A Mile in My Shoes

I’ve blown out two pairs of boots this week.

Blowing out one pair of boots is hard work, if they’re Frye boots.  Blowing out two? I think I get some sort of merit badge. I knew the sole of one pair was wearing thin, and when I inspected it closely, it’s worn all the way through and into the leather underneath.   The other pair was a surprise.  I pulled them on Sunday and noticed one of them felt too big.  I examined the situation, and the leather upper has completely separated from the sole, to about a third of the way down. The guy at Man Mur frowned when he looked at it.  “Wow. Frye usually stitches the sole to the upper. This one is just….glued. Those are faux stitches on the sole. Sorry. But I’ll fix it. I’ll do it right.” And I know he will, because those guys have re-soled, re-heeled, and re-built a bunch of boots for me. Actually, they keep re-soling and re-heeling the same ones. They take their work seriously.

I took them my red cowboy boots once, which I got for like $19 years ago.  The sole fell apart, and the guy had to pretty much re-build them for $80. I told him I was totally happy to pay $80 for my $19 boots, because I loved them and could go back to stomping all over town in them.  “They’re $99 boots now,” he said. “You’d better stomp them back in here sooner next time.”

I’m pretty darn hard on my boots. They accumulate a lot of miles. Heels, for the most part, are out of the question for me, as I have a fragile knee, a pedestrian commute, and a standing desk.  Also, I’m forced to acknowledge after wearing stilettos to a gathering at the Wild Turkey Lounge this weekend, there is really nothing sexy about wearing shoes that just make you look drunk when you’re walking in them, even when you’re reasonably sober. I don’t even want to talk about wearing flats. I Do Not Like Flats.

Since having a couple of knee surgeries, I’ve bought a pair of boots ‘most every year or so.

  • In 2006 I bought red cowboy boots. I also went to grad school.
  • In 2007 I bought brown knee-high boots online for practically nothing. My first e-bay purchase, and my first Frye boots. They’re a size too big. I love them anyway. I felt very collegiate and Soho when I put them on.
  • In 2008 I had a report card with 2 A’s, and 2 A+’s. I am straight-up bragging about that all of these years later, because I have a fragile peace with the field of architecture after graduating into an industry which proceeded to crash, and I think you have to celebrate accomplishments where you can. That Christmas, Mom bought me a pair of Frye boots in Asheville at the giant shoe store, green harness boots which I wear everywhere, with everything.
  • In 2009 I bought a pair of boots from a shop window in New York, sort of camel brown, with a cuff that flips up so they are over-the knee. Though there are a couple of situations in which they might not be as trashy as they sound, in reality, they are as trashy as they sound. They have never left the house. Thank heavens they were drastically on sale. That was an unwise purchase. Oh, and then I graduated from architecture school.
  • In 2010 I traveled around the world, and I bought a gorgeous pair of hand embroidered boots, black velvet with scrolls of flowers. I was in Istanbul, which will always be a fairy tale in my memory. I had to haggle for them in the Grand Bazaar. It was terrifying. And I love them.  They cost $80, a huge, huge chunk in my tiny travel budget, and practically nothing in the grand scheme of things.
  • In 2011 I bought a pair of black riding boots, which look grown-up and work appropriate. I probably put the last 15 miles on them in New York last weekend, hence the blowout.
  • I did not buy any boots in 2012.
  • In 2013 I drove the middle part of Route 66, and I bought a pair of cowboy boots in a gas station in Oklahoma. Possibly the best souvenir I’ve ever found. There’s an embroidered flowery star on each one. They are the finest gas station cowboy boots that $89.95 can buy on Route 66.

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That is probably an obnoxious amount of boots.  And yet, I do not have enough boots, or at least not enough boots to have the right options for any occasion.  I need a pair of dressy boots with heels for winter. I need another pair of boots for work, with low enough heels that I can walk a mile back and forth from home and stand all day, and still look like a grown-up and a professional.  Don’t judge, but I need a pair of white suede cowboy boots. And I totally, absolutely, completely have to have the heeled fringe boots Emmylou Harris is wearing on the cover of Evangeline, except they’re decades old and there are none to be found.

Doesn’t really matter. I looked at all my busted up, worn out boots today and thought, well, there’s 2013 in a nutshell. Everything broke, at least a little, but there’s nothing broken that won’t eventually be repaired for the better.  Everything’s been a little overused, and looks well-loved and on the threadbare side; everything I own has got some serious miles on it, but most of those miles are really good miles. I don’t mind a little wear and tear.  A lean year, a rebuilding year, a counting-every-penny year, a traveling year, a year of change, a year of fixing things that needed fixing. One small thing at a time.

I can’t wait to see what kind of boots 2014 brings me.

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