In the winter of 2009, Big Little Sister was gifted a pair of the suede boots that were all the rage then (and are, at least up here, still relatively popular shoe-wear). I got to looking at her boots one day, and I thought, "I bet I can fit those." So, I tried them on, and I could.
After the initial surprise of realizing that my young teen wore the same size shoe as I wear, I decided two things. First, even though I could use a pair, new boots weren't in the picture for me. Between every day expenses, classes for our girls, and outfitting their growing bodies, new anything for me is rarely in the budget. Second was that she needed to outgrow those boots so that she could hand-them-down to me.
She didn't. Two winters later, she still wears the same size shoe, and two winters later, I was still without a pair of boots. Unfortunately, two winters later, she's worn out the soles of the boots that were supposed to be mine, and so, really, no one can wear them.
And she needs a new pair of boots, which she did, indeed, receive.
The problem is that we still have this other pair of boots that, save for the extensive wear-and-tear on the soles are in perfect condition. I mean, no marks, rips, or abrasions on the suede uppers.
The question became, what to do with them, and for many months, they simply occupied a space occupied by all of those shoes that we can't give away and we won't throw away (so wasteful).
At the same time, the sole on my six year old Birkenstock-knock-off clogs is starting to wear thin, especially around the toes, and I find that I'm walking on the leather at the tips and on the corks at the heels.
The shoes are six years old, and I've probably gotten as much (more, perhaps) wear out of them as anyone can expect from a pair of shoes, but these are my favorite (only) pair of winter shoes. I love these shoes - not only because they are incredibly comfortable, but also, because I coveted a pair for a long time, and a loved one heard my wish and gave them to me as a gift.
Besides, other than the sole, they're still in excellent shape, too. The suede is free of unsightly stains, rips and abrasions. I can't just throw them away, when they still have some wear in them.
What to do ...? What to do ...?
The answer, of course, was very simple and came in the form of a man named Ray who has a very unassuming little shop that is housed in a very unassuming little building that is kind of tucked off into a corner on the side of a very busy road along a route that I often travel. I've seen the shop. I pass by it six or seven times a week, but in all these years, I never stopped.
Last week, I did. Boots in hand, I went into his shop, and I asked him, "Can you fix these?"
He said he could, and then, he added, "But you could buy a pair of Bear Claws (another knock-off brand of the same style boot) for less than it would cost you to have me fix them."
"Yes," I agreed, "But this pair isn't Bear Claws, and to buy this pair, not on sale (even though it's a knock-off brand, too), would cost almost twice what you're charging to fix them."
We agreed on a price and a pick-up date, and I left ... but not before whipping the shoe off my foot and asking if he could fix those, also.
He said he could, and it would cost less than a new pair of Birks, and even less than a new pair of Birk knock-offs that weren't on sale ;).
I picked up my boots today, and they were exactly the price he listed on the ticket - no tax, no surcharges, no hidden fees. I gave him cash, took off my shoes, put on my newly-soled boots, and handed him the Birks.
The new soles actually look better than the originals, and he reinforced the toe area that Big Little Sister had worn off with a strip of leather. He told me that the suede used to make the knock-offs is a better quality than the suede they use for the designer brand. I think I'll be able to wear these boots for a few years without needing any repairs ... but even if I need repairs, I know that I can get them fixed for no more than a new pair would cost.
The best, though, is that repairing rather than replacing saves me the aggravation of having to go shopping!
On the way home from the shoe repair place, I started thinking about the future in a lower energy world, where getting new "designer" boots, originals or knock-offs, won't be an option for most people - not only because most of us won't be able to afford them, but also because most of that sort of product is manufactured far from where most of us live and as shipping those products to us becomes more cost prohibitive, we'll find fewer of those products available - at any price.
Having young daughters, who haven't yet entered, but may someday wish to enter the job market, I think a lot about the future of jobs in America. I had a conversation with a relative over the holiday, and, of course, the topic of my daughters' future education came up. The assumption is that my girls, like all good, middle-class, suburban girls, will go to college. In fact, that's the only option most people see.
Driving home today with my new soles, I wondered if there weren't another option. I wondered if Ray, the shoe-repair guy, wouldn't consider hiring a teenaged assistant/apprentice. Then, I wondered, if, perhaps, this apprentice might not find it valuable to visit second hand shops in search of high-end designer boots that had seen better days. And then, I wondered if this entrepreneurial-minded youngster might not take some of his/her gift cash and use it to purchase a few pairs of these boots, spiff them up, and then, resell them.
Maybe, once that youngster had completed a two-year apprenticeship program with Ray, s/he might have enough stock to open up a second-hand designer footwear store, where all of the shoes had been resoled ... thus, giving a chance at a new life to both, the shoe and the youth.