Monday, November 12, 2012

I Heart Shoes

These shoes were meant for walking

I wore school uniform shoes for the first sixteen years of my life, you know the good sturdy black walking shoes that it seems every one in the English speaking world wore those days. So of course, just to get into something different, I got these store bought pointy Italian winkle pickers, you know the kind I mean. Gave me these humongous corns it took forever to get rid of. So the next pair of shoes were custom made, the half boots with the rubber elastic vane up the side. They had to be square toed, I told the shoemaker, and resolved from them on to never buy an uncomfortable pair of shoes, ever again.

Then I came to Canada and the first pair I bought here was from the first Roots store on Yonge Street. They were mid-brown Canadian made "Earth" shoes, like the ones shown here. They were $85, down from $105, a rather large sum in 1971, but I loved them, and walked all over Toronto in them.

Earth shoes were based on a 50's design marketed by Anne Kalso, a Yoga instructor. Manolo Blahnik, the European shoe designer, is an unabashed Earth Shoe fan: "It was the first shoe, along with the Jesus sandals, to make a social statement!" American shoe designer Kenneth Cole is another fan: "What was originally an anti-fashion statement 25 years ago has today become fashionable. They are a relaxed and comfortable alternative to other fashionable footwear."

Sounds gay, I know :) but I love shoes. I was reminded of that recently when it seemed I spent the entire summer (it seems) buying shoes with my teen aged daughters. Being tight-budgeted and all, it was their gift money and savings, and we all had fun. They wanted Converses, the basketball sneaker shoes, and so, a pair for everyone, then an extra pair for the teens. They loved them and yes they looked very nice.

I also noted when someone said they had a hard time getting US made shoes, and yes, they're hard to find. I was at a store in Chappaqua NY in 1994 and bought a great pair of Timberland hiking boots, price $185. Expensive, but the best I ever wore and they lasted me ten years. When I looked for them again in Toronto in 2005, all the Timberlands were now made in China, alas. And Roots has closed its factory in Toronto and a lot of its stuff is now made all over.

I would rather pay more to keep my neighbour's job in Canada, but the sad fact is the world's changed, and not for the better. And it's a hard time to find something decent that isn't crap and won't fall all apart after three years. It now is winter and so I had to buy another pair of fall winter boots for myself and my rather large brood. At least, thank goodness for the Bay sales and again, a good time was had by all except a teen age meltdown when one thought the pair she liked disappeared, and she thought there were none left. Calm her down, talk to a sales person, and the last one in her size appeared. Black leather boots, hob nails all over the toe and heel, very, very punk gothic :) and she looks fine in them. The other one got the motor cycle boot kind, again very fine.

All this is a metaphor for something, I am sure you know. Sooner or later, all my children will walk out of our home, and walk far, and all we have done was prepare them for that journey. But there is another journey, for all of us, and we will make that too, and there is one for me, and I look forward to that as well.

But it is above all the love we put into what we do, and what we make, as I thank all the people who made the shoes I love to walk in, and repaired and maintained them. A thought I had this morning when I cleaned every one's shoes with saddle soap, then conditioned and polished them before I sent my children to school.

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