The Aargh of Shoes

Some people enjoy shoe shopping, and who knows? I might be one of them, if there was any chance of me actually finding what I am looking for. It has been about seven years since I last found a suitable pair of footwear in a shop, and even those were one size too large (but since they’re boots, I tend to wear them with thicker socks anyway, so it works).

What I want is not, I would have thought, excessive or unreasonable. What I want is only one pair of Just Right shoes: a plain neat pair of brown leather shoes in size 5 1/2.

Sibyllas bruna sko - Livrustkammaren - 75398
My favourite shoe shop’s nearest equivalent (aside from the Ideal Pair which briefly appeared in only one width: narrower than most), was a clunky pair of broad-soled shoes in brown leather and purple snakeskin with neon orange stitching and laces. I am tempted to suspect that this may have something to do with why they are now in the hands of administrators.

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The End of an Era

I saw the light – and I wish I hadn’t. I am normally in favour of illumination, mind you, but not through the side of my slipper.

You see, these are no ordinary slippers. I have had these sheepskin slippers lo these many years. I wore a mould of my foot into the fleece so long ago I can’t even remember. I wore right through the fleece in places some years ago, and now, it appears, I have worn right through the leather as well. The stitching, can I just point out, is as firm as ever.

Ugg boots gnangarra 11These slippers have been a largely unnoticed part of my life for so many years. I have worn them in tropical climes and in allegedly temperate climes. I have worn them in winter and I have worn them in all but the height of summer. I have even spilt ink on their tops while refilling a fountain pen (for that personalized writerly look).

Since I don’t wear shoes indoors (regardless of what FlyLady says), they are my feet’s near-constant companions. If I’m at home and awake, I am probably wearing those slippers. (Now, for instance.) I have rather low blood pressure, which means my circulation is not all it could be, which means that my feet are easily susceptible to cold. Therefore, the slippers.

I have had them for so long I began to take them for granted. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I’ve had these slippers for about fourteen years, give or take half a year. Going on for half my life. Good quality, yes? They’re Paddy slippers, made by Golden Fleece, if anyone wants to Argonaut forth to secure a pair of these wonder-slippers for themselves.

Erasmus Quellinus (II)- Jason with the Golden Fleece, 1630And now, alas, the end is nigh. In accordance with the old motto of “Make Do and Mend” I considered taking them to the cobbler for a patch. However, not only have I worn most of the wool right off the sheepskin, I have also worn the grip right off the sole. I am therefore compelled to admit that it might be more sensible to acquire a new pair. After all, “Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without.” I’ve done the first two, at least.

But the guiding principle of simplicity does not knock off for the weekend, simply because an item has worn out and it is time for a new acquisition. Far from it. Simplicity steps up and scrutinizes the possibilities with a gimlet eye.

Now, Dean Koontz may go for bunny slippers (or one of his characters may; the internet has not divulged) but I am not of that party. For one thing, if you leave them together on the floor at night you’ll wake up to a room covered in bunny slippers. Cheaper than carpet, perhaps, but easier to trip on.

DiechäschlabbnThe other – slightly more serious – reason for turning down novelty slippers is that they don’t tend to be designed for durability. I myself have owned both tiger-foot slippers and punk dinosaur slippers, back when my feet were still growing. I remember them with fondness, although not enough fondness to want to get a pair now.

Nor do I want to get a pair of slippers made of artificial materials. Artificial materials do not, in my opinion, come anywhere close to the natural marvel that is wool, when it comes to keeping yourself warm. I want warm feet, not overheated sweaty feet, thank you kindly.

And since, according to Statistics New Zealand, there are nearly 30 million sheep in this country, acquiring a new pair of sheepskin slippers should not be too difficult. My dying pair are of the classic style with a seam up the front of the foot and a ‘ruff’ around the ankle.

Sheep Mustering at Bendigo Station, Otago (1965)Now I am thinking of trying a different style for a change. I am by no means a proponent of change for change’s sake, but after a decade and a half of the same thing, even I am feeling that a bit of variety – a change of scenery whenever I look down – would not come amiss.

Perhaps a sort of moccasin style, and perhaps in chocolate brown instead of the plain colour which is I believe known as ‘cane’ in the sheepskin slipper industry. I shall have to consider the options and see what is available in my size (usually not much).

While it might take me some time to look at all the possibilities, instead of dashing down to the mall for the first slipper-shaped thing my eye falls on, I think that something I will use every day is worth the investment of time (and a decent price). After all, these will hopefully be part of my wardrobe for the next fifteen years.

What will not be in my wardrobe for the next fifteen years are the things I pruned in June:

pruning shears and gloves

a skirt
a pair of skull and crossbones sleeves (adapted from socks)
a scarf
a bandanna
some cotton undershirts
some cotton leggings
a wool dress
a brown dress
an embroidered top
a t-shirt
a denim jacket
a pair of woollen gloves

Muse on Shoes

I am not the sort of woman who says she loves her shoes. But there is a pair for which I have a certain affection. They’re not Jimmy Choos or Manolos or Louboutins or anything like that. They’re thin black leather with a low heel – in fact, they look exactly like this.
Except older and more battered.

I used to react badly to people describing them as granny shoes. Until one day I happened to be in the shoe shop when a lovely LOL (Little Old Lady) somewhere around eighty was buying exactly this style. Well, fair enough. You don’t get to be eighty without knowing a decent shoe when you see one.

StateLibQld 2 106572 Shoe department in Cribb and Foote's Ipswich store, April 1949

But what really got me is what she said as she handed them over to the sales-lady to be scanned. “This pair will see me out.” The sales-lady, naturally, made tut-tut-of-course-not noises, but thinking about it, the LOL was probably right. She was old enough that her shoes likely didn’t get devastating amounts of wear, and they are really good shoes.

I bought my pair for work in early 2008 because I was on my feet for hours and the pascals were killing me. They’ve seen a lot of wear since, having been my only decent pair of shoes for at least half that time. In order to keep them going, some small mends have been necessary. (Cobblers: Cheaper Than Buying New Shoes.) But on my last visit the cobbler told me the end was fast approaching.

Mended, they’d see me through the winter. Maybe approaching next winter. But sooner or later, the only thing to do, he said, was to go shopping.
My first thought was “what? but they’re only six and a half years old!” My second was “that’s worked out at about 50c a week – not too bad”. And then I thought “I could get some brown shoes” (for reasons which will soon become apparent). And then (some time later) I thought “do I really need another pair of shoes?”

I already have:
three pairs of boots – black leather; rubber (for wet); sheepskin (for freezing)
one pair of black walking shoes
one pair of black canvas sand-shoes
one pair of blue low-heeled shoes
blue shoes
one pair of black high heels (worn only with evening dress, i.e. about once every year or so)
and one pair of ivory satin boots (which get even less wear than the evening heels. What can I say? The sheepskin boots didn’t really go with my wedding dress).
And of course for casual summer wear you can’t go past the classic rubber jandal, which handily doubles as a swat for creepy-crawlies.

That’s nine different kinds of footwear, not counting the classic black pair rapidly approaching the day of their demise.
Do I need another pair of shoes? Probably depends on your definition of need. And unless you have a fairly liberal definition, the answer is probably no. Would I like another pair of shoes? Probably maybe?

As items in my wardrobe wear out I’m trying to replace them with things that actually suit me (revolutionary concept, I know) – more brown, green, and other ‘natural’ colours. I could do the same with my shoes – but it might make more sense to wait til attrition has finished altering my wardrobe, and then look for a suitable pair.
Attrition might have further altered my footwear collection by then too – after all, no matter how good the shoes I buy, I can’t yet say “they’ll see me out.”