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My Naked Feet

August 2018

My Naked Feet: Where Have All the Good Shoes Gone? I have an Egyptian foot. I did not always know that I possess such a phenomenal foot, but sometime during the early 2000s my beloved Teaching Colleague informed me of the fact. Supposedly, the Egyptian foot indicates I’m a social butterfly! Dear Husband says it’s a lovely foot, and I guess it is, at least when I am not trying to squeeze it into any of a number of variety of shoes that have entered my life and left it just as quickly, on their way back to the Factory of Origin. The proportions of my Egyptian foot are slightly wide, rectangular, rather block-like, and, in my case, small, with a very high arch. Getting the toes-ies into a narrow sandal requires patience. I will not tolerate foot pain, and thus thongs and sneakers become the summer shoes of choice. Boots are quite another matter, and the matter has become more infuriating with the disappearance of quality leather, quality design, quality workmanship, quality quality.

I recently purchased online a pair of Justin boots. Cutest things I’ve seen in a long time. There is, of course, no zipper or entrance mechanism for the foot. One must slide the phalanges into the leather in a steady snakelike motion. My foot got stuck in the same spot that it usually does, regardless of the style of boot: halfway down the shaft. Back the boots went, to the factory in Texas. Those boots were wonderfully made of high-quality leather, and I sized up, but they still looked like play-wear for a child. I guess Justin is taking baby-steps toward adult-sized shoe success. I have learned to steer clear of Frye Boots. This company was once the oldest continuously operated shoe company in the U.S. It was created in Massachusetts in 1863 by John A. Frye. The supple leather of the boots was once the object of affection from adults, and I was not immune to the shoe love. The Frye boot, however, is cut on a narrow footbed and so, after about 4 attempts to wedge my Egyptian foot down the leather shaft, I learned to avoid that exercise in frustration. Nowadays, I’m not tempted by them at all!

A few years ago the American company called Frye got sold off to a Foreign Entity by the name of Li & Fung. No mystery as to what is going on there with the majority of Frye boots made — in Mexico and in China. The real mystery is why in the world, in the world of the United States, this crucial foundation of the human body got sacrificed to the globalist pigs. It’s created a real smorgasbord for foot doctors everywhere. “Fused leather” alone has been a boon for podiatrists. Almost 80 percent of shoes currently sold in America are made in China; another 18 percent or so are made in other foreign countries.

In an attempt to find out where did all the good shoes go, I did some online research. I located an article from Business Insider, in 2014, when the “media” were a bit more willing to belly up to the truth. According to this source: When Nike was founded in 1964, just 4% of U.S. footwear was imported. Five decades later, that figure has skyrocketed to 98%, and Nike has likely played a role in driving it up. Now one of the world's biggest retailers of athletic shoes, Nike manufactures a vast majority of its footwear and apparel outside the U.S. The company's founder, Phil Knight, came up with the idea of outsourcing manufacturing jobs to cut costs while attending Stanford Business School in the early 1960s, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company now has 68 factories in the U.S., representing just 9% of its manufacturing facilities. Those U.S.-based factories employ just 1% of its total workforce, or 13,922 employees. Becoming an early adopter of outsourcing has helped propel Nike into one of the biggest athletic footwear and apparel companies in the world. But the practice has also made Nike a symbol of abusive labor practices, after reports of unsafe conditions at many of its foreign factories began emerging in the 1990s. In a May 1998 speech, then-CEO Phil Knight was forced to admit that Nike had "become synonymous with slave wages, forced overtime, and arbitrary abuse.” The company has since established a new set of working standards, as well as a vigorous new auditing system to monitor labor practices in its factories and restore consumer faith in its brand.

Consumer faith in this brand, and in hundreds of brands, is shot. Blown to smithereens by the brand’s arrogance, greed, and stupidity, and by the overall obnoxious attitude of oafs running their company into the ground. I’m not one to hoard, but I keep shoes and boots from a decade ago stored in boxes on shelves. I wear them sparingly because Heaven knows when I will be able to buy their equivalents again. They’re not of the highest quality either. They’re not the shoes of my childhood, those smell-the-cordovan-leather and enjoy-walking-to-school-loafers that were made in New Jersey or somewhere else nearby. My Egyptian feet were happy feet back then! I wear my good shoes for special occasions. To preserve the quality of my cherished ballet flats that were Made in Italy of Italian leather (purchased circa 2010), that I choose to believe were made with Italian Hands. I had taken to buying cheap flats to wear for one season, until they have served their time and become, like so many other pieces of merchandise from China: disposable non-goods.

As of late 2019, I have taken the no-shoe-buy vow. I cannot even find cheapo ballet flats that will qualify as shoes! Slippers, yes, but actual shoes, to walk on concrete sidewalks — that reality test would test the thin-soles beyond repair. There is also a moral aspect to my boycott of foot-Chinesium. And, on a less somber note, there is the ugliness factor to consider. This blunt review at an online site peddling Chinesium footwear sums up the dire state of shoe affairs that has gone from awful to horrendous: Usually this brand works well for me, but not this time. They were a no go in all areas. They kind of looked like a shoe that the Church Lady would make a naughty daughter wear . . . As a form of corporeal punishment. I do believe the disappointed damsel in shoe distress meant to say “corporal” punishment, but maybe not! Corporeal, or bodily, punishment is what most women are in for with most of the shoes sold in America!

It is not clinging to my youth to want to own shoes from factories in America. During that halcyon era, I procured at outlet stores “seconds” or “irregulars” from the American leather factories that hawked shoes of inferior quality to the poorer among us. Those shoes were pretty and pretty comfortable to wear. “Seconds” would look like firsts today. The decisions by CEOs and company founders to morally bankrupt their own companies, at the expense of the American worker, and in the face of the consumer — those unconscionable and crass actions will not be forgotten by the American consumers who have had to put up with 25 years — a quarter of a century — of wretchedly declining quality among the most basic of merchandise: The Shoe. The Hatchet Men in charge of the Corporation have succeeded only in destroying the essence of the company they were brought in to save. And a big part of their spiel to the Buying Public was: We Care! We care, my foot! The Buying Public cares too, about quality shoes Made in the U.S.A.

November 2020 My Naked Feet - Part Two My love for Frye was not completely fried! Whilst unpacking boxes in boxes stored during the past couple of years (during Dream Home Construction), I discovered a pair of Frye boots that I not only purchased but wore!! They are just above ankle-height which at least permitted my stockinged feet to slide into the leather lovelies. I had to press-push-stomp-press-steady-as-she-goes-press-the-foot (remember to breathe!) beyond the interior heel flap — and then the foot was solidly encased in the luscious brown leather! Walking in them is well-heeled and easy.

These Frye boots were purchased sometime in 2010, so they are now nearing vintage status. The Clara boots from Red Wing are my latest love (allowing me to walk with authority and sass), so Mr. Frye is experiencing some stiff (ha) competition in the boot category. I’ve since moved on to Wellie heart-break. Mudders did not used to be made for fashionistas, but manufacturers have yielded to an urgent and compelling need to take a rubber boot worn for duck-hunting, barnyard clean-up, and tromping down in the muck to the next level: the height of puberty fashion! Sometimes, a naked foot just can’t win. Last winter, I purchased on slasher-sale 2 pairs of rain boots whose brand name shall not be mentioned because that Proper Name gives me the creeps. I didn’t try them on, just put them into a stack of boxes to be packed for moving out of the Rental House. Last week, I attempted to get my foot into the narrow stovepipe rubber trap.

I felt like I was 12 years old again (which, for me, is not a good feeling), trying to shove my muscular calf into a non-pliable boot shaft made for stick-figure legs. I then researched online to try to find out if the Originators — the English manufacturers — have yielded to the Youth Market . . . and, yes, there was a vendor in a video, explaining that the days of wearing two pairs (or even one pair) of socks with your ample-sized Wellies are over. My sense from several of the online British Wellie sites is that many days are over for the Sceptered Isle. When the UK digital sales site flashed a message, begging you not to leave yet . . . in the midst of The 2nd Shutdown, I got the real message of the hideous abandonment of the British peoples by their own governments. What started out as my noble attempt to go directly to the Wellie source became a societal nightmare in full electronic view! Somehow, the Wellington has gone full-scale Urbanista and Suburbanite. Nylon socks must be worn when wearing these skin-hugging rubber boots. This gal in the woods, who is no longer a babe in the woods, had to conduct an hour of online research for the Wellie that is not designed for the Quick Money Adolescent Market. That next group of spoiled brats simply must have one pair of on-trend galoshes in every polka dot, stripe, floral, rainbow, and butterfly design.

I do not begrudge the Youth Market their fashions; we’ve all gone through fads and trends, if only to discover later how foolish they were. But for retailers to focus their entire operations — globally — on any one segment of a population, or demographic, is an indication of how starved for volume sales these companies have become. Their entire business cycle is devoted to trying to anticipate, and cling to, mass production. Which is how recessions are manufactured. When the bottom falls out, it’s not a pretty sight. I found online a pair of functional rain boots made by the American division of Uggs, the Australian company that has seen better days. This rain boot is not only made in the USA; its real fur lining comes from sheep or lamb, animals that originated in Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland or the United States. No monkey, dog, horse, cat or bat used in this factory-made footwear!

The Sienna is, however, not much of a boot, sole-wise. Wellies are not intended for use in the Sierra Nevada. Walking in them is rarely easy, and “downhill braking” is non-existent (meaning falling onto the derriere is a certainty). I therefore dumped the Wellie love, and moved on to a much more meaningful, mean-green rubber boot machine! It’s a thing of beauty. The Zamberlan boot, the best-selling model for this baby made in Italy, is the 1996 Vioz Luz GTX WNS. The original (of which I’d never heard) has been upgraded! The waxed Tuscan full-grain upper leather is enhanced with Hydrobloc, the Zamberlan proprietary magic to block out water while also giving the feel of a leather boot on the foot.

According to the master crafters at Zamberlan, “the excellent downhill braking is achieved with a steep heel undercut and superb torsional rigidity is achieved through a solid TPU plate over the arch.” And, best of all, the teeny-bloggers have not yet discovered it! Dear Husband measured my foot, per the instructions on the Zamberlan website, using a sheet of paper and a pencil. The foot had to be pressed up against the wall: “The line-up,” he ordered.

When dealing with the Italians, there is always a line-up to be contemplated! As usual, I sized up 1/2 size to account for the slightly wide toe-box of my Egyptian foot. This online order came with Free Shipping through Baker’s Boots in Oregon, a family business that the 3rd generation is doing proud. Here’s hoping for happy dry feet amidst the mud and the muck, and no downhill slides!

Thanksgiving Eve 2020 Cowhide Update The Eye-talian boots arrived from Baker’s Boots, just as the Pumpkin Cake was baking in my new oven. Not since donning my Rimrocks from Cabela’s in 1999 have I experienced such sublime boot-love. My socked-foot slid effortlessly into each boot like a hand in a fine leather glove. The cow leather is so real that Mr. Zamberlan attached to the hiking extravaganza a cow-lick of the thick hide from which is constructed this work of art for the foundation of the body. And the tongue! It opens up in a welcoming gesture to the phalanges! The cheapo shoe company sells tongue-tied boots; the thing is attached to sides of the boot, or forms a non-separate part of it. Another cost-saving measure that is costing the company far more than the duped customer. Walking on air in heavy-hiking boots is a newly-refound experience for me, after yearrrrrrs of footwear heartbreak. Score one win for the Italians! They’re all genuine leather, all brave heart.


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