Byon March 16, 2009 2:31 PM
For years, I was the kind of person who would only own one or two pairs of shoes, and more than that, I’d very rarely spend more than maybe $40 on a pair. Even ten years ago, this didn’t seem like such a bad deal. Shoes used to consistently last at least a year for me, and that was with them being worn nearly every day. These days, a normal pair of shoes is lucky to last six months, and after that they’re pretty much relegated to spending the rest of their days in some landfill somewhere. These days, when I’ve begun to focus more on long-term use and reuse, it was time to begin looking for better options.
When we rewind the clock, even a century, we find a world where people treated shoes differently. They were necessary, but unlike most clothing, the tools (and skills) to make quality shoes were not commonplace. Enter the cordwainer and the cobbler. While these days, the only true cordwainers make extremely high quality, one off, pairs of shoes, in the not-so-distant past even the relatively industialized process of shoe-making still put out a product that a cobbler could repair as the shoes got damaged over time.
However, there are still shoe companies that put out shoes that can be repaired, generally at a fraction of the cost of a new pair. My wife recently let a pair of her Birkenstocks wear down to the point where both the footbed and the sole needed replacing. Total cost: about $60. Far better than the $120+ those sandals would have cost new. But there are other manufacturers that put out these sorts of quality shoes as well. Just search you local listings for ‘Shoe Repair’, and you’ll find a place like our Moscow, ID local Pecks Shoe Clinic. Look at the brands they sell, and that should give you an idea of the longevity of your shoes.
Currently, I’m just about in the market for some new Dress Shoes, and I’ve been really eyeing the Birkenstock Alabama line. Yeah, they’re almost $200, but they shoud be really comfortable, and most importantly, I can make them like new using a skilled cobbler and less than half of a new pair of shoes. Unlike a lot of clothing items, I think it’s a lot easier to tell the difference between good- and poor-quality shoes. Even if the shoes were easily repaired, thus saving money and resources over the long term. Plus, it creates jobs, since quality shoe repair is a skilled trade, and there are more people involved in making quality shoes than mass market shoes. Sure, more hands leads to more cost, but over the long term, quality shoes have a lot more value.