Shoes

My father wore Red Wing pull on boots. I don’t know when he started wearing that particular style of shoe, but I can’t remember a time before he wore those boots. He wore them to work every day. He owned a pair of dress shoes, which were reserved for Sundays and certain important meetings. Saturday evening was shoe polishing time at our home and we all lined up our shoes and as soon as we were able to help, we participated in the polishing and buffing of shoes. When I became a bit older I found out that my dad always kept a brand new pair of boots in his closet. When a pair wore out, he’d switch to the new ones and buy another new pair to be the pair in waiting. Once, after he had died, I asked my grandmother about the practice. She couldn’t remember any time when he went without shoes or think of any reason why it made him happy to have a spare pair in reserve at all times. He died with a brand new pair of boots in the box in his closet, worn only in the store the day he bought them.

Like our dad we had everyday shoes and dress shoes. Our everyday shoes were generally what we called tennis shoes. Black and white, Keds brand lace ups. They didn’t have fancy hiking soles. They weren’t waterproof. In the winter we wore 5 buckle overshoes, so what kind of shoes we had inside of them wasn’t a big deal. We always kept our old tennis shoes. In the summer we had a big box of “river shoes” which were tennis shoes with holes in various places. These were worn for wading in the river and protected our otherwise bare feet from the rocks that lined the bottom of the stream. We’d wear these until there was hardly any shoe left, sometimes with the soles flapping as we walked.

I got a pair of cowboy boots, probably after a whole lot of campaigning on my part, when I was about 8 years old. I remember all three of my brothers wearing those boots as one after the other our feet became too big to wear them. In general we got new jeans and a new cowboy shirt for rodeo every year and went to the rodeo wearing tennis shoes just like most of the other kids in our town.

I don’t think that shoes have ever been a really big deal to me, but somehow I ended up with a whole lot more shoes in my closet than my father ever owned. I have sturdy, warm and waterproof hiking boots. I own two (count ‘em) pairs of cowboy boots - one brown and one black. I generally wear those boots for dress and try to keep them polished and nice. I wear shoes that are called walking shoes for everyday these days after years of wearing boots exclusively. These shoes have come a long way from my tennis shoe days. They have thick soles with a hiking boot tread. They are waterproof and warm even on winter days. They have attractive uppers that are acceptable in most settings. I wear them to work and to visit people in their homes and to meetings without another thought. I used to always buy the same brand and model, but a few years ago that brand seemed to be more poorly made. I found it hard to get a pair to last a whole year. I took them back several times and had them sewed up, but when it came time to replace a pair I switched brands last year and haven’t looked back. I like the new brand just fine. Time will tell if they hold up long enough to engender some brand loyalty. I still buy my hiking boots at Red Wing out of a sense of loyalty and the positive memories of going to that store with my father.

Looking at other people’s feet, however, I have come to the conclusion that my footwear is rather boring by comparison. Recently at a small group meeting, I looked around the room. Most of those gathered wore some form of running shoes. OK mine aren’t exactly running shoes, and some might have been walking shoes or cross trainers or some other kind of specialty sport shoe, but they all had lightweight uppers. But now two pairs looked alike. My grey shoes were no standouts in that crowd. On man was wearing shoes that were so bright green that I wondered if they glowed in the dark. Another’s shoes were bright blue. There were shoes with orange and red stripes. One woman was wearing what looked like high top shoes that laced part of the way up and had a couple of velcro straps at the top. They were blue and white and seemed to have no connection, either in color or style to the rest of her outfit. These, I assume, are fashionable, though no one has ever turned to me for fashion advice.

Most running shoes look comfortable, but not all shoes look that way to me. I’m pretty sure that some people make shoe choices based on appearance more than comfort. How else can you explain high heels, a topic about which I have no expertise, but that look to me like a very unnatural way to walk.

I saw a pair of shoes recently, though I can’t remember the setting, that looked like they were wrapped in aluminum foil. They were silver and shiny and showy. I bet it is a struggle to keep them shiny in the muddy, slushy streets of our town this time of year.

Looking at all the different kinds of shoes that people wear these days doesn’t make me want to go out and buy more. In fact, it makes me think that if anything is acceptable, I should be able to get buy with only one or perhaps two pairs of shoes. A lot of men have no problem wearing black shoes with brown pants or vice versa these days. People seem to wear what look like recreational shoes in dress settings all the time. I think that I could just select the shoes that are most comfortable and forget about it.

On the other hand, if they sold those shoes that light up when you walk in adult sizes . . .

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!