I have always liked shoes. Shoes help you do things and go places. Though my zest for shoes will never rival that of Carrie Bradshaw’s (and I have limited patience for heels and the various acts of contortion they force upon my spine), I have always appreciated aesthetically pleasing and well-constructed footwear.
But a few days ago, my relationship with shoes changed considerably in the space of six hours. It happened at Shoe School’s 1 Day Sneaker Workshop where I was taught to hand-make a pair of sneakers from scratch. After agonising over which colours we wanted to use, we began what turned out to be a fascinating yet laborious affair: tracing out and cutting sneaker pattern pieces; hand-stitching them to a rubber sole; punching holes in the leather for the eyelets, setting the eyelets into place using an anvil (Lorelai Gilmore would be proud), and threading in laces for the final touch.
Though the pattern we all used was from the same SneakerKit template, there were design elements and details to customise at every step, making the whole thing a very creatively fulfilling process. What kind of sneaker? Will the tongue be a different colour to the rest of the shoe? What about the strip at the back? What kind of stitching do you want? What colour thread? Any other embellishments? What colour/size eyelets? I left that day with a pair of rather snazzy blue sneakers if I do say so myself, but it’s surprising just how much thought went into the making of this product. It was slow and it was mindful. It made me deeply reflect on and physically experience the amount of labour that goes into making the everyday items we take for granted.
Isn’t it funny how the more materialistic you are, the less you actually care about the material object itself? Because rarely is it an object that captures our consumerist desires; it’s usually what the object represents to the shopper that makes them card swipe-happy. However, in learning the craftsmanship behind the simple sneaker, we were forced to truly care about the shoe. We were made to consider its design in a different, deeper way. We were shown the importance of paying attention to specific details, to form, and to function.
People embracing the minimalist/Marie Kondo movements often say that an unexpected benefit of owning fewer things (or only things that ‘spark joy’) is that you appreciate the objects you do own much more. Irrespective of whether or not you want to take part in these movements, there is merit to having a mindful approach to owning material goods. We should all care more, not less, about material things. And in doing so maybe we will see value beyond the low prices suggested by price tags, and understand the true costs associated with their manufacture.Support Villainesse