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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Today At The Mall ...

I hate buying shoes simply for the fact that I have big feet. When purchasing sneakers ... a relatively easy practice ... I take a size 14, wide if I can find them. And since most college b-ball handlers seem to sport size 18 feet and larger, finding cool shoes from big name manufacturers isn't a problem ... affording them, however, is.

When looking for dress shoes, I really need 13 wides and most stylish shops carry stock that cuts off at 12 ... and I'm not a seasoned ballerina so I'd prefer not to find mangled, bleeding toes every time I remove my shoes. Some big department store chains carry basic black and brown selections in 13W, but they look like shoes designed to correct a club foot or something, and their construction, as well as styling, is usually poor ... they wear like crap. And there's always the Internet, but I haven't had great luck ... shoes are one of those subtle things that have to "feel" right as well as look good. I know I can always return an e-purchased item, but who needs the extra pain in the ass.

To avoid my current dilemma, I even put "dress shoes" on my Christmas list. I'm a firm believer on mot wasting holiday wishes to Santa on mundane things like clothes and shoes ... I was hoping to pass the responsibility for my footwear to some unsuspecting relative. NO takers. Then I slipped it in as an idea for my birthday. Not a nibble.

This is one of the many times I wish for a return to childhood. In my family, we had a routine of getting shoes about four times a year ... just before the start of school (good shoes, casual shoes, and gym shoes), prior to Thanksgiving (good shoes for the holidays and replacement gym shoes, as needed), early spring (whatever was warranted), and just as school was ending (two pairs of cheap "play" shoes, and cool sandals if we begged or had been especially well behaved).

And the experience of shopping for shoes as a child in my home was magical ... truly. All four kids went as one, and it was Mom that took us ... never Dad. For our feet, we almost always went two towns over to this small Main Street shoe store that would have fit in perfectly in Harry Potter's "Diagon Alley." It seemed like a small shop with a dingy red and white awning over the entryway. But inside, it was cavernous ... like the laws of physics didn't apply. And boxes of shoes were stored, stacked, and shelved everywhere.

The owner was a stooped little gray-haired many that I'm sure looked elderly even as a child. He was sweet and never seemed scary, but he was still somewhat foreboding. My Mom would discuss our needs with him and he would disappear into the "back" of the store, reappearing with a stack of options. Most pairs were spot on. And when the owner thought one of us children might have grown, he would produce his "silver shoe" (a Brannock device created by Charles Brannock, operator of the Park-Brannock Shoe Store in Syracuse, New York, in 1925 to help him assess customers' needs more quickly) as if by magic to check our shoe size. Very unMuggle-like.

And apparently our shoe shopping also involved time travel because, like in the 1950s, we never paid for anything. The owner just "put it on our tab," handing my Mom a carbon copy from a little order pad he always seemed to have hidden in a pocket somewhere. Or did he?

As a grown up, I now realize that the "silver shoe" simply measured my foot and computed a size designation used by most manufacturers ... 3 X foot length in inches - 22. And I now see that the shoestore owner ... Mr. Lester ... used his old-fashioned store practices as a marketing ploy for busy families. My Dad once confirmed that he definitely paid Mr. Lester for his troubles.

Mr. Lester and his shoe "magic" are long gone ... I guess I'll try the Internet. But according to an article I read, many manufacturer and different regions of the world use slightly different methods for sizing methods. I saw a comparison chart and I'd have a better chance of selecting a winner on the stock market then finding a "perfect fit" in shoes.

POINT OF RANT: Duct tape comes in black and brown ... did you know that?

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