I'm delighted to join Murderous Musings as a new regular. Specifically, a forty-eight regular.
I'm also a bit terrified at the prospect of joining this august body. Unlike my esteemed colleagues, I am not yet a published crime fiction author, though I am working on it. I'll chat about that from time to time.
But more than anything else right now, I am thrilled to announce to the world that I bought a decent pair of shoes.
Okay, that’s not particularly thrilling news to most of you. Honestly, any clothing purchase is really outside my normal celebratory sphere. But this pair of Skechers Shape-Ups is the first pair of shoes I have purchased in quite a few years that has not presented immediate danger to life and limb.
I blame it on the U.S. penal system. And street gangs. And the police. The fashion police.
I suppose full disclosure demands I take my share of the blame as well, and that requires that I reveal something of myself to those of you who do not yet know me.
I am a cheapskate.
I come by my frugality honestly, from parents who came of age in the Great Depression, and perhaps a bit of a stereotypical boost from some Scot ancestry. I don’t like to spend more money than I have to on basic necessities, and I tend to keep things until they wear out or fall apart.
I remember spending $8.95 at K-Mart for a pair of Trax sneakers in 1976. Back then, there were three kinds of shoes: dress shoes, work shoes, and sneakers, unless you were buying them for school, in which case you’d call your sneakers “gym shoes”. For whatever reason, $8.95 is the price point that has stuck in my mind, and the one I strive for when buying a pair of shoes.
With the exception of some two-dollar thrift store loafers purchased for inclement weather, I have not met that price point in quite a while. Even “regular” sneakers are difficult to find under $39.95. Heck, they're difficult to find at any price. And I wouldn’t venture a guess at the price of designer pneumatic Air Jordache athletic shoes, even if they are pumps. (What happens if your pumps get a flat?)
It's bad enough that I can't get a decent pair of sneakers for $8.95. To add injury to insult, for nearly ten years, the sneakers I have purchased have been dangerous to wear, right out of the box. The laces are too long.
Sagging is the fashion style characterized by baggy pants riding low over exposed underwear. It started as an emulation of the prison look. Jailors confiscate articles of clothing like belts and shoe laces, to prevent them being used to inflict bodily harm. This results in fewer prison suicides and strangulation deaths, but it also results in a lot more inmates whose pants have fallen to their ankles to pool over loose shoes. And, I suspect, laughing prison guards. The BBC was good enough to document the trend in photographs.
That, I think, is the problem.
It’s pretty easy to avoid buying baggy pants. You just don’t. And if you try, there is some protection in the old rule of thumb which says that friends don’t let friends wear waistbands at thigh level. But there is no rule about shoe laces. And the low-priced shoe industry’s response to the fashion police was straightforward. If it’s the fashion to wear long, baggy pants with long, slack shoe laces, then the solution (to them) is to sell shoes with long, slack laces.
With the long, stable history of shoe lace sizing, one would think it would be a simple thing. If you manufacture a shoe with 10 lace holes, sell it with 36 inch laces. But since sagging, my shoe laces have all been at least a foot too long. They’ve been long enough to drag in the dirt when fully tied, to get caught underfoot while walking (leading to frequent stops to retie). Long enough to get caught in bicycle chains, and yes, long enough to trip me. All in the name of fashion.
I might agree with the one-size-fits-none approach, if it were restricted to appropriate shoes – like that class of sneakers with wild designs that look like the international warning logo for something toxic. But why, oh why, was the rule applied to every shoe? Unlike saggers, I wear more than just sneakers. I also wear the occasional dress shoe or work shoe. And those shoes were afflicted, too. Including a pair of leather dress shoes, and several pairs of work shoes I purchased under the label of a famous podiatrist, whose name rhymes with “sole”. (This would be moderately funny, but one of those pairs were “safety” shoes, with non-skid soles, and the stated purpose of preventing workplace accidents due to falls. That’s nice – but when the laces are a foot too long, you eventually trip over them or catch them in a high speed punch press, no matter how non-skid the soles may be.) I even had a pair of brown wing tip shoes with laces that were long enough to require double knotting. That’s pretty sad. (My daughter tells me the sad part is the brown wing tips, not the laces. I told her to be glad I don’t wear them with black dress socks and bermudas while mowing the lawn, like my father before me.)
A note to the shoe and shoelace industry: You missed a great opportunity. Instead of supplying incorrect laces that annoyed most of your customers, you could have spent the last decade selling fashion lace upgrades for your regular shoes. Then instead of charging forty-nine cents for two pair of laces, you could have sold single pairs of extra-long laces for $20 each. I mean, look at the customers who actually wanted the baggy pants and trippy laces! You could’ve sold them anything!
I’m sure some readers are about to say, “Enough with the rants! Buy yourself a different pair of shoe laces!” Well, as I said, I’m cheap. I often shop discount stores. And I learned something about discount department stores in general, and discount shoe stores in particular. THEY DON’T SELL SHOE LACES. Nor shoe polish, shoe trees, shoe horns, socks, or any other common item associated with shoes. Go figure. And that’s not the point any way... when I buy a pair of shoes, I expect them to work, out of the box, no assembly or phone calls to customer support call centers required.
And that is precisely the shoe-buying experience that the good people at Skechers gave me, and why I have killed the fatted calf. After ten years of frustration and disappointment, finding a basic item that once again works as it should, without drama, is worth a celebration.