To anyone Iâ€™ve ever high-fived
TABLE OF CONTENTS Forward stuff Intoduction yeeeah Chapter 1 wut wut wut Chapter 2 wat Chapter 3 wut 7
F o r e w o r d Everywhere we look, we see people, and naturally, shoes. When I decided to write this book, I did not imagine it would turn into the, in my mind lengthy, story that it is. Every so often, I would drive by A Minute Man Shoe Repair, on Villa St. off of downtown Mountain View, and every time I would think, “Wow, I didn’t know that was there, I’ll remember this place next time I need my shoes repaired.” Of course, I would forget about it the moment I got home, but I think that’s where the interest started. I wasn’t sure how this would come out, or what exactly I would write about, but as this book got put down into words, I feel like the paper kind of wrote itself, which seems kinda cliche 8
and cheesy, but it’s how it felt. This book is compiled of photos from A Minute Man Shoe Repair, the main subject of my documentary film, along with a short history of modern shoes and their significance through the 20th century, especially the formation of Adidas and Puma, two companies that came out of a broken brothership at the end of WWII. We put on shoes every day, we sometimes spend hours shopping for the perfect shade of brown that will go well with that one outfit that we have. But beyond that, shoes are relatively ignored. I wanted to shine some light on our sweet kicks; the side of shoes that is not thought of.
Without shoes, weâ€™d be running around without protection from the ground. These tools undoubtedly shaped the way humans moved ever since we started to wear them almost 40,000 years ago, according to physical anthropologist Erik Trinkaus. Unfortunately, the way we got around changed once shoes started to be mass produced in factories from synthetic materials like rubber and polyurethane with workers who could care less about the outcome of the shoe or whose foot itâ€™s going onto tomorrow. These shoes cannot be repaired and only last for 10
â€œHave we drifted away from communal dependence and left the local cobbler to struggle for business?â€?
a few months before they need to be repaired again. As you can see, shoes do indeed play not just a practical role in our life, but a social role as well. So why is it that shoes have gotten cheaper and that the amount of shoes produced has risen over the past century? Have we drifted away from communal dependence and left the local cobbler to struggle for business? The short answer is yes. We have come to believe that if you want to succeed in capitalist societies, you need to be able to make the most amount of money, as quickly as possible. This has caused factories for everything to pop up, from clothing, to hats and, of course, shoes. Money is also a reason why these mass produced shoes are being bought. Those without the ability are unable to spend $100 to $200 all at once, leaving them only able to purchase less expensive shoes from chain stores and factories.
Primary sewing machine used by Marco Azuela.
What motivates large, rich shoe companies to lower their expenditures so much that they can no longer even make a quality shoe? To answer this, we must examine the question more closely, for there are, in fact, two parts: A) spending of large companies and their motives, and B) the materials used in shoes. The beauty of footwear made from natural materials like leather and steel is that they are more sustainable than shoes produced en masse. If you walk a hole into them, the sole can be replaced. If the leather cracks, it can be sewed closed. If you start to lose interest in the shoes, you can put them in the closet for a couple of years until you feel like wearing them again. In a decade or two when you no longer can physically wear or repair them, you can recycle the shoes by sending them to charity organizations or even to be repurposed as flooring. 14
Chapter 1 The average pair of shoes can range from 60 dollars up to 250 dollars. These numbers, let me remind you, are for factory made, mass produced shoes with little to no care put into them. Marco Azuela, who worked in a shoe factory in Mexico as a boy, said that shoes made today are “only plastic, synthetic...
[not] possible for repair. [They] only [last] a couple days, then garbage.” Even though Marco is speaking in hyperbole, it’s easy to see what he means. If you visit a local high school, for example, you’ll find lots of shoes. Because kids grow so quickly it’s safe to assume they bought their shoes fairly recently, but most of the shoes are worn down even in that short period. Large shoe companies like Nike, Inc. can employ up to 40,000 people and bring in revenue more than $20 billion. You would think, therefore, that instead of spending their net income on upper management bonuses, they might try to create something that that was worth the money that you spend on their brand. However, you would be incorrect. 16
fully puts it, “Economic materials for an economic price.” That is, if the companies are not willing to pay for quality materials, then they will get a sub quality product. Marco, who also makes cowboy boots, expresses why he likes boot making in the traditional sense: “For cowboy boots, making by hand, there’s no machines, only hand and materials, natural materials, no synthetics.” The shoes created are little different from pouring plastic into a mold and letting it dry. For example, while companies like Birkenstock and Nike both use polyurethane or rubber, Marco Azuela, who is a shoe repairman now located in downtown Mountain View, implies that Birkenstock’s are easier to repair because they use quality materials. He also says that because they have a high price tag, people are willing to pay to have them repaired. “Like [these] sandals...I repair, see? New liner, new sole...good shoes, Germany, but it’s expensive, so the people pay, pay for repair.” Large companies spend millions on trying to figure out how to save millions. There are entire departments on saving money through production, 18 management, transportation, etc. As Marco wonder-
What’s in these things anyway?
During the 1800s, rubber became extremely popular. Anything that could be marketed was enhanced with rubber. It only took a little while, however, for people to realize there were some big problems with the “Brazilian miracle gum”. When it was hot, the rubber melted; when it was cold, it became extremely hard. Since most people don’t like warped, pungent smelling, decomposing materials on their feet, most products were returned in what seemed to be a short lived run for rubber. It wasn’t until the 1830s that, quite by accident, Charles Goodyear perfected vulcanized rubber and 20
Above: Adi Dassler Below: Charles Goodyear
Rudi and Adi Dassler
paved the way for products such as hoses and rubber soled shoes. When the Keds where introduced as the first “sneakers” in the second decade of the 20th century, there seemed to be no end to the sneaker craze. So dubbed “sneakers” because “starting in 1917, Keds’ advertising promised that you could sneak up on people wearing their footwear, something you couldn’t do in clunky leather heels” (Dozier 60). Brothers Adolf “Adi” Dassler and his brother Rudolf “Rudi” Dassler tried to do just this. These siblings started their company in Herzogenaurach, Germany called GebrUder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory). When Berlin 21
hosted the Olympics in 1936, Adi drove across half the country to offer Jesse Owens his sneakers to run in. It was a risky move considering that Jesse Owens was the first endorsement by a black athlete, especially in Hitlerâ€™s Germany. But when Owens won, everyone was looking at the Dasslerâ€™s shoes. Unfortunately, the brothers had a parting of ways, and Rudi moved across the river to the other side of town to start his own company, Puma, while Adi stayed in their factory and
Above: Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics. Right: Adi Dassler in his factory. 22
created Adidas, from a combination with his own nickname, Adi-Dassler. As technology advanced, companies started to use polyurethane instead of rubber for their soles. With this fancy new material, shoe makers thought they had hit the jackpot. Not only could they produce the popular sneakers of the day, but they could also create them cheaply. There was, however, at least one problem.
â€œEconomic materials for an economic price.â€?
Where do these things go? The question no one ever seems to ask: just exactly where do our shoes end up? Unless you give the unlucky pair as a hand me down, the most likely answer is the landfill. Ah, landfill, you take all of our stuff and allow us to forget about it. But how long can the landfill let us forget our shoes until we can actually forget about them? Well, according to Brooks Sports Inc., “Traditional Ethylene Vinyl Acetate(TM) (EVA) midsoles can last up to 1,000 years in an enclosed landfill.” The U.S. Department of Energy in fact found that “During exposure to water and/ or UV radiation EVA will decompose to produce acetic acid.” Brooks Sports has created a new material called “BioMoGo” that is a
replacement for other sole materials and can biodegrade 50 times faster than normal athletic shoes. Taking only 20 years to biodegrade in the same enclosed landfill as mentioned above, BioMoGo seems to be a wonderful advancement in the way we see and dispose of shoes. There are many ways to repurpose footwear. One that I think is the most exciting is flooring. One company called Ecodomo sells recycledleather tiles for everywhere in your house, including the walls and ceiling! If your boots are getting too worn to repair, Mary Ylisela from Demand Media suggests using them as planters by filling them with soil, bird houses by hanging them from trees by the laces, or filling them with birdseed.
Conclusion Very few people can say that they are not connected to their shoes. Every day we slip them on to our feet, thankful that they are there. The effects of this mindlessness is contributing to the deterioration of the Earth and the deterioration of the small business owner. I think as a society, we need to reevaluate our consumeristic decisions constantly if there is any hope to thrive outside of a confined society. The existence of our shoes doesnâ€™t stop when we can no longer see them, and they still are a part of our lives. More importantly, I think there needs to be a return to more traditional ways of finding locally produced and manufactured goods. Being able to create something with your hands is an important skill that I think many people are losing. This preoccupation with money is driving us to lose our individuality as well as our togetherness as a community. 28
Azuela, Marco. Personal interview. 8 March, 2013. Azuela, Elena. Personal interview. 8 March, 2013. Brooks Sports, Inc. “Brooks(R) Sports Unveils BioMoGo Biodegradable Shoe.” CSR Wire: CSR Press Release. Web. 15 Nov. 2007 Dozier, Laura. “No Business Like Shoe Business.” Mental_Floss Jan.-Feb. 2012: 58-63. Print. Ecodomo. 2010. Web. 23 March 2013 joesafiend. “ADI DASSLER.” Photograph. Flickr. Dec. 16, 2004. Web. Apr. 4, 2013. Johnson, Olivia. “Bones Reveal First Shoe-wearers.” BBC News: Science & the Environment. Web. 24, Aug. 2005. Kempe, Michael D., Jorgensen, Gary J., Terwilliger, Kent M., McMahon, Tom J., Kennedy, Cheryl E., Borek, Theodore T. “Potential Problems with Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate for Photovoltaic Packaging.” U.S. Department of Energy: Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Web. 7-12 May 2006 Nike. 2011 10-K Report. SEC.gov. Web. 25 March 2013. Unknown. Jesse Owens. 1936. United States Library of Congress, Washington D.C. Library of Congress. Photographic print. Apr. 4, 2013. Ylisela, Mary. “Ways to Repurpose Boots.” National Geographic: Green Living: Reducing and Recycling. Web.