Well, that’s a bummer. This weekend I grabbed one of my favorite pairs of summer shoes and slid them on before heading out the door. You know the kind, a little worn but still cute, comfortable, perfect size heel, goes with everything… your go-to shoes that you hope will last you forever, the ones you pick over most of the others in your closet.
It wasn’t until I was sitting in church and I happened to look down for a closer inspection because they had felt just a bit funny walking, did I notice that the heel tips were broken. On one shoe, it was completely gone, on the other, half missing. So first there was a small feeling of embarrassment, hoping no one could tell that my shoes were clearly reaching the age of falling apart, not to mention that one side of me was ¼ inch shorter than the other. But that was quickly replaced by the feeling of “oh, no, poor babies, I need to get you to the shoe doctor!”
And there’s the problem. A few years ago, I would have just dropped them off at the little shoe repair place around the corner from my office at the time. It was a classic cobbler’s shop – small, dark, wall to wall shoes, and a husband and wife team for whom English was a second language, and I could rarely understand them, but as long as we both understood my shoe needs, all was fine. They were talented, affordable, and convenient. And now, sadly, no longer in business.
As I exited church, I realized I have no idea where another shoe repair place may be. A quick Google search brought up 3 options immediately: A high-end shoe boutique, where I’m sure they only would be interested in repairing their own high-end shoes, and two others in separate states, at least 2 – 3 hours away. Wait, what? Really?
Now feeling a big panicky, I dove into Yelp. Surely there were other options. Yelp served me up a couple more options, closer by, although about 30 minutes from me, with limited hours and little available information. Sighing, I put my shoes aside when I got home, resigned to the fact that it now make take at least a couple of weeks until I can get to one of these repair shops around my work schedule. I suppose that will give me time to review my other summer shoes, I’m sure there are more that need attention.
It made me wonder, why are there so few cobbler’s shops now? Is it because shoes are becoming practically disposable, and we are to just shop for new ones when they get worn out? No, I don’t think so. I know my budget won’t allow for that, and I expect most other R.W.’s can’t run out to buy replacements on a regular basis either. Instead, I think it is yet another example of a dying trade because no one is interested in providing the service. I can’t imagine too many young people with an overwhelming desire to fix shoes, nor is Cobbling a much desired college trade course.
It’s kind of like watch repair. Yes, kids, there used to be places you could go to get a watch repaired, or a battery in a watch replaced. Oh, wait, maybe I should explain. A watch was something we used to wear on our wrists, like a bracelet that kept time. Everyone wore them. And there were nice people available to fix them, usually while you wait. Now it requires finding a jewelry store with an actual jeweler on site who knows how to fix things, and is willing to do so on something you didn’t buy there in the first place.
What’s interesting is where some of those services have albeit disappeared, others have popped up. Alterations and seamstress shops are fairly plentiful – because we are all in a hurry, and lack either the skills, the tools, or the desire and time to hem a pair of pants, repair a tear, or sew on a button. It took me years before I got up the guts to go in to my local alterations place, because I kept hearing my mother and my 4-H leader of my youth in my head telling me I could and should do it myself. But I’m not gonna lie, paying someone $12 to perfectly hem a pair of pants is totally worth the aggravation of me trying to find the time to do it and have them come out hideous and uneven. Sorry, mom.
Plenty of other convenience services are available, like prepped meals to take home and pretend they were home cooked, drive-through pharmacies, and walk-in hair and nail salons with no appointment needed.
So I can get my clothing repaired or altered, get my nails done because I’m lousy at doing them myself, bring home prepared dinners, and my husband can usually replace the batteries in my watches (yes, Virginia, I still wear them). But what’s a girl to do about a shoe boo-boo?
I will admit that over the winter, I discovered that the heel on a pair of my boots had started to peel, leaving an ugly white patch on a supposed-to-be black heel. Since I wanted to wear the boots that day to work, I got out my trusty black Sharpie and colored the heel back in. And you know darn well those boots are still in my closet, not professionally repaired, still sporting my MacGyver-esque Sharpie technique. Oh, now, come on, don’t tell me you’ve never done the quick last-minute cheats of pinning up a loose hem with tape, using a safety pin when a button has fallen off to keep your pants up, or colored in a shoe scuff mark with a marker? Lack of time and urgent necessity requires R.W. creativity.
But sometimes, those loving-hands-at-home fixes aren’t enough. And we need professional help. Within 10 minutes of my house, I have 5 pizza places, 3 pharmacies, 2 urgent medical care facilities, at least 3 car repair shops and probably half a dozen nail salons. All eager and ready to get me fixed up when I need them. But a broken heel on my shoe? Sorry, that’s not so easy.
I’m going to have to hobble a few extra miles to find a kind “sole” to help me. In the meantime, please don’t look too closely at my shoes, and pay no attention if I seem to have a bit of a limp or am a bit shorter on one side. It’s hard for me to say goodbye to my favorites.