When I was growing up in the poverty ridden southern United States, I only had one pair of shoes at a time. My dad had sired a relatively large family, and he couldn’t afford much. Mom did not work, but kept house, cooked and washed for the rest of us. She was also the spiritual leader in the family.
In my early teen years, I got jobs delivering newspapers and working at grocery stores, making money enough to buy my own clothes and shoes. It was some time before I could afford more than one pair of shoes at a time, and then it was one pair for everyday, and one pair of dress shoes for church on Sundays. As I grew older, I worked full-time as a broadcast engineer at a local AM/FM/TV station while going to engineering school. By that time I was rich enough to have several pair of decent shoes.
Once a lady told me that you can tell a lot about a man just from his shoes and watch. I think she was right. The problem is that even this indicator of personal worth is going by the wayside. You see, it is getting harder and harder to tell much about a person in the last several years because of a decrease in personal dress standards. It’s a tough sell today to convince young people it is not appropriate to wear jeans and tee-shirts on every occasion. There are lots of young people who do not have a decent suit or dress to wear to weddings and funerals. Maybe these occasions are not important, anymore.
Of course, shopping for clothes and shoes is not the experience it was. In particular shopping for shoes is a disappointing affair, especially if you are looking for quality merchandise. You see, there are virtually no shoes made in the United States, anymore. Most seem to be made in China, or in South America and Eastern Europe.
I went shopping for shoes this afternoon at a local “shoe warehouse”. The mom and pop shoe store is a thing of the past. Everything is now sold in a warehouse, and the prices aren’t necessarily discounted, either. I had a twenty percent off coupon that applied to everything, and bought two pair totaling over $220, paying around $180 after discount. It sounds like a pretty good deal, and it may have been.
However, one pair was made in Brazil, and one in China. You cannot get away from brands made in China. Most of the Ecco and Sketchers brand shoes are made there, and my new pair of Johnston Murphy shoes was made in Brazil. The shoes are casual in style, and are of the slip-on variety. I don’t know how long they will last, but I keep several pair in rotation to keep them in good shape.
If you want to know what brands are made in the USA, this link is a good place to start: http://www.americansworking.com/shoes.html. I have had a pair of Allen Edmonds dress shoes for almost ten years, and they still fit and look great. Since I paid almost $300 for them then, the annual cost of ownership is pretty low. Of course, I would rotate wearing them with other dress shoes.
Shoes are important for several reasons. First of all, we need decent shoes to keep our feet warm, safe, and properly supported. Then we need to consider the fit and style. Do they look good? Looks are important for people in most professions. No matter what your profession, people will look at how you are dressed and make certain judgements. That’s just the way the world works.
American manufacturers in the shoe business cannot compete in the everyday shoe market. Their markets are more higher-end. I was willing to pay $135 for a pair of Brazilian casual shoes today. Maybe I could have paid a little more for some Allen Edmonds shoes at $175 for a similar style. The difference is significant in light of the discounts available at the shoe warehouses. For those on tighter budgets, American shoes seem to be out of reach.
Shoe manufacturing having moved overseas is not something we can reverse. Basic economics force that situation, and any labor intensive business will tend to drift to areas where labor is cheap. However, when processes are automated, we can compete. You see, there’s not much difference in price between a machine in China or the United States. The more automated manufacturing becomes, the more manufacturing will be done in the United States.
Given greater investments in automation, US manufacturing will increase, and the more manufacturing will return to this country. Don’t hold you breath. Remember, US companies have to make the investment, first, and the brain-dead current Administration doesn’t get it. Tax incentives to automate should be an absolute priority.
When the manufacturing of clothes and shoes moved from the United State to countries overseas, it was an indication that other industries would follow. By the same token, when you see clothes and shoe manufacturing moving back to the USA, you can believe that things are turning around. It will be because of automation.
It will be a long process. At any rate you can see that shoes are pretty important things from comfort to style, to economic indicator.