the perfect fit

August 31, 2006

Shopping is an adventure, I always like to say. The fun isn’t necessarily in purchasing or using–though they can be hugely enjoyable too–but in the looking for that perfect thing that triggers some primal instinct of innate “rightness.” It is that sensation that I hoped might guide me on a recent shoe-shopping expedition to Nordstrom, a high-fashion, often outrageously expensive department store renowned for its devotion to customer service. It did.

But first, a bit of introduction.

Walking, and occasionally running, is my primary mode of transport, and as such my shoes, more than any other accessory, wear out amazingly quickly. Rubber-soled footwear, I have found, quickly becomes useless once the heels have worn down to just a sliver of their former glory, leaving me to toss out what is otherwise a perfectly serviceable shoe: not a very economical proposition.

Heels made of wood overlaid with rubber enjoy a far greater longevity, though they too wear down and must be replaced at not-inconsiderable cost (particularly in the long term). It was just such a pair of shoes of which I went in search most recently, seeking to replace a pair of rubber-soled boots which, admittedly, had seen far better days.

It was a peculiar set of requirements I had: dressy, though not to the point of being showy or fragile; extremely comfortable for long periods of wear; replaceable heels; and perhaps even waterproofing, for those dreary days in which the puddles could easily offend my preference for feet absent of sogginess. Uncoincidentally, I owned a fantastic pair of boots that fit that very description, and which may indeed be the only pair on the market with qualities so ideally suited to my sensibilities and needs.

Yet try I did, browsing the racks with a critical gaze which callously dismissed many a piece of what were, really, beautifully crafted pieces of footwear: too sporty, too dull, too boxy, amazing (but completely impractical), passable (but hardly transcendent). But lo, in the solicitous and unnaturally cheery salesman’s hands appeared the boots that would become mine!

They appeared plain, ordinary, rough to the touch, and generally displeasing. Trying them on, however, my conception of them changed completely; their unassuming, expensive, and even, at first blush, unattractive demeanor, which I had taken as the ultimate expression of a pushy salesman’s own deeply-rooted urge to sell, sell, sell, morphed entirely unexpectedly into an echo of the form of the Texas cowboy boot, paying homage to that icon of the state’s heritage yet rejecting its rough-and-tumble qualities for something altogether more refined. It was the un-cowboy boot.

The burden of the Texas twang is something that was never inflicted upon me–to the confusion of many northerners–but in that moment the word “Howdy!” or perhaps “Yee-haw!” seemed closer than ever to forming itself on my ever-chapped lips, some terribly powerful force seemed struggling to break free (or at least to convince me to take the boots home with me). I stifled the urge to blurt out some embarassingly exuberant exclamation, but the strange sensation compelled me to express my pent-up enthusiasm in a mumbled “I’ll take them” to the grinning salesman.

It was, I think, one of my better shopping days.

–D. S. W.


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