This afternoon I dropped off an old pair of shoes with a local shoe cobbler. I’m not positive, but I think I’ve owned this same pair of shoes since college. They aren’t special. They aren’t extraordinary. They are simply the most comfortable, black leather loafers I’ve ever worn. When I lived in the city I logged miles on these shoes. I walked back and forth from the metro to graduate school and from home to work and back again. Since that time those shoes have been through three different offices and a host of special occasions.
As I was cleaning out the clutter in my closet I pulled them aside and thought about getting rid of them. The trouble is that I’ve never found a pair quite like them. I’ve bought my fair share of black loafers since that time and believe me none have been as comfortable. In fact, right beside my old shoes sit two relatively new pairs that almost never see the light of day, because they just aren’t as comfy.
As part of my goal to get rid of 50 things I put the old shoes in a pile to be tossed, but as I boxed up the trash and bundled the items for goodwill I just couldn’t bear to get rid of them. Over the years the leather has faded and the tips have scuffed, but still I cannot let them go. Rather than discarding them I decided to take them to the shoe cobbler for repair. For twenty dollars he’ll replace the soles and polish the leather. I’m not sure how they’ll turn out, but I’m excited to see what he can do with them.
While I was in the store I noticed bags of shoes stocked to the ceiling. It seems the shoe cobbler’s business is booming as a result of the recent recession. He’s seeing more and more new customers and repairing more and more shoes. He said it costs a lot less to repair an old pair of shoes then it does to purchase new ones. He also said that the green movement is causing people to reconsider throwing items away just because they’ve gotten older.
I felt a strange sense of satisfaction dropping off those shoes this afternoon. I’m happy that my favorite pair of shoes will be repaired, I’m happy that I didn’t fill the landfill with another unwanted item and I’m happy that I brought business to the shoe cobbler who works in a disappearing industry. In fact, according to the Shoe Service Institute of America, there are just 7,000 shoe-repair shops left in the U.S., down from more than 120,000 during the Great Depression.
As a kid I can remember my father pulling out his brown and black polish kits and shining his shoes every other weekend. I remember him taking shoes to the cobbler for new soles on a number of occasions. In fact, I bet he had the same pair of shoes for over twenty years. I hope I can get my favorite pair to last another five or ten.