They say shoes make the man, but Andy Dufresne got away with his get-out-of-jail-free trick because I mean, seriously, how often do you look at a man’s shoes? Whichever side you fall on, adding brown, high top ankle shoes to our outfits made all the difference for me and my brother.
Let’s take it back a step.
I have struggled with fashion and getting clothes to go together leading me to believe less in clothes and shopping forays. My brother Evan has the touch but is similarly apathetic in acquiring new effects.
The Belknap brothers are not typically shopping dudes. One of our biggest problems with shopping is our body types. We are both tall (6’3” and 6’4”), thin…let’s say athletic, with long arms and legs, and thicker necks. We are not Big and Tall, not wide enough for an XL or even most Ls, and not into strangulation (in public) that comes from a tight button up. Unless we recruit a tailor, we have it tough.
So, when we do find some threads that work, we make it last. We use most clothes until they fray years after their purchase date. I had a pair of jeans that lasted (read as “I made them last”) from middle school through college graduation.
The Shopping Spree
A year or so ago, Evan made a decision to go on a shopping spree. He had been fashionably marching with the throngs of the working world for a few years professionally, but it had been a while since his last sprucing.
Enter The Nordstrom Rack, a strip mall outlet store with discount, wholesale versions of well-to-do brands. He came home with what would become a game changer.
Amongst many sweaters, button shirts, and a pair of nice jeans he selected some snazzy brown shoes. These shoes can easily be dressed up or trotted around in casual wear. He has always been a stylish fella, but these shoes were next level.
As time went by, Evan rightly got compliments for these shoes and his overall style. At work, Burrito stops, clubs, Arabic bakeries…you name it. The love rained down. Finally, he had shoes capable of keeping up with his large strides and even larger personality.
Evan and I talked about brown shoes and how it took a special kind of person to wear them. Such a person could be trusted on a deep and important level because they respected themselves at a deep and important level, obviously. This is absolutely a ridiculous joke, of course, but backstory and hidden agendas are fun to weave into life.
I was open to my own brown city slickers. I had a hopeful eye out but never found my sole mates. Just before heading out of the country, I found the pair that was meant for me, and I for them.
My Time Comes
A generous family member gave me a gift certificate to Kohls before I left the States. Little did I know this store held the future of my feet on a deserved pedestal.
I wandered through the store with a compelling determination. Then I saw them. The fluorescent, department store light brilliantly illuminated the clearance rack a bit more brightly than the other beige shelves throwing the rugged brown works of art into glorious relief.
They were brown, classy ankle shoes good for ambling, traipsing, schlepping, hiking, and most importantly jaunting. At the same time, they had sophistication. They were more cultured than I could hope to be. They had a depth of character which could only be earned, never bought. How could a price be put on such a refined work of beautiful, efficient craftsmanship? They found a way. Then they reduced it. Perfect.
Lacing up for the first time felt like putting on the X-men uniform, I was ready. I was able to shove my insert into the bottom to keep my foot in line. My jeans draped easily and comfortably over the top of my discount brownies. Jaunting accessory secured.
Out and About
I didn’t have much time to try them out, but I got a few miles into their soles (and souls) before heading out.
Then these wonders traveled with me across the Atlantic to the Queen’s country. The frigid London temperatures of February, no problem. Spring rains, dancing in the rain. Puddles in the Subway, no stop to my flow. Drafts in the Tube stations, warm and regulated. Any problem came my way, I gave it the (brown) boot.
Travel days were always brown shoe days. I need every inch of available luggage space to make my work supplies and my efficient yet tasteful wardrobe fit. I would put on a pair of jeans, slip into my brown boys (BBs), and be ready for the turbulence of travel.
At first, this worked well. But as time went on, London led to Turkey and then Italy. Early spring became summer. The classy combo of pants and brownies went from a comfortable uniform of readiness to a mobile sauna from my hips to my heels.
On the most recent travel day, I sacrificed some older clothes and rearranged some necessities to pack instead of wear my beloved Browns. We weathered the separation with stalwart composure but were glad to be reunited in the privacy of our new accommodation.
I had been proudly walking all over in these town treaders. But after all the pounding they had taken, they were starting to look worse than Logan during extreme depths of his “William Stryker ruined my life“ depression.
Enter Istanbul. There was a shoe repair shop near my temporary housing. In a burst of independence, I decided to negotiate a repair personally with a man who only spoke Turkish. No, I didn’t and don’t know Turkish aside from the well-meaning Merhaba (hello), teşekkür (thank you), and the all-encompassing afiyet olsun (bon appetit, enjoy your meal, etc.), but I made it work. For 70 Türk Lirası (about 20 USD) BBs got new soles sewed on and the top part of each fully reattached. Gone was the barefoot sensation. Gone were the ankle drafts.
Nowadays I am usually barefoot working at home in rural areas. But the Starks are always right eventually, Winter is Coming. And with the Winds of Winter come my brown boys. Too bad these shoes will probably never be able to see the forthcoming G.R.R.M. book.