I was reminded to write about this subject some weeks ago when a Tassie friend of mine started listing essential things needed post crash. On that list was footwear. Shoes and boots, to anyone thinking like me of moving to a colder climate, are high on the list of essential things. You can get away with walking around bare feet in Queensland for most of the year, but I suspect in Tasmania it would be out of the question, especially during the wet Winter season…….
So why write about footwear you ask….. can’t I afford to buy sturdy boots to walk around the property?
Look around today at what people wear on their feet, and you will see shoes entirely made of plastic – read OIL. Joggers and even loads of cheaper footwear these days are no longer made of leather. I expect that with oil still being relatively cheap, plastic is still not as dear as leather. Personally, I can’t wear plastic shoes, they make my feet smell for starters, and I know it’s not a personal problem, because I can wear leather shoes with woollen socks for days on end without even washing the socks with zero foot odour. It’s definitely the plastic, and I include synthetic socks here.
So what will happen come the day oil becomes too precious for food production? Will Nike stop making plastic shoes?
Years ago, as I was still contemplating building our house, I decided it was time I bought myself some steel capped boots; safety on a building site is always in my mind, and wearing such boots has saved my toes many times from dropping concrete blocks and heavy pieces of timber on them. Today I wear such boots as a matter of fact, the additional steel toe never really costs much more, as I will show further down this article…..
At about that time, we were planning a trip to the snow in the old Lada Niva; so I thought now was a good time to buy some boots, I could wear them in the snow, and wear them in at the same time. Being scroungers, we started shopping for ski gear at op shops – we did after all have to buy stuff for four of us. One of the op shops we visited had ‘never worn’ steel capped boots going real cheap. They looked brand new, in their original boxes… I tried them on, and I was rapt…… great looking boots for half the price of really new ones.
However, within just two days, the soles started completely falling apart…… now I don’t normally return things at op shops, but these were supposed to be ‘brand new’, and there were more in the shop, so I took them back and the op shop gladly replaced them. The very next day we left for our epic trip. When you drive a couple of thousand kilometres, you don’t tend to do a lot of walking, but soon enough, the soles on these boots started falling to pieces too, just sitting there behind the wheel of my car! I was not impressed….. buying shoes at Thredbo is not how one gets a bargain, let me tell you!!
To cut to the chase, I eventually bought a pair of Blundstones in Brisbane, and they lasted me many many years while building, climbing up ladders, dropping aforementioned concrete blocks on them, etc etc…..
Never worn, gathering dust
heel peeling off
But then, another boot buying event sparked my attention on the looming footwear problem. At a nearby hardware store, they were selling shedloads of Makita tradies’ boots. Normally costing $160 a pair (and we are talking maybe 2005), these quadruple stitched steel capped suede boots looked like they were worth $160, and they were going for $69! So I stupidly bought three pairs, thinking I’d now be set for life, bootwise. I even bought Glenda a pair. My mate Dean down the road in Cooran did the same thing I recently discovered as we were discussing these self destructing boots…..
My Blunnies were starting to seriously wear out by now (but not falling apart…) and I switched to the Makitas. Within six months, to my horror, they too started falling apart. So I took them back. The store exchanged them for new ones (I discovered they had bought Makita’s entire stock as Makita was getting out of all work apparel), but within a fairly short time, they too were falling apart. I checked the as yet never worn spare sets….. and they were cracking too. What on Earth was going on?
..falling apart with still plenty of tread
I decided that as my last set of Blunnies had served me so well, I’d buy another pair from the local farm produce store that stocked them. To my amazement, the boots started falling to bits. Some energetic googling found that shoes are now pretty well exclusively soled with Polyurethane, which has a shelf life of approximately five years, regardless of wear and tear. Talk about planned obsolescence…. So, I reluctantly returned those boots too. What I had also learned from google is that most boots have a stamp on the sole that tells you when the boot was made, usually consisting of a ring of numbers from 1 to 12, and the year in the middle with an arrow pointing to the month of the year the item was made. So if your boot has a stamp saying 12 with an arrow pointing to 3, your shoe was made in March 2012. Armed with this information, I rummaged through the shop’s entire stock of Blunnies my size, found the newest ones possible and went home. Almost on queue, they fell apart five years after the manufacturing date. I can’t tell you now exactly how long I wore them for, but it couldn’t have been more than a couple of years. So I bought another pair somewhere else, this time Blundstone’s top of the range waterproof steel capped boots for the princely sum of $129. So you see, it’s not like I was skimping…. I really did go for quality. Unfortunately, three years on, these are now too badly cracked to wear, and they are definitely no longer waterproof. More googling determined that Blundstone warn consumers about ‘Hydrolysis’…
What is hydrolysis damage?
Hydrolysis damage occurs when moisture builds up in the thousands of air bubbles found in the soles of the footwear. If not worn for a considerable amount of time, or stored correctly, the moisture build-up causes the soles to break down. If stored for an extended period of time, footwear with a polyurethane sole should be kept in a cool dry spot.
And I’m not the only one who’s discovered this problem…….
It now appears one cannot buy anything not soled with that dreaded Polyurethane crap. And why would a quality brand use material for its soles that has “thousands of air bubbles“? So two days ago, I bought a $30 pair of Chinese made steel capped boots from Aldi. I’m sick of wasting my money on expensive shoes that don’t last the distance. Even if I only get 12 months wear out of them – at least I know they are brand new this time! – then they will have been better value than anything I’ve bought over the past few years.
This, however, does not solve the problem of what we might be wearing in the future when shoe shops are far away, there’s no fuel to supply them let alone drive there, and we are left to our own devices for footwear.
I find it hilarious that when confronted with collapse, most people put toilet paper at the top of their list of things that will be hard to do without…… I’m much more concerned about footwear. Some enterprising persons who know about leatherwork are likely to become highly prized members of any community if you ask me.