Pop star Olivia Rodrigo dropped by the White House over the summer to encourage people to get vaccinated. In return, President Biden sent her home with some swag: a pair of his signature aviator sunglasses, some M&M’s, and . . . a shoehorn with a presidential emblem on it. “Which was strange,” the singer said in an October interview with Jimmy Kimmel. “Well, if you ever thought Joe Biden was too old to be President,” the talk-show host joked, “now we know he is.”
Except, as it turns out, it wasn’t a shoehorn at all. Two days later, Rodrigo took to Instagram with a correction: “thank u to my mom who told me this president biden ice cream scoop was a shoe horn and let me repeat it on national television lolllll.”
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It’s unclear how many other Biden guests have been given this presidential implement; the White House didn’t respond to requests for comment. But should you come across one, the question remains: Is it better for donning your footwear or shoveling your dessert? We couldn’t get our hands on the official ambiguous utensil, but we did find a near-identical version (minus the presidential seal) on Amazon for $18.45. Sold.
It arrived quickly, and we must acknowledge, in fairness to the Rodrigo family, that it’s a weird-looking thing, with a straight-edged top and subtle curve. Shoehorns do come in all kinds of unusual shapes—long, short, hooked, and even with a bottle opener attached. Sim Khan, owner of the DC menswear boutique Brimble & Clark, notes that Rodrigo’s gift has at least one historically accurate shoehorn element: Many of the early bone versions were inscribed with the owner’s name. “We could treat the President’s seal as his scrimshaw,” Khan says.
Otherwise, the would-be horn might not pass muster with shoe aficionados. “If you tried to slide your foot into that, you would feel pain at your Achilles,” Khan says. “You would break your ankles.” Plus, as DCFashion Fool blogger Barnette Holston—who owns about ten shoehorns—points out, “It would rip the backs out. You don’t want to ruin your Louboutins.”
So how well does it work as an ice-cream utensil? Victoria Lai, owner of DC’s Ice Cream Jubilee—and someone who knows both frozen treats and the federal government, having worked for the Obama administration—says it’s really more of an ice-cream paddle. The shape won’t produce those picture-perfect spheres to stack on a cone—but it will do a better job when it comes to a rock-hard pint at home. Befitting Biden’s everyman shtick, it’s an amateur’s tool. Lai says pros use scoops with a conductive liquid inside, which transfers heat from your hand, making it easier to dig in.
Ultimately, we had to test each theory for ourselves. As a shoehorn, the utensil was so clunky, it actually obstructed our foot from sliding into a stiff shoe. As an ice-cream paddle, though, it was sturdy and slick, pushing through our vanilla-bean with ease. Our advice: If you’re on the Bidens’ gift list, store this tool by the freezer, not the closet.
This article appears in the January 2022 issue of Washingtonian.