Tuesday, 19 March 2013

It's Shoesday!


I've been meaning to right this post for two and a half years now. A couple of days ago I read this thought-provoking and inspirational post by Morgan from Crab & Bee in which she lamented forgetting to write about her aims to live a more sustainable life (of which sewing forms a part) in favour of almost exclusively blogging about sewing in recent times. I realised I have been doing the exact same thing. 

So I want to go back to a topic that is close to many women's hearts: shoes. When I took the Wardrobe Refashion pledge (remember that?!) in about 2007 to stop buying new clothes in favour of buying second-hand, making or refashioning them instead, I kind of feared my previously entrenched retail purchasing habits would be transferred from cheap mass-produced clothing on to shoes and accessories instead. Thankfully, that didn't turn out to be the case. I think the lessons I learnt through acting out that pledge, about how I didn't need to purchase mass-produced stuff to communicate who I am to those around me actually extended to include footwear and accessories, although I didn't stop buying them entirely like I did clothing. 


A few years later in 2010, enough time to be able to assess my behaviour, shopping habits and thoughts and feelings on both, I decided I wanted to extend my efforts and reduce my reliance on mass-produced products even more and declared I would not be buying any new shoes for a year until July 2011 (as documented in this post). 

Well, July 2011 rolled around, no new shoes had been purchased and I realised I hadn't missed shopping for shoes at all and my existing footwear was still going strong so I continued onwards. I've kind of being doing it ever since with two notable exceptions (which I'll get to shortly). To clarify, I do allow myself second-hand shoe purchases. If I see some I like in my size in a charity shop, I'll get them (often sending them back there when they don't actually get worn!) and if I really have a craving for something particular (like my green vans), I'll hunt some second-hand ones down on eBay. 

Now I know the thought of second-hand footwear creeps some people out, in a way that second-hand clothing doesn't tend to as much. I guess that's because they aren't as easily washed as a thrifted dress or  skirt. But I only buy second-shoes that show very little signs of wear (our society's 'disposable' attitude to cheap mass-produced goods means it's easy to find unworn or virtually-unworn footwear out there these days) and I always put new innersoles in all my footwear so I have a 'barrier' if you like. I would never buy a pair of second-hand shoes if they had begun to take on the shape of the former owners feet! Bleurgh! I also understand that second-hand shoes aren't for some because they have awkward shaped feet, or bunions or other conditions that make buying footwear tricky at the best of times. I'm lucky (toca madera) that my feet are a fairly standard shape and size.  


So not allowing yourself to buy new shoes (or other products too I guess) for a period of time is a really good way to find what you do and don't actually use and need. Over a couple of years of not adding to your collection of shoes and boots, you can really see which ones get worn down and will need replacing, and which ones (embarrassingly) just collate dust and continue to look box-fresh. With this knowledge I'm pretty sure I've figured out more or less what items of footwear I'll probably ever need. The footwear in these photos (plus a pair of skanky running trainers that I didn't want you to see and a couple of pairs of Winter boots that are I couldn't get a decent photo of) is more than I actually need. All of them were either bought pre-my 2010 'no new shoes' pledge and I've attempted to look after them well, or they have been purchased second-hand (aside from my nautical sandals pictured bottom left which I MADE MYSELF!!!). I could probably live without a few of thee pairs as well, but seeing as I am happy with their acquisition, it would be silly to get rid of them on principle. 


So now I need to confess about the exceptions. I've bought two pairs of new shoes since I have been trying not to do so. The first was the black ballet pumps I got to wear at my wedding reception when my heels inevitably started to hurt (I wore my black heels for my wedding, no new shoes for me there). The second pair was the white adidas trainers I got this January a few days before going to Iceland once I realised that none of my current footwear selection had both grip and were waterproof. If I'd thought about such things in advance of both my wedding and the trip to Iceland I probably could have sourced some suitable second-hand options for both occasions. However, I had a lot on my mind before both and had to rely on shop-bought shoes instead. You may it a little mental of me, but I feel a bit guilty about those purchases. 

But in general I'm really happy with my relationship to footwear in a way I wasn't before. Not buying new shoes has helped me learn the following:
  • I NEVER wear heels in the daytime unless I'm at a wedding. 
  • Heels have to have a round toe if I have a hope in hell of keeping them on for longer than an hour.
  • I hate ankle straps.
  • If I find pair of UK size 7 emerald second-hand shoes, they will be MINE! Whether I 'need' them or not. 

What about you? Has altering your clothes shopping impacted other areas of your retail habits? Does the thought of second-hand footwear gross you out?! Have you made a conscious decision recently to slow down or sep buying anything? How do you feel about it?

30 comments:

dottiedoodle said...

Interesting post! I stopped shopping for clothes for 18 months. There were many times when I thought "I want something new", then found the perfect thing already in my wardrobe!

Naomi said...

I love second hand shoes. They just can be hard to find in average/bigger sizes if they're at thrift stores. I use Trade Me a lot (the NZ equivalent of Ebay) and find great bargains and usually things I really like. I love shoes though, so I do allow myself some shoe purchases but try to avoid buying shoes made in third world countries by non third world companies. I spend more but feel better about them and the shoes usually last a lot longer.

badmomgoodmom said...

I take a more holistic view on shoes.

If you can't walk in them, and take a car instead of walking, then those shoes are causing harm to both your feet and to the environment.

It doesn't matter if they are new or second hand.

Jacq C said...

This is really interesting. My daughter and I had a clothes swap party with friends last year to raise money for charity and this topic came up. Clothes changed hands by the bag full but some people felt less comfortable with second hand shoes. However, knowing who'd donated them actually seemed to make a positive difference and high/dressy shoes went quickly because people felt less guilty about buying something that would only get worn once or twice if it was a bargain to start with. I don't have a problem with second hand shoes in principle but have awkward feet so it doesn't really happen. The trick, in my experience, is to have a daughter with exactly the same size and shape feet - I get all her hand-me- downs! :)

Kirsty said...

I definitely not against buying shoes but the shoes I wear now have been soled and resoled several times to get as much wear as possible out of them.

lostseamstress said...

I buy and use second hand shoes- personally I love the worn appearance of the boots I can find. Maybe it's also because I am not really a 'shoe girl' The thought of spending tonnes of money on shoes makes me feel a little ill. However I do get drawn in by those 'it' heels you see in the windows I just have no way of being able to afford them. I love the shoes I have, And i think there is nothing wrong with second hand shoes.

Nyssa Jayne said...

i'm not too fussy about second hand shoes -- i honestly didn't know it was a thin until others pointed out to me it was a bit weird. so that's me in your op shops, buying your shoes!

i stopped shopping about a year ago (maybe a bit longer) and worried about how much i'd "miss" shoes. i thought i'd miss buying stupid high-high heels and i don't. turns out i don't wear that type of shoe very often.

i've concentrated on mending the shoes i have, and i must say, i have a lot more money than i used to and i don't stress about what shoes to wear either. it's my clogs in the summer and my vintage leather slip ons in the winter. so chic and easy. :)

juicyknits said...

I have purchased a new pair of shoes this weekend in ages.

Goodbye Valentino said...

Altering my clothes shopping has increased my shoe shopping. Unfortunately I'm unsustainable in that area and rationalize shoe shopping.
Having said that my overall shopping is way down.

Sally - Charity Shop Chic said...

I confess... my name is Sally and I'm a shoe addict. I don't think I could stop shopping for shoes any sooner than I could stop breathing.

I have bought one or two pairs in charity shops, but it's so rare to find any that meet my high standards of fit and cleanliness. I'm not against second hand shoes per se, just rarely see any I want to buy.

Helen said...

THis is a really interesting post!

I don't have a problem with second hand shoes per se, but I've yet to buy a pair that are actually comfy. Maybe they were already too conformed to the previous owners feet although they didn't look like it?! Either way, it's never worked for me.

Sew little time said...

i'm not much of a shoe person (i prefer bags!) but i have a horror of second hand shoes. the exception would be if they pretty much look box fresh. my mum used to work in a shoe shops and she used to tell me about the damage you can do to your feet by wearing shoes that have shaped to someone else's feet. i wish i did like them, epsecially with vintage ones, but i can't do it!

Danielle Krivan said...

Good second hand shoes are wonderful! And ebay is a treasure trove of them - it's my go-to place for shoes :) The one exception? I do save up for the July sales and buy one really good pair - the best I can afford (I'm working my way through a checklist...), fully intending that these will last years (better yet, decades) be repairable and even improve with age (leather boots, I'm looking at you!). I've found that every pair I've bought in this way I still love as much as I did the day I bought them; the quality is great, they suit my taste AND lifestyle, and there's no buyer's remorse from impulse purchases . There's a lot to be said for slowing down the process and buying thoughtfully, huh?

Janey said...

Firstly: I have those blue shoes in the first picture!
Secondly: I am very bad with shoes. Every so often I buy a pair of shoes that are sooo beautiful but I will only wear once to a wedding or something because they're too high for me and then they will spend the rest of their time sitting on a shelf looking pretty. It happens like once a year or something and I feel guilty about not wearing them. I am trying to wear them more often but they're a bit too fancy and crazy looking for the office (they're mostly Irregular Choice ones)or not practical for running around on a weekend!

Meg said...

Although I never bought into the "loads of stuff because it is cheap" culture, I have spent the last 15 months reducing my clothes/shoes... consumption for environmental reasons. Like many going down this route, I think I have got out of the habit of buying and into the habit of fixing/reviving clothes. (Bras remain an interesting conundrum! What do you do on that front?) As far as shoes are concerned, I always invested in quality (as well as support and width as I have perennial knee and back issues). Because the need for support and width, I am wary of buying second hand/vintage. A lot of the second hand shops in my area sell shoes from the 'throwaway' culture and real vintage quality shoes are usually too narrow. So, I stick to buying quality new items and have them cobbled to within an inch of their life!

KW said...

I love shopping for second-hand shoes, although maybe I'm not picky enough and should stop buying shoes that are pretty worn in. Good to know it may not be good for your feet.

I kinda hate when people do this, but what brand are the red heels in that first photo? I'm looking for some comfortable and cute heels for weddings. I'd love to be able to find those on ebay!

scooter said...

A topic near and dear to my heart...shoes seem super-wasteful, production and trash-wise. About three years ago, I decided I was over it and not buying new shoes again. So far so good, with one exception. I tried to minimize the impact of my new purchase by buying handmade (UK-ers, you're so lucky to have small-shop shoemakers, patronize them!) and the most sustainable materials possible. I was bummed not to be able to do natural rubber soles, but the shoemakers assured me my summers are just too hot.

Otherwise, thank heavens for ebay. There are so many beautiful, high quality, gently used shoes in the world already!

Zoe said...

Hi everyone,

Thanks all for sharing your thoughts and experiences on these topics.

@KW, all the shoes in the top photo except the black ones originated from Topshop. I bought the red ones there myself years ago, but the other two are Topshop via eBay. I think these all must be from the same supplier to Topshop, I really like them.

xxx

Lovenicky said...

Such an interesting post! I do buy and wear 2nd hand shoes. I stopped buying brand new shoes about a year ago when I saw that there were lots of almost-new shoes at my local thrift store for a fraction of the price. To be honest, I already own enough shoes for every occasion (and probably do many women in the western world). So I probably don't need to buy any new or 2nd hand shoes for the next 5 years. I have become pretty obsessed with for 'cost per wear' with my shoes and clothes. I would like to challenge myself to wear what I already have in new ways (e.g. refashion my existing clothes/shoes to make them look different). Sometimes the refashions fail and it's okay!

Roisin Muldoon said...

I confess, I would find it difficult to stop shopping for shoes altogether, but I think my large collection gets a good rotation. I have no problems with second hand shoes as long as they're not too worn and have bought a fair few pairs from ebay - in fact, I have a pair of those yellow Topshop shoes (and I also have them in bright pink) I wouldn't buy them if they looked too used, though.

LLADYBIRD said...

Whatever, I'm totally disgusting and I have absolutely noooo problem with buying secondhand shoes. None! I'll even buy sandals and shoes that are not meant to be worn with socks. If I get a grody foot fungus or toe curse or I dunno whatever... oh well. Hahahaha!

Actually, though, I don't buy a lot of secondhand shoes - because I've learned to be really really picky about what I buy (else I end up with a pile of shoes that never get worn), and I rarely find what I want at the thrift, at least not in the color/size/condition that I need. Of course, if I see something I want - I'll snap it up ASAP! It just doesn't happen too often.

The way I've curtailed my shoe binges is that I refuse to buy cheap shoes now (secondhand doesn't count as cheap, unless the brand is something subpar of course). I don't buy shoes at Target, which kind of makes me an anomaly here. I try to only get US (or UK or Canada - anything but China!) made, real leather if applicable, and check to see if the shoe is actually stitched together, as opposed to glued. At this point, I don't really trust dress shoes that cost under $100. Dropping that kind of cash on a pair of shoes really makes you think about how much you "need" it... on the plus side, it really encourages me to take care of my stuff, and repair it when necessary!

Epic Thread said...

Love the yellow heels!
Jillian - http://epic-thread.blogspot.com

Crab and Bee said...

Hi Zoe! Thanks for checking out my post and sharing your thoughts on shoes! I am totally down with second-hand shoes but try to find well-kept ones that I know I will wear. Since I started walking a lot more, it's been harder to find shoes that fit the bill! My best thrift find is probably a pair of Frye engineer boots. I ended up buying what felt like a lot of new shoes last year, but I did a ton of research and they're all holding up really well. I don't think I'll need many or possibly any new ones this year with the help of my cobbler!

Tasha @ Stale Bread into French Toast said...

I buy a mix of new and second hand shoes, I have to have good quality ones or else my feet hurt, but if I find a some that look clean on ebay I am all for it!
I totally agree, when I get in the mode of buying less it helps me see what I really need and actually use, and when one of those shoes wears out then I get a new pair.
I would love to go the next step and get some handmade, repairable shoes, I just have to justify the $$ to myself - even though I know it's worth it.

Philippa said...

Yes I rarely shop for new clothes because there is such a lot of wastage in the fashion industry. I prefer to go to charity shops or make something timeless whenever I can. Shoes are a bit more difficult as so many I find in charity shops are worn out really. I will buy second hand if they are in good condition, not squashed at all or down at heel and have been lucky enough to find a few brand new pairs. The best ever were these really cool German made ankle boots that were slouchy sided with a buckled strap down the side. They were totally lined in waterproof breatheable fabric and were so comfortable. They cost £2.95 and I wore them for years. I have never been able to find something comparable to replace them with:(

Tasha said...

Very interesting topic! Oh how I love shoes. I have no problem with second hand shoes! I've been buying second hand shoes (not exclusively) since I was in high school. I have lots of vintage shoes, so that's just really old second hand. lol Insoles do wonders.

That being said I do try to think long and hard about my new shoe purchases. I try to buy from smaller brands when I can, buy better quality, and plan to wear them until they wear out. And I try to replace things like heels and get repairs whenever possible. I am not perfect by any means, but I try to think of shoes as an investment-- taking care of them as best I can so they'll last as long as possible.

bloodsweatshoptears said...

I've never been into shoe shopping. I consider every purchase carefully and I'd much rather have shoes repaired than buy new. I don't have a problem with secondhand shoes.

Erika said...

Interesting topic! I never made a pledge or even a concious deciscion to shop less - it just happened anyway for two reasons: comfort and space. My me-made clothes are more comfortable, raising the bar so RTW by now doesn't seem worth the price. And I have just no more space for the "stuff" I usually leave thriftstores with, so I've basically stopped going to them.

In the end, I shop a lot less items now, although the few things I get can be a lot more expensive. Shoes however, are the exceptions to the rule. I shop both expensive and often - no fancy stuff, but shoes are kind and gentle to my feet. Unfortunatly, I fit the bill of people who just can't shop shoes second hand. I have a few pairs of vintage and/or second hand (fancy pieces that doesn't get much wear), but the rest of my shoes are ergnomical wonders that needs to be replaced after approx 12 months of use (so a pair of winter boots lasts me two seasons). The rubber in these soles "stiffen" over time as well, so even a pair not overly used needs replacement after 2-3 years. To minimize both cost and enviromental effect I therefore have one good pair I use the whole season, and when they're worn out I'll get new ones.

I wish I had your feet, and I really wish I could shop shoes second hand or at least sustainable quality shoes that could be re-soled! My fair trade and eco-concience crings when I go shoeshopping, but my the pain in my feet wins. It's not even a real battle, as I need my feet for walking. =(
Glad to hear there are so many who can wear second hand/re-soled shoes and who does shop sustainable!

nikkishell said...

It's so nice to see Wardrobe Refashion still gets mentioned here and there. You do know I recently relaunched don't you? Www.handmakersfactory.com.au I hope to see you there.

On the subject of shoes, I've collected quite a few over the years. I recently had a clear out, some were chucked, some were donated and some that I could no longer wear but still loved we're given to a friend I know will enjoy and take care of them.
I buy good quality expensive shoes and try to take care of them by polishing them and having them re-soled/re-heeled whenever necessary.
I don't plan to buy any shoes this winter except maybe sneakers.

Denisa Cretu said...

Great info. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have.
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