Back in the early or mid 1970s I finally found a kind of shoes that were comfortable to me. I have unusually wide feet, so things like Chuck Taylors just don't work. They are either too tight or too long. I think my Dad heard from a coworker that over in (Arlington? Alexandria? Fairfax?) there was a place called the Public Shoe Store that had a good selection of wide shoes. I was a teenager at the time, and I found the pair they got me comfortable and functional. It took me something like three years of wearing the almost every day to wear holes in the toes by kicking rocks, soccer balls, and all the other kinds of wear teenage guys inflict on their shoes. That was a dramatic improvement over the other shoes I'd tried. We went back and got another pair every fall for years.

When I moved out, I continued the tradition. Every time I visited my parents, I made them take me there and I got another pair. When I graduated to indoor desk jobs I just changed the leather style. The makers, a shoe factory in New Hampshire, knew they had a good design. They made it available to loyal customers in a variety of colors and styles.

Sometime in the mid or late 1980s, maybe when I got this pair, the shoe salesman told me that the factory was closing because of declining demand caused by globalization. Too many people were buying running shoes made in China, or something like that. If I wanted him to order another pair for me to pick up next year he would, but after that there would be no more.

I wasn't that perturbed. At the time I was an avid runner, and running shoes are quite comfortable. Working in casual dress environments wearing them to the cube farm was okay. It wasn't until I had thrown away many pairs of dead running shoes that I realized I was still reaching for my old suede shoes when I was in a hurry. When the original crepe soles were dead I found a cobbler that would resole them with Vibram. That cost about what another pair of running shoes did, and it outlasted at least two pairs. Then I started shoe gooing the wear spots a few times a year.

Finally I reached the point where I had to admit they were getting old. After something like thirty years of regular wear, that's reality. I stopped by the Public Shoe Store on vacations a couple of times in the intervening years, but their attitude was "we can only sell what the factories make." Who can blame them? Finally, a few months ago I went back to the guy that resoled the things and talked him into making me a new pair. I had to sacrifice my oldest pair to the project.

As you can see, he did a good job of capturing the look. It's a bit early to tell for sure, but it looks like he got the comfort. A closer look at the stitching reveals that the shoe factory got the seams more perfect, but he had the right idea.

I hope that doesn't affect wear. He recommended the leather and the sole style. I was willing to try new things in search of the perfect shoe. I told him I just wanted comfortable shoes I could wear spending all day on my feet. I hope it worked out right. I'll know soon enough.

They are the only shoes I have in the house that were made in Mountain View, California. I think the cobbler works for himself, so no slave labor was involved with this purchase. All they have to do is outlast four pairs of fall-apart shoes from Asia to be a good investment. Judging by the history of the old pair, that is a reasonable expectation.

Anyhow, locally made shoes are the nearest thing to a good investment in the local economy/community I could think of for my economic stimulus package money. Right now I'm just praying they still look good next year at this time. Custom shoes are an adventure for me!

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