I bought a pair of Crocs the other day. I swore I would never do that. They look so dumb and ‘nerdy’. I still have bad memories of those Kalso Earth Shoes in the 60s. An unwanted pair of Birkenstocks is gathering dust in our closet in Iowa City. I used to buy mail order shoes from Mason Shoe Company of Chippewa Falls just to avoid the association with hippie footwear and fad brand names. Furthermore, I hate to just ‘follow fashion’ and I am repulsed by the whole mass-marketing routine. I usually cut the logos off stuff as soon as I buy it. In silent rebellion, I even sometimes magic marker over visible brand names.
When did this happen? When did people start walking around wearing ‘advertising’ for big companies? They used to pay people to stroll around with ‘sandwich boards’ advertising various products. Now it seems, we all do it for free. I can actually recall the first time I saw a T-shirt with an advertisement on it. I thought it was ludicrous. Why would someone pay to wear an advertisement? Now, they have whole stores just selling clothes with ads on them. (OK, I admit, I do make an exception for the advertisement of beer on t-shirts. I mean, how else is a guy able to demonstrate his taste, discernment, and masculine solidarity.)
Back to the shoes…
So, we were in a shopping mall in Bangkok not far from our apartment complex. I accompany Margery on these expeditions as a gesture of love and friendship. It has eased our 38 years together and it is a small price to pay for ‘tradeoffs’, such as my snoring, late night pub ramblings, golf outings, and music store visits to research ‘new gear’.
I believe, like most rational folks, that women ‘shop’ and men ‘buy’. That day, I wasn’t shopping for shoes. I had no intention to buy shoes. I already have: a pair of shoes to teach in, a pair of funky flip flops, running shoes, and a pair of those Velcro sandals that Margery coerced me into buying. I don’t need more shoes! But, there it was, this huge, brightly lit store featuring these crazy new plastic clogs that everyone seems to be wearing.
Margery said, “Just look!”
I knowingly replied, “They won’t have size 13!”
I figured I was off the hook. (We are in the orient where men’s feet are seldom more than size 9.) I took my accustomed seat in the ‘husband’s chair’ that every smart storeowner provides for men waiting out the interminable period where the wife picks up and carefully ‘feels’ every single item in the store.
“Here’s a pair of 13s! Please! Just try them on.”
So I did.
Damn! They were even lighter than my running shoes! No laces! (In our house, since living with the customs of Turkey, Japan, China and now Thailand, it is ‘shoes off’.) I hate standing on one foot, fumbling, stumbling around, trying to tie up my shoelaces without falling on my butt. Even the Velcro things are a pain to put on and take off.
I stepped into these odd shoes and I walked around in the store for a bit. Whoa! They felt really, really comfortable! They were plain black with weird little holes in them, good arch support, seemingly skid proof on the tile floor. No break in. Instant comfort! Still, I balked. Dweeb shoes! Have some dignity!
“You don’t have to shine them! If they get dirty, you can just wash them with water! Chefs and nurses buy them because they are so comfortable! They are supposed to be good for your back! Mario Batali, that Italian chef on the Food Channel, endorses them!”
I wear my Crocs everyday. My fashion independence seems to be vanishing, faster than my hair.