Ranger likes his 18 year-old Florsheims, and not being a spendthrift happily gave them over to his local cobbler when his soles became unhinged from the body (of the shoes). This is a sad tale of a sole for which there is no redemption.
--Old Shoes, Van Gogh (1887)
--Old Shoes, Van Gogh (1887)
- Oh, the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be,
- Ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be.
- The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be,
- Many long years ago
- I knew a man Bojangles and he'd dance for you
- In worn out shoes
- --Mr. Bojangles, Jerry Jeff Walker
- Uh-oh! I'm getting.. Happy Feet!
- See, every once in a while that happens,
- I have no control over it.
- Sorry. Okay. We're moving along now
- --Steve Martin, SNL
Nick Camechis, the second-generation proprietor of Capitol Shoe Fixery, broke the bad news. The shoes were built on the cusp of Florsheim's conversion to a plastic insole -- one which disallows nailing. The shoe company has joined its fellows in the age of planned obsolescence.
Florsheims no longer have leather insoles, the sort with sturdy nail construction, soles which allow for re-soling. A shoe which allows the wearer to establish a comfortable familiarity with the product. A shoe with which one can carry on a long-term relationship. Now, like so much else, shoes are disposable.
Nick said, "There's nothing substantial holding these shoes together." This little slice of life is indicative of society in general: Everything is slap-dash, held together by glue, lacking nails and real staying power. We are happy to have these cheap shoes, and no longer expect quality.
According to Nick, in the 1930's there were over 130,000 cobbler shops in the U.S. Compare that with a paltry 7,000 in 2009. Today, there are 3 cobblers in Tallahassee.
So here is a craft industry that provided jobs to many Americans, which is fast becoming obsolete. Like so many of our household items, shoes are now cheap and roughly-made, so why fix them? U.S. citizens no longer demand craftsmanship -- cheap garbage is the watchword, as long as it will do, for a while.
It is upon this philosophy we have built Walmart lives. More is better, not better is better. Hence our lust for more square footage of particle board houses which will begin their decay soon after the mortgage is signed. Gone are the days of reasonably-sized craftsman houses worthy of the name. Just Super-Size Me, thanks.
Ranger is waxing nostalgic, viewing America as something no longer recognizable to him. Things are made to be tossed. This may be the fate of all creations of man, but the cycle seems to be shortening.
We wonder how long our glue is gonna hold.
Note: I just discovered photographer friend Zoriah did a feature on recycling in Cuba, which is an eloquent counterpoint to our disposable lifestyles. It is worth a look: