31 August 2011


By Andy Weddington
Friday, 02 September 2011

"I like Cinderella, I really do. She has a good work ethic. I appreciate a good, hard-working gal. And she likes shoes. The fairy tale is all about the shoe at the end, and I'm a big shoe girl." Amy Adams

For today, light fun, an observation on life in general, namely about pretty neat feet and Chucks, Crocs, flip-flops, and more...

Once upon a time...

Some forty years ago where I grew up the canvas Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star was the hot shoe. Though colors e.g. red, green, blues (Carolina and Duke), and amber were available, most kids wore black or white, and low cut wearers far outnumbered high toppers. Guys wore Chucks. Once in a while a girl. Pricey, at ten dollars a pair, not everybody could afford them. But there was an affordable and acceptable alternative. At half the price, Bata Bullets were a passable knock-off that came in black low cut. My brothers and I and many friends--expert at wearing out a pair of sneakers in less than six months--wore them proudly. And contrary to marketers, the guys who wore Converse could not jump higher nor run faster than the guys in Bullets (they weren't called Bullets for nothing). That last statement one of fact proven via "scientific analysis"--in backyards and on courts and fields not in company boardrooms. Marketers, of course, disagree. So goes business and making money.

Since those old days, Chucks--low cut and high tops--still come in a rainbow of colors. And more styles. Oh, and they're more than ten bucks. Five times as much in some locales in the States. I own a pair--red high tops. I bought them not to hopefully improve prowess in backyards and on courts and fields but to use as model for a big painting. Good decision--the painting sold the day after completing it. The shoes still sit on the model stand. I just might wear them one day.

I don't think Bata Bullets are manufactured any longer but could be wrong. Regardless, no plans to buy a pair nor make a painting of them.

Crocs. A simple, practical shoe not around forty years ago. Their cousin, the cheap flip-flop, ruled. Most flip-flops went for fifty cents to a buck a pair and could be picked up in big bins in five and dime or drug stores or K-Mart and even 7-11 convenient stops. Flip-flops were worn at the pool, on summer outings at the lake or beach, and around the home. Sometimes at school--the girls. And that's about it.  

Crocs are a different story. They're worn everywhere--pool, lake, beach, shopping, school, and workplace--the medical community first comes to mind. They're especially practical in the desert--a handful of pairs scattered about the house. Some say they look silly and swear them off. Not concerned about looks nor what anyone else thinks, the Crocs are practical, comfortable, versatile, easily cleaned, and, to my liking, colorful. And, if you want, you can decorate them with jibbitz--that trinket that plugs the shoe's holes. I don't do jibbitz.

Recently my wife and I traveled about Sweden--big city to small communities. Guess what? Chucks and Crocs are the hot shoes--mostly with the younger crowd (toddlers to twenty somethings and up) but older folks are wearing them, too. Both shoes so popular you'd think they're the official unofficial national uniform. What first caught my attention was the females, all ages, wearing Chucks. And most wearing high tops with no or low-cut socks (back in the day, for guys, it was calf or knee length stripe topped socks) that could not be seen above the high top. And their Chucks did not necessarily coordinate, at least in the everyday man's sense of style, with attire. But they did--whether sporting short skirts, casual dresses, shorts, slacks or jeans, Chucks were everywhere and anytime. Fine and dandy.

And so were the Crocs popular--in their original style and all sorts of new ones. A young girl wore one red and one green one. She and a friend had swapped. The beginning of an obvious fad? Possibly.  

The footwear of choice for Swedes was a surprise. Swede friends said, "Yes, they're quite popular. But we get a better deal on them when shopping in the States. In some New York City stores there are more Swedes than Americans." I'll say. Checking sundry shops, Chucks were going from 700 to 800 kroner and sometimes more. That's starting at $120.00 a pair. The thinner sidewall style, preferred by some women, were more expensive than the traditional model. Less shoe for more money--people will buy anything.

And some folks were wearing Chucks knock-offs. Crocs makes one. So does Polo. Both passable copies--reminiscent of the Bata Bullets but better. Cost? Didn't bother to check. But, considering the established brands, could well be more. After all, some would rather die than not have 'the logo.'

Crocs, on average, were running about twice as much in the American market. I found a pair of a new canvas, slip-on style in a "REA" (Swedish for "Sale") bin and bought them--for less than priced back home. A rare find. And a comfortable shoe--suitable for shorts to tuxedos. And damn convenient for going through airport security.

Everywhere--Chucks and Crocs. And entertaining to see what outfit would next pop-up complemented with a pair of Chucks. There was something stylishly interesting about the contrast of high top Chucks and whatever attire--especially the dresses.

Upon return to the states and standing in the immigration queue--Americans only--another apparent footwear rage caught my eye. Not Chucks. And not Crocs. All the young women, and some not as young, were wearing flip-flops. Black flip-flops.

The American ladies, too, clad in short skirts, casual dresses, shorts, slacks, and jeans.

Puzzling. Then after a closer look the flip-flops made sense.

Why? To parade expensive pedicures, meticulously decorated nails, and tattoos.

Chucks. Crocs. Flip-flops. Chic!

What's the next hot shoe? Who knows. A decade or so ago a small group of rebel kids in New York City found Hush Puppies--trend setters, of sort, they breathed new life into the dying shoe company's iconic basset hound. They bought and wore them because no one else was. Kids. Whatever it takes to stand alone--to be different. I remember when Hush Puppies were cool--60s and 70s. So were wingtips and chucka boots.

Feet gloves. Have you seen them? Sleek, lightweight, foot-hugging shoes with individual pockets for toes?


'Vibram FiveFingers' (yes, really, FiveFingers) makes them--for men, women, and children. Sundry models slip on, strap tighten, and lace up. A men's high top model zips on the side--like the old 70s leather 'fruit boots.' FiveFingers are not cheap--$100 and up. And they're not commonplace; yet. But they might be if the right person or people do something attention-getting while wearing them. Or some hip kids start wearing them. I noticed a guy in Sweden wearing a pair. People stared. Some giggled. Some think they look ridiculous--corny (go ahead, groan). Not the wearers. I don't own a pair; yet. For now, just Chucks and Crocs--plastic and canvas. And cheap flip-flops--known as "shower shoes" to Marines--used solely for that purpose; not to show off a pedicure, painted nails, or tattoos.

And finally...

While abroad, I didn't see any glass slippers. Not a single pair nor nary a stray. But there was many a Cinderella--blondes aplenty, with pretty neat feet, having a ball sporting today's "glass slippers"--Chucks and Crocs. Flip-flops for the American girls--to parade feet more than shoes. Regardless, with the revenue those shoes are generating, company executives smile and are...

living happily ever after.

And that's the story of Cinderellas and pretty neat feet.

Post Script

Crocs, in addition to the original, are making clogs, sandals, heels, flats, boots, sneakers, translucents, work shoes, and, what else, flip-flops. For all I know the American girls were wearing Croc flip-flops. They're not cheap--ten to forty-five dollars a pair. And there not sold in big bins. With clever packaging and presentation, people will buy anything--anything. And they'll keep buying if it's good. Chucks have endured. So have flip-flops, and with some struggle Hush Puppies. Crocs most certainly will. Toed shoes? Who knows.  

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