood and metalwork.

If the divide had not been so pronounced, I might, today, have been able to make a put up a shelf well, rather than sew buttons on badly.

The majority of boys took sciences and maths, while girls did art subjects.

Only two boys took English literature at A-level and just one brave lad took O-level housecraft - all were seen as a little odd.

I am glad to say that things have moved forward. Now, no-one would bat an eyelid if boys or girls signed up for any of these classes, which is how things should be.

We are lucky in the UK - no-one has to live a certain way. According to their sex. Some may feel they are living in the wrong body and ultimately change sex. But we should try to not iron out our differences altogether. What a boring world that would be.