There may be comfort in old shoes, but not in my old shoes. I have a beautiful pair of white bucks by Cole Haan, one of the few impulsive extravagances of my life. The purchase was encouraged by my sister and her husband on a Madison Avenue shopping spree while visiting New York City. Buy them, they said. You never do anything good for yourself. True, but not a full size too small. What was I thinking?
The shoes have been professionally stretched several times. To no avail. So, lest I want to become crippled, they will stay in my closet. On another occasion, while trying on a new pair of shoes, a salesman just glancing at me from afar told me that the shoe size I had selected was definitely too small. I purchased them anyway.
Why would I do such a thing? I am convinced it is a family obsession, inherited from my mother, who was adamant about not wearing shoes that are too big. Pondering this over many years, I have a suspicion this may have come from being brought up in a poor household and the stigma of hand-me-downs. But I don't care how tight they are. I'm not giving up those Cole Haans.
I just read an article: Nobody wants your old shoes: How not to help in Haiti. This had to do with the ineffectiveness of the transport and distribution of goods in a relief situation. However, I am sure the title would be heartily embraced by my family. They are happy donors but, outside of family members, no old shoes for them.
Many individuals are not enamored with the prospect of wearing other people's shoes or clothing, but for those who are, there can be tremendous value in shopping for used merchandise. The world of fashion is built around newness. In the case of technology, the quest for the new leaves mountains of yesterday's products (like CRT computer monitors - see my story here), often for the taking.
Although it is a seemingly unlikely place for thrift shops, they do exist in New York City. Salvation Army had a location on 8th Street in the Village which recently closed. Monk, at 175 MacDougal, has been a fixture in Greenwich Village since 1993. One of three stores, it is owned by Tarek from Egypt. All donations are accepted - things not used in the store are donated to churches.
In Consumption, I wrote of the three Rs of waste management - Reduse, Reuse, Recycle. Unfortunately, in a culture where shopping is a national pastime, the first two Rs are largely ignored and the third R, recycling, has numerous logistic problems and dubious benefits overall (see Recycling is Garbage from the New York Times).
I just recently was given a number of beautiful new shoes by my father. The good news is that we are the same size. The bad news is, as you probably guessed, that my father seems to have the same affliction that I have. We have shuffled undersized shoes between us for decades. Family visits and the holidays might be better called The Tight Shoe Exchange.
While the nation struggles with a mountain of debt, my father and I struggle with a hill of undersized shoes. As long as we keep buying those unwearable shoes, we are making no inroads with that second R of waste management (Reuse). I think my father and I should open a shoe shop. Look for a place called The Tight Shoe Exchange or One Size Too Small :)