Readers, thank you for all the thought-provoking comments you left on my recent post about the book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.
I came face to face with the cheap fashion dilemma last Sunday, when I decided to treat myself to a new pair of canvas sneakers before my vacation. I didn't want anything fancy, just a pair of canvas slip-ons -- Vans or something similar. So I walked up along 34th Street, where there are tons of athletic shoe stores, as well as north of 34th on 8th Avenue. The selection is tremendous -- practically every style from (nearly) every era is available, it seems.
When I was a kid, I had cousins who lived in Clifton, New Jersey. When we visited them, my aunt would often drive us to what I remember as a Keds factory outlet not too far away. They made the shoes right there in New Jersey and you could buy them cheaply; maybe they were factory seconds, I don't remember. Anyway, that's where my brother and I would get our sneakers, maybe a pair every year or so. I certainly didn't have more than one pair at a time.
Today, I own many pairs of sneakers. Some are specifically to run in, and hence purchased new; others I picked up at the thrift store (The trick is to buy them when you see them, rather than when you really need/want them.). The first thing I noticed on my shopping trip was that the prices have gone up, way up. Pretty much everything made by Converse or Vans was $45 or more. For canvas sneakers! In my head, canvas sneakers cost $20 (and pizza costs 75 cents).
So I headed to Payless, where I found -- in the womens section (you won't find them in the mens for some reason) -- a very generic, ungendered canvas slip-on I could live with (pictured up top) for $17.99. Frankly, for a shoe like this, that still seems like too much but what can you do?
Friends, the Converse, the Keds, the Vans, the Payless sneakers, even fancier brands like Topsiders and Deckers -- all are made in China. If I'd paid $25 more, who would have pocketed the difference? Not the factory workers, I'm guessing. (If you're open to buying at least 1,000 pair, btw, you can order slip-ons like mine directly from the Chinese factory.)
Coincidentally, the other day I found a wonderful blog called Well Spent, that highlights nicely designed clothing and accessories either made in the USA or under what the author calls "first world conditions" abroad. There are some lovely things listed, and this very week wouldn't you know the blog's highlighting canvas sneakers. It turns out you can find domestically made canvas sneakers. You will pay more for them, however. (For some, a lot more.)
In closing, would you spend $20 more (i.e. double) for Made in the USA, for something as generic and disposable as a pair of canvas sneakers?
I'm going to have to sleep on this one.
|1960 Keds ad.|