Mar 4, 2012

Fancy Free (or Cheap Anyway) and Footloose

The world offers many paradoxes to the observant. I speak today of a certain foot-based conundrum that is once again upon me as spring and summer draw near. It first hit me last summer, and now I suppose it threatens to be an annual occurrence, barring a minor revolution in low-end footwear manufacturing practices.

Sandals, you see, apparently have to be "fancy" if they're also cheap. By "fancy", I mean they have to have elaborate leather (or leather-like?) strappage, with lots of buckles and doodads, and in general suggest that the wearer commands armies of Roman legionaires, or has servants who feed him grapes while he lies on one of his many divans. Then again, some of the designs cross that influence with a bit of standard 1990s "extreme" stylings, for the Roman emperor who also likes to drive 4-wheelers and stomp on small creatures from time to time.

Now, you can find a straightforward, no-nonsense sandal out there. They have them at places like Mountain High Outfitters. You just have to pay 17 or 20 times Dollar General prices. Truthfully, they look like they should probably cost less than the el cheapo sandals. No "fancy" leather-work here. Just a few thin straps made out of some synthetic material, with plain plastic snaps. I mean come on, snaps? Snaps are for kids and poor people. Don't you rich ****s want some tiny tin belt-buckles and perforated straps? That would be way more classy.

So yeah, everything's upside down. You want a plain shoe, it'll cost you. You want to be flattered with lots of detail and elaborate strappage, come on down to the Shoe Show.

I bet if you could find out what it actually costs to manufacture the high-end sandal, it would be virtually the same as the cheap sandals. Now granted, the design staff over at Pricey Sandals Inc. might be getting paid decently. They probably even have some scientific types on hand to do a bunch of calculations about ergonomics and metatarsular impact and what-not, which can then be turned into Tron-like graphics to make everybody feel good. But in any case, what should be happening, if the global race-to-the-bottom and all around destruction of civilization were functioning properly, is that Sleazoid Sandals LLC should be ripping off the basic high-end design, with a few minor changes to stay out of court of course, and selling them for $12.95. They can even cut corners here and there, use even more highly exploited labor, worse materials, et cetera, I don't care. I'll buy them. I'm just saying, as long as that's the business you're in, do it right: rip off actual high-end products, not your fancy idea of what the high-end products look like. Don't just wake up one day and start dreaming lazily, "Now if I were a rich man, la-da-da-da-dee, what sort of shoe would I have?" Get down to the freaking store and take a few photos. Get on the phone to China man, get crankin'. Are you a sleazoid knock-off low-end manufacturer for America's new teeming hordes of impoverished bargain-shoppers or not?

But meanwhile, if I set aside twenty bucks every summer, in ten years I should be able to afford to buy some non-fancy sandals. Assuming there's still mass consumer goods, and that my two hundred bucks hasn't been devalued to the level of, oh I don't know... what an American shoe factory worker rakes in working in a nonexistent American shoe factory.

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