When I was 13, I got a pair of used Doc Martens from a store called Sunny's Military Surplus (not related to Sonny's Surplus chain) in Georgetown (it's gone now). They were slightly scuffed brownish-red boots, kind of combat-looking, and they had the steel re-enforced toe. I got them for like $5, by the recommendation of a friend who said my "Kangaroo" shoes (sneakers with a zippered pouch) were geeky looking. I wore them only a few dozen times, because that winter, my toes got real cold. Then by spring, my feet got too big for them. When I wasn't looking, my mother threw them away because she hated them, but I didn't care because my brief punk phase was over by the time I noticed.
When I finally faced and made peace with my punk phase a dozen years later (it ended badly, and I was bitter), I kind of missed my Docs because while they were a bitch to lace up and the steel toes were cold, they had felt very sturdy, and I kind of liked the fact that they were "serious" shoes that were meant to last. By this time, I knew a lot of people in fandom who still wore them. I knew one guy who had a pair from the 70s, and all that was replaced was the sole, laces, and one tear was repaired. I am a big guy, and go through shoes pretty fast, but my attempts to buy "serious shoes" always met with failure. I once spent $170 on a pair of Rockports, and they lasted about 8 months before they just fell apart everywhere. Payless and K-mart had similar-looking shoes for $9.95, and they fell apart after 6 months. By one year, I was already ahead. So that's all I really have been doing all my adult life: buying cheap-ass shoes and replacing them every 6-12 months. I always considered this a waste. I should be buying shoes because my old ones are out of fashion, not because they fell apart. Usually the soles are the first to give way. I must walk slightly pigeon-toed, because the outer edges wear down faster than the rest of the shoes. Then the sole will break, and around that time, the heel will crack away from the sole.
About four years ago, I started wear steel-toed shoes again. I was working with a lot of equipment, and I am fairly clumsy, so I injured my toes fairly frequently. Once I got steel-toes, the only time I have injured my foot since then is when I dropped a metal pot of cold water on my big toe a few months ago when I was cooking in stocking feet. But finding steel-toed shoes, in my size (US12), that aren't the basic light-brown construction boots are hard. Target and K-mart had some that looked like hiking boots, and that was what I have been wearing all the time. But in the last year? Not to be found. So I started to look online. I came across some Doc Martens that fit the bill, but they were $120. So I kept an eye on Ebay, and a few weeks ago, won a bid on a new pair for $79.
I got them on the Friday of Evecon, and wore them all con long. My previous shoes were in such bad shape, I had duct tape holding on in the inside, the interior soles were worn down so thin, I had to put in gel inserts to give them extra life. There was a hole the size of my thumb in the back of my right foot, and the left foot had a crack in the sole, so when I walked into a puddle, my socks would get soaked. I was glad to get the new shoes, and when I got back to my hotel room, I put them on right away. My feet feel funny because the support is now way better, but I have been wearing them now for a few days, and I think they are pretty solid. I was worried because our friend Anya's husband Matt had gotten a similar pair, and said they were so uncomfortable, he couldn't wear them (and offered them to me, which I might take him up on). Now all I have to do is wait, since time will tell if they last. I'll be happy with 2 years, but I'd rather it be 4. By that time, I'll probably want something different, fashion-wise.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000334.html