Endangered Skill #1: Shoe Repair

We need shoes. Many of us don’t want shoes, but we have resigned ourselves to the necessity. We don’t want to be barefoot outside when it’s 10 degrees and snowing. Others, like the infamous Imelda Marcos, and my Grandma Elvera, want shoes for every occasion. Grandma had to have matching belts too, but that’s another story.

Shoes used to be made by hand. One of my favorite fairy tales is the one about the Shoemaker and the Elves. In the story, a poor shoemaker has only enough leather to make one more pair of shoes. He carefully cuts out the leather pieces, and leaves them out over night, intending to sew them the next morning. When he awakens, he finds the shoes already finished. You can read the rest of the story here.

Just out of curiosity, I got on YouTube and entered “shoe makers” in the search box. There were 89,30 results! Maybe shoe making and shoe repair are not as endangered as we thought. Still, they are not nearly as common as they used to be, and if the skill isn’t passed along, it could be lost in a generation. This is a nice video from the Victoria and Albert museum showing the making of a pair of shoes.

Most of us do not buy our shoes from the shoe maker. We get them at Walmart, or Payless, or some similar store. When they wear out, we go buy a new pair. Most of our shoes are mass produced, and the manufacturers don’t intend for us to get them repaired when they wear out. They expect us to buy more.

That’s not to say that you can’t find well made shoes that last; you can, but you will have to pay more than many of us can reasonably afford. Every day shoes used to cost more, relative to the income of the time, and people wanted them to last as long as possible. That’s why most towns had shoe repair, or cobbler, shops. Shoe repair shops do still exist, but often, the cost of fixing a pair of shoes may be more than the shoes are worth.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t repair our shoes when we can, especially, if its a job we can do ourselves. So, no I have never repaired my own shoes, but I do wear them until there is nothing left. I’m hard to fit, so when I find a pair that does, I want to keep it as long as possible.

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One of the two pairs of combat boots I was issued when I entered basic training in 1981. I was supposed to switch back and forth between the two pairs, but I didn’t. This pair used to be kept highly spit shined and on display. The other pair is long gone. I would still wear these, but my calves are too fat now!  No, those are not the original laces.

When I was in the Army, back in the early 80’s, I bought a pair of cowboy boots at the Post Exchange. I paid fifty dollars for them. For me, at the time, that was a lot of money. I loved those boots, and I kept them for probably eight years. The only reason they lasted that long was because my dad fixed them every time I went to see him. Both boots were resoled and reheeled, and he even stitched the faux leather, in the back of the ankle, where it had worn through. I wore them all the time. They were like an old friend. I hated to give them up, but finally, there was nothing left to fix. There is probably a picture of them somewhere. If I find one, I’ll post it on our Facebook page.

Another YouTube search, this time for “shoe repair”, brought 353,000 results. Many of those were made by professional cobblers, so I searched “DIY shoe repair”: 376,000 results. This was the first result. I have to admit, I like this guy!

Even if you don’t want to go through all that, take a look at the other tutorials available. The next time I have a pair of shoes that need mending, I’m going to see what I can do. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

In the meanwhile, you can always try making your own shoes. This was Ed’s first attempt at making moccasins for me a few years ago. Not bad for a first attempt, and I know he learned some things in the process. He really needs to get back into that. Oh, the beadwork was mine. I needed more practice too!

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The moccasins Ed made for me.

 

I guess the thing is to keep trying.

Connie

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