Shoes | porch – Indiana Public Media


I was there, and maybe you were too, when the throwaway started to cover the fact that consumer products weren’t made to last that long. This is when the combination of x and y started to be greater than you might imagine.

Ink pens, shaving razors, reading glasses became cheaper to make, cheaper to buy, and a lot cheaper to maintain because you couldn’t anymore. When the ink ran out or the edge of the blade got a little dull, the plastic item instantly felt like trash.

Not only were consumer products increasingly impossible to restore, but they were designed in such a way as to discourage and even prevent repair. A manufacturer may use less durable materials initially or simply refuse to offer replacement parts.

Inevitably, the list of unrecoverable property grew and soon came to include the shoes we wear. With four children walking to school and a job as a visiting nurse, my mother often went to our neighborhood shoe repair shop. I loved going there with her. Large front window to provide natural light for the meticulous work done. The sweet smell of worn leather. I especially liked the names of the products sold there: Cat’s Paw Rubber Heels from Baltimore, Old Hickory Shoe Laces from a small town in North Carolina. And the many different shades of brown Esquire paste varnish: ox blood, Cordovan… My feet had wings.

A productive collaboration was then in place. I could maintain my school shoes with fresh laces and the occasional buff and sheen, while shoemaking could replace worn heels or even spare soles. In the decade of the 1970s, domestic shoe making began to decline sharply in the United States, around the same time that rapidly worn pens, razors, and diapers were thrown into landfills. Good news for companies that had to sell more products each year to keep their stock prices high, but bad news for the planet they and their customers were on.

Playlist:

Blue suede shoes, Carl Perkins, Deluxe

The angels want to wear my red shoes. Elvis Costello, my goal is true

Old brown shoe, Beatles, 1967-1970

Diamonds on the soles of her shoes, Paul Simon, Graceland

Thirsty Boots, John Gorka, Bleeker Street

Get the beat, Johnny Cash, the best

California Shoeshine Boys, Laura Nyro, The First Songs

Peg And Awl, Carolina Tar Heels, Harry Smith Collection

Bad sneakers, Steely Dan, Katy lied

High Heel Sneakers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Live

Sweet Virginia, Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street

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