Yesterday I went shoe shopping for the first time in years. While the GF probably knows this, I am somewhat of a shoe-abuser. When I was a kid, it was always easy to know when I needed new shoes – the old ones simply stopped fitting. This made it easy for me, and yes, probably spoiled me by turning me into one of those people who never know when their shoes need replacing. You see, once my feet stopped growing, I lost the only indicator of shoe-unfitness I had ever known. So I proceeded to go through long stretches of wearing shoes that had “seen better days”. Sure, I had the same issue with clothes, but at least with clothes there are auxiliary signs of unfitness such as worn threads, fraying, and the GF giving me the “Are you really going to wear that?” look.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that one of my two black pairs of shoes had literally started to fall apart, so I decided to go shopping for shoes by myself. Sure, I could have done it on the weekend with the GF but I wanted to prove to myself* that I was capable of choosing a decent pair of shoes on my own – after years of studying under her tutelage, I needed to strike out on my own. So I made for the one place in the world I know that sells shoes – Nordstroms. I had bought one pair of shoes there back when I lived in Cleveland, and it had turned out pretty well. I liked that the men who worked there were all old and had probably sold shoes since Dwight Eisenhower was in office. They all wore suits and knew how to check for proper fit, and they treat you with respect**.
When I got there I found myself surrounded by shoes I’d not heard of since the OJ trial and price tags that ranged from “Wow” to “Why not buy a car, instead”. I found a sales guy and tried on a couple styles before settling on two pair of black shoes, one pair of Ansell Edmonds and one pair from a company in Spain. I did try on a pair of Italian shoes just for fun and while they did literally feel like I was walking on clouds they were also almost twice as much as I wanted to spend. The Ansell Edmonds were pricey enough, but I learned that when they wear out I can send them back and they’ll be completely re-done for about a third the cost of a new pair. So I figure in the long run they’ll pay for themselves.
The only annoying thing about the experience was all the upselling that the sales guy tried to do. This was above-and-beyond the typical “Do you need some extra laces or socks to match?” sort of sale – he had brought out two other pairs of shoes for me to try on – one was the Italian shoes of perfection, and the other was a pair of casual loafers that he claimed were “designed to be worn without socks”. Needless to say they also screamed “Hey, I’m a giant douchebag who wants you to think he likes yachting and summers in St Moritz!” Plus, I loathe the shoes-without-socks look – I’m too paranoid that I’ll get blisters.
As I was wrapping things up though, I noticed one other thing – a stand full of Crocs sandals sitting in the middle of the department. I was stunned. Here I was in the Mecca of men’s footwear, surrounded by the finest hand-crafted footwear the world had to offer and I was being confronted with a rack of injection-molded pseudo-clog hideousness that looked like it had escaped from Wal-Mart and was trying desperately to fit in as part of a witness protection program.
Needless to say, I didn’t buy a pair.
* And, indeed, the world
** Even if it’s all an act, I don’t really care – I only have to go once every 2-3 years anyway.