Sole searching

Sneaker shopping — it happened. And I’m sore. I have remorse. Yet it was exciting. Like a bar fight. 

About every other year I feel the need for new kicks, specifically sneakers, or, as we called them in California, tennis shoes. 

This year is the year for new ones, as I’ve been wearing out my Stan Smith Adidas (still gleaming white and criminally comfortable) and I put aside a pair of blue Nothing New sneakers, a wincing waste, despite their reasonable price tag and the fact they’re made of recycled materials. (Specifically, water bottles.) I’m just not feeling them.

So, I am lacking. I forgot to mention the retro Reeboks I wore for a year and finally got sick of (they are fugly). And the black Reeboks that sprouted a substantial and premature hole in the toe. So, really, I am, truly, lacking.

I don’t spend a lot on shoes. Until I do. But first: I don’t. For example, those Reeboks I got sick of? $45. The Stan Smiths? $70. The Nothing News? $98. 

When I start grazing $100 for shoes, I quiver. But, as clichés go, you get what you pay for. So I am, so to speak, stepping it up. I have help. One helper is my brother, a well-connected, dedicated, sort of fiendish shopaholic. He has taste. Sometimes expensive taste. But, looking at his feet, it pays off. 

I tried shopping on my own recently, and I tanked. I came this close to ordering a pair of Adidas Sambas, then a pair of Adidas Gazelles. I was being uber-retro, and uber-cheap. Worse, I actually ordered a pair of retro-style Asics sneakers, then promptly cancelled the order, red-faced, shame-faced. 

Then my brother pointed me to a spiffy pair of New Balance that I rather immediately fancied. So I bought them. They were pricey. Like double what I usually pay. But I dig them. (And so does my dentist, who gushed about them, and assumed I was a “sneaker-head,” which she professes herself to be. That almost makes it all worth it.)

I got the bug. A month or so later, my brother showed me some kicks by the Italian-made boutique brand Oliver Cabell — I’d never heard of them either. Scanning the shoes online, I noted several compelling pairs that were unique, unusual, slick, stylish. And queasily expensive. I ordered a pair anyway thinking that will be that for a couple years.

Ha. Once I shelved the Reeboks with the hole in them, I realized I no longer had a pair of basic black sneakers, my go-to style. And there, sitting regal and righteous, were a pair of black leather Oliver Cabells that made my heart race. Now. There. We. Go.

I bought them, but it was a struggle. My brain reeled with drama and guilt. My wallet wheezed. The price, too shameful to share, is stressing me out. The kicker: I ordered them a week ago and they won’t be ready for at least two more weeks. They are “currently being made” in Italy, I am told. A little suspense with my sneakers. I really need that. 

So, for me, shopping for sneakers is more than an act. It’s a procedure, prolonged and painstaking. Like surgery. And, lately, almost as costly. I need to find a better way. I am not waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The slippery appeal of slippers

There’s a friendly fellow blogger named Neil at Yeah, Another Blogger who was recently procuring new footwear after his five-year-old slippers imploded. 

“I began to dislike them, and got really sick of the f*ckers when the sole of the right foot opted to decompose,” writes Neil, who went online and scored natty brown moccasins. The new ones “are comfortable, fit nice and snugly, and look damn good too,” he beams. “Yeah, I’m in slippers heaven.”

Lucky him. I’m in slippers hell. You should see these things, a pair of black, ignominiously dull Dockers I bought for $30 in January, the same month Neil hit the jackpot. How I’ve lived with these fugly things for six months, I do not know. The only proper description for them is “nursing home chic.” I instantly feel 92 when I slip them on, and I often reflexively wheeze, “Hand me my cane!”

The other day I could stand it no more. I was transfixed, staring at the stained, felt, cardboardy slippers, which look increasingly like the Frankenstein monster’s chunky black footwear. I shuffled around the house, arms extended, grunting like the creature, having a laugh. Until it was a groan and I realized these shoes had to go.

My brother sniggered when he sent me an email of a pair of slippers for sale at Etsy for $40. They look like classic Nike high-tops, but they are made of … knitted crochet. An array of slippers made of crochet to look like vintage sneakers, Converse to Jordans, dazzled me into a state of helplessness: I had to get a pair. So long nonagenarians, hello Nikes.  

And this is what I bought, standard black Nike running shoe-style slippers (see more at Etsy for the full experience):

Now, these slipper-sneakers — sleakers — don’t have the standard rubber sole, so outdoor wearing is limited to quick trips. To preserve the delicate bottoms, I’ll be the guy jogging across hot coals, arms pumping, feet loping. Something like: I’m taking out the trash, that’s why I’m walking with such frazzled haste. Move, before I wreck my nifty new slippers!  

Etsy, of course, is all about handmade and vintage crafts made by creative folks around the world. It’s all very personal, quirky and individualized — I often buy funny, singular birthday cards there — and prices can get steep. (A birthday card, with shipping, averages about $8.) 

But artisanal slippers? Made of crochet? To look like old-school Adidas? I have to laugh-gasp at the idea. Don’t get me wrong. I’m excited about my crochet Nikes. They handily deck the Dockers. 

All of a sudden, a flush of second thoughts. What if the shoes are shoddy, even hideous? Am I being unreasonably seduced by their novelty? Will I be laughed out of the house? I suppose I’ll just have to wait till the other slipper drops.

Thud.