Saturday, August 22, 2009

Major acquisitions UPDATED

Excuses, excuses, I bought shoes. $35 shoes, but still, money was exchanged for footwear. There's no denying it.

< excuse > Turns out that a summer of endless walking around should mean bringing along sensible shoes. I failed to do so, and ended up with two beat-up pairs of flats; running shoes I can neither run nor walk in comfortably; also-beat-up silver Pumas at least a half-size too small; and a pristine pair of beige/tan/nude/whatever spectator pumps that will be great when it's neither rainy nor over 90 degrees, but that for now just sit there looking like they belong to some more glamorous person than myself. < /excuse >

Here's how it went: I entered a West Side shoe store that had a "70% Off" sign, because of the sign, of course, but knowing full well that said discounted items would be the more hideous of last spring's impractical-even-if-they-were-attractive stilettos. Once inside, I fought off a brand representative intent on selling me a French sneaker somewhere between Keds and Converse and remarkably like a shoe whose name I've forgotten that effectively made you popular if you wore it in sixth grade in 1994.

The brand this woman was there to promote did look more or less like what I wanted, and had a name that suggested French-Jewish (dare I say Francophilic-Zionistic?) origins, but cost more than either of the familiar makes it resembled, and on top of that had all these odd dents around the ankle-heel area that the saleswoman insisted would break in in time (do shoe-salesfolk genuinely believe the adults they are dealing with have never before bought shoes, and will fall for the 'it doesn't remotely fit now, but one distant day it will' scam? Yes, shoes break in, but slightly, and only if they're leather. Stiff canvas dents are going nowhere.) She gave quite a speech in marketing lingo about how she's attempting to get the word out about this exclusive item from France, but barely available in the States, so much so that afterwards I up and got a log of goat cheese made in Vermont.

(The woman was also offering anyone who so much as glanced at the shoes a glass of Champagne. I refused each of the numerous times this was offered, and later overheard two of the store's regular staff discussing whether any customers were accepting a glass, and apparently none were. This made me think both of how everyone knows alcohol lowers shopping inhibitions, and of how some early-20th-C French writer once referred to Jews as "la race sans ivrognes." Clearly, the UWS - however much changed in recent years - is still not the place to use Champagne as a catalyst for shopping.)

After some hours of pondering and iced coffee and almond croissant consumption, I decided on the American variant - bright red Keds. (I also seriously considered navy, beige...) I thought they looked sort of now, more so than just about everything else I own, which I figured was probably a good thing, but my mother articulated just what it is they look, and the word she used was "hipster." She's onto something - Googling 'keds hipster' brought me to this page bearing an image of, alas, my new shoes. Oh well. If people think I chose flats over heels and $35 over something more expensive ironically, so much the better.


Keds are not, in fact, so very now. A 2006 Sartorialist post reveals them to be so very 2006; the commenters there insist that the shoe's revival is totally passé, perhaps dating as far back as 2005. Still, this has to be an improvement from looking so very 1998, as per usual, that is, unless 1998-revival is the new thing...


PG said...

I never found Keds to offer as much foot support for extensive walking as their casualness seemed to promise. I got a couple pairs of New Balances at an outlet store in DE (cheap + no sales tax) a few years ago, and really like them. One is black with white accents, the other dark brown with light pink accents (very similar to this), both made of a vaguely suede-ish material. A friend who sometimes does brand representation for H&M complimented the brown and pink ones, so I'm hopeful that's a sign that they're not stupidly ugly. I like New Balance because they offer shoes wide enough for my barefoot villager's feet.

PG said...

Also, while champagne to prime purchases seems a little tacky, I did sort of like getting a bottle of champagne at the end of the process of picking out a wedding dress. Something about getting it at the end makes it feel like "Yay, we're happy you found something you love and are buying it here!" rather than "Let us entice you and make you feel guilty for taking something from us without having bought anything in return" (reminds me of accepting drinks from a guy you don't actually like ... simultaneous "is he try to lower my guard with alcohol" and "this is a bit exploitative of me, maybe I owe him something now?").

Phoebe said...


In terms of ankle support, whatever these are, they'll be a major trade-up from stretched-out ballet flats and too-small 'fashion' Pumas. I'll also be getting a new pair of running shoes (I wanted mine to last forever, but they've now quite obviously stopped working), and there I'll be much more concerned with fit. Apparently the only brand of those that works for me foot-shape-wise is Asics, which is a shame because they're often truly hideous.

And the Champagne - agreed that it's about the order (pre- or post-purchase), but it's also about scale. A wedding dress is a Champagne purchase, whereas a pair of $50 sneakers that look like they should cost under $40 is, I don't know, beer? Diet Coke?

PG said...

I got a pair of Asics recently because I wanted better arch support, but I miscalculated and the left one is just a fraction too narrow. Unfortunately I broke them in while running a 5k. I think I'll stick to the New Balances from now on and just experiment with adding padding and such myself.

Scale comes into it, and also whether what is being sold is just a good or an experience. There's a trend in upscale barber shops to offer a martini or similar classic cocktail while one waits, and that seems appropriate (especially when one is being charged $40 for something one does for oneself every morning anyway). I could imagine the kinds of lingerie stores that make a big deal of measuring every customer themselves because so many women are wearing the wrong size handing out girly drinks -- it probably relaxes people a bit before getting groped by a stranger.

Phoebe said...

Responding to your comment in a sort of combined way...

I find apparel you have to be fitted for to be unnerving, but not more so if it's a bra than if it's running sneakers. What's frustrating about the experience is that you're left with just this one item (if you're lucky, two) - at just this one price - that you could, with your body being as it is, possibly purchase if you want a new whatever-it-is. After trying on a bunch of others on my own, I tend to believe whichever running-shoe salesperson once told me I can only wear Asics. With t-shirts, this is never the case - it's always your call if you want to spend $5 or whatever the ultra-thin fancy t-shirts now cost.

My guess is that combining drinks with fittings is in part to ease the awkwardness, but is also to prevent people doing what I'd imagine many do in that situation - get fitted in the boutique, then look elsewhere for the same item for less, online or in person.

Ms. S and C said...

To your point (which is a good one): "A wedding dress is a Champagne purchase, whereas a pair of $50 sneakers that look like they should cost under $40 is, I don't know, beer? Diet Coke?"

Maybe a PBR would have been a good match? :-)

A fun (and slightly snarky) read (the best kind in my opinion). And, thanks for link.

PG said...

Someone is trying to bring Keds back, at any rate.

Phoebe said...

Ms. S and C,

PBR, yes, that sounds about right.


That someone is probably Keds. It worked for me, but mainly because the first store I entered that day to look for lo-tech sneaker-type shoes had that brand, and I wasn't up for further investigation, ducking in and out of stores to find something less obvious. Note to shoe companies, inspired by Woody Allen: it's 90% showing up.