Sunday, March 3, 2013

Lou's Girlfriend's Shoes: An Introduction

When I started this blog, I had no idea what kind of interactions I would have with you, the valued readers.  As it turns out, the majority of you are very, very quiet.  No comments?  At all?  Come on, some of you must have something to say, right?  Right?  Oh well, maybe at some point down the road.

One of the earliest emails I remember having received was from a gentleman named Lou, residing on the other side of the pond in Europe.  He expressed a desire to send me two old pairs of his girlfriend's shoes to trash and abuse by way of "natural" methods, as opposed to taking the easy way out and simply throwing them in a mud puddle or setting fire to them.  I'd get to document the destruction and post it to the blog for all you lucky readers to enjoy under the stipulation that I finish taking the shoes to within inches of their lives by June so they can be sent back to him.  At first, I didn't know what to make of the request.  Seeing as how his girlfriend's size 39 shoes (that's a size 8.5 here in the States) would be a really tough squeeze onto my big feet, wasn't sure what I could do to them aside from using them as way-too-small slippers.  After I reminded myself that a challenge is just an opportunity in disguise, I imagined many ways by which I could meet Lou's request.  Over the next three months, I'll provide regular updates and while I'm not about to share all of my ideas right now, I do have a friend who I know will be more than happy to slip onto her size 8 feet and take them hiking over some precarious terrain when the weather here gets a little more tolerable.  I'm already looking forward to sharing those photos with you.

As for the shoes, let's take a look.

I'm not sure of the brand of these ballet flats- there's nothing listed anywhere, nor does it look like there was anything affixed to the shoes that ever indicated the brand.  Lou says they're about four years old, and that seems to be right judging by their appearance and the way they're adding a nice aroma to my office as I type this.  The uppers are either a cheap-feeling real leather or a somewhat-convincing faux leather, and straps across the toe boxes provide a mounting point for two cute off-center bows.

As is typical of ballet flats, there are no counters to stiffen the quarters so they're a bit misshapen, especially on the right shoe.  There are times this is caused by the wearer deciding to push the quarters down with her heels instead of allowing them to do their jobs and wrap around them (that's what I'm going to have to do when I start wearing these flats).  Since doing that usually results in some scuffing and staining of the uppers and there are no visible signs of that on these, I'm guessing the quarters are misshapen because of the way they were tightly packed into a box for shipping across two continents.

The insoles and lining are of a cloth-like material with flower pattern that my grandmother probably would have liked as wallpaper.  Here you can see the cloth starting to separate from the insoles, likely from moisture generated by sweaty feet.  Seeing as how the cloth has a way of bunching up, I can imagine these flats were quite uncomfortable to wear without socks.  Maybe that's why Lou's girlfriend might not be missing them all that much?

The situation is a little better near the seats where some staining of the flowery cloth can best be appreciated.  Note the lack of stiffening counters in the quarters- I'm assuming this is what separates ballet flats from regular flats that are a lot more rigid?  Are ballet flats more comfortable than regular flats?  They certainly seem more popular these days.

It appears that Lou's girlfriend probably spent a lot of time wearing these flats indoors as the outsoles are worn smooth in some spots but are generally without any extreme signs of trashing and abuse.  The rubber isn't worn very thin, so it's possible these shoes could have been worn for another few years.  I'm looking forward to making it so they can never be worn again, at least in public by any woman that's at all conscious of her appearance!

This is something I've seen on countless pairs of ballet flats- the quarter seems to sag over time, with the bottom eventually ending up drooping down over the rubber of the heel section of the outsole.  While the wear is very light on this particular pair of shoes, I've seen other pairs where the wear is so severe, the material that comprises the upper gets worn through to the lining because of the way it scrapes along the ground.  You'll be seeing this in some ballet flats I'll be sharing with you in the not-too-distant future.

The second pair of shoes from Lou and his girlfriend's closet is a pair of Superga sneakers.  I've never heard of the brand so I'm guessing they're specific to Europe.  They look to be a cross between a pair of old canvas Keds and a more modern pair of Converse All-Stars.  Lou says this pair is about two years old.

The pink canvas uppers display significant signs of wear without having been compromised in a way that prevents them from being usable.  The canvas is starting to fray along the topline of both shoes, although much more obviously on the right one.  As with the ballet flats, I look forward to making sure these sneakers reach the end of their life within three months.

Initially I thought the uppers were starting to separate from the rubber material that joins them to the outsoles, but a closer examination revealed that's not the case.  Too bad.

What's too bad- for the sneakers, of course- is the extreme trashing and abuse seen in the quarters.  The lining is completely ripped and worn away, exposing the shape-forming counters that ensure the shoes remain rigid enough to stay on the wearer's feet.

Things are so bad on the right sneaker that the counter is literally cracking apart.  Usually this is a result of what I described earlier where the wearer smashes down the quarters with her heels so that the shoes becomes makeshift mules.  However, there is no staining of the canvas of the upper that would indicate it spent any amount of time under the heel of the foot, so it's possible the cracking is the result of Lou's girlfriend's feet being slid in and out of the sneakers hundreds of times.

Superga appears to have been inspired by Keds as the outsoles have a similar look and feel, although the textured pattern is slightly different.  Wear is visible in the expected areas under the balls of the feet and the heels.

Many thanks to Lou for being a loyal reader of the blog and for being the first to step up and contribute.  I'm looking forward to the chance to honor his request and share the results with you, and perhaps another reader or two will enjoy this so much that they'll want to contribute as well?  No reasonable requests will be denied!

These shoes will be sorry they made the trip to the U.S. of A.  Stay tuned...

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