Friday, November 6, 2009

These Shoes Are Made For...Fixing?

Here in Stockholm, nestled in between the Turkish pizza joints, the endless hair salons, the golden key makers, the dry cleaners and the coffee shops you will find a plethora of choices for shoe repair. It is safe to say I could walk two blocks in any direction and find a few. I didn't know people still repaired shoes but apparently they do. Enough to support several high rent Vastastan locations to boot. (no pun intended). Sometimes, the shoe repair place doubles as the key making place and triples as the dry cleaner. Not really any weirder than when the Taco Bell doubles as the Pizza Hut when you stop to think about it. Incidentally, I hate when they do that.

When I peek in the shops, business appears to be brisk. Shoes line the shelves, two by two in little black pairs. Typically, they do not appear to be shoes worth salvaging but there they sit waiting for new heels or zippers. The place down the road usually has two guys working diligently. Peering in through the window, one younger man looking to be of immigrant status, arduously cobbles away at a heel of a boot or diligently inspects the sole of an Italian leather.

Who even repairs shoes anymore? I can not even think of but one shoe repair place that I know of. It's a little ramshackle building on Main Avenue in Durango, Colorado. The business is actually second generation and run by the son of an Italian immigrant and cobbler. Naturally, he was taught the trade by his father growing up in the apartment upstairs from the shop. Durango is known for outdoor sports so I would think he sees many hiking and skiing boots, too pricey and used too little to just discard. I'd also imagine using his services is a bit of a sentimental act for locals in Durango.

I shudder imagining what it would even cost to have a shoe repair here in Stockholm. I used the key makers and that was frightening enough. I have used the dry cleaners and I think it may have just been more cost effective to buy new clothes, certainly it would have been more satisfying. Looking back, it was close to $35 for a suit jacket and a pair of dress trousers. The place by my house in the US is less than $5 for the same two articles of clothing.

Thinking about it, I used a shoe repair guy once. I had these shoes I loved, a funky pair of Doc Martin knockoff type things. They were really unique. Ah man, I loved those shoes. You could wear them with anything: shorts, jeans, dresses. The buckle broke off. I thought I couldn't part with them. Even though I had bought them for seven dollars on clearance, I brought them to the shoe repair guy to get a new buckle put on. My attention span and wherewithal being what it is, I never went back to get them. Which really wasn't very nice now that I stop to think about it.

I wonder whatever happened to those little beauties? Some lucky girl, somewhere, benefited from my inaction. I do my part.

If we really get back to a place where repairing our shoes is commonplace, I don't know if that is a world I really want to live in. Yeah, I said it. Just the thought of it is depressing. Unless ofcourse, we start wearing some sort of high technology Jetson like shoes that double as something else like, maybe, some sort of space age travel apparatus.


  1. Most shoes in the USA, even expensive ones are not even repairable. I had a two hundred dollar pair of workboots once that split across the sole after six months. No way to resole them. Had to trash them. I agree with you. Only thing better than new sheets or new socks is new shoes.

  2. I really disagree with that one!

    Here in the UK, we have a 'cobbler' in every small town. If we have paid a fortune for a pair of shoes we want them to last more than a couple of years. I take my shoes in as soon as I have bought them to get tougher soles put on them, finely ridged ones that will take a bit of bad weather.

    I hate it when i wear out a really comfortable pair of shoes, too. It's like losing an old friend, so I always get boots and shoes fixed if I can. I have even managed to get the repair men to replace slightly-too-high heels with ones half an inch shorter.

    Of course, there's no point in repairing cheap shoes. But I hate cheap shoes.