How my new shoes are teaching me contentment


bought new shoes, a pair of derby called Farley from the brand Bertie. When my favourite pair finally gave up on me after 7 years, I waited a bit before buying a new one. I wanted the same colour and the same quality.

This derby was my all-season shoes, because they are comfortable and easiest to style. It fit with almost all my clothes, from my black pants and turtle neck uniform to my colorful midi skirts. It even looks good on denim pants and dresses.

I bought my first derby in 2013, from a shoe store in a huge mall in Hamburg, after a full day suffering on a 4-inch Jimmy Choo stilettos walking around an exhibit hall. This pair became especially useful when I became a mother. High heels and a 10-kilo baby don’t really go together unless one is a masochist.

But shoes can only last so long, especially in the Netherlands where the weather is wet and humid. Unfortunately, after so many trips to the shoemaker, the label has been erased and I couldn’t remember the brand, not that I paid attention when I bought it.

Finding a new pair wasn’t exactly easy. Apparently shoe companies, whether designer brands or English shoe houses don’t really make oxfords in cream or white. I have no idea why. My old pair was hard to beat and it spoiled my choices. Seven years through sun, rain and snow. I didn’t want to settle for anything less. They weren’t even that expensive. I think I paid less than €150 for them.

Manfield pair that was just a tad too white.

Last week I sent back another pair, this time from Manfield, a Dutch brand. They really came close, but it was just a tad too white. So I finally gave up and settled for a different colour. Brown. I’m still figuring out how to fit it in my style (black pants-brown shoes rule, whoever made that up anyway?) After all, I’m only paying €23 for this pair, after discount and my credit card points.

The Farley shoes were delivered last weekend. Bertie is a relatively unknown English brand (at least to me). I tried it at the store and thought they’re nice. Originally priced at €115, they’re not exactly cheap.

I was excited for that familiar scent of leather you get when you buy new shoes or bag. Instead a stinging synthetic whiff hit my nose, the smell of cheap shoes. They’re not made in Bangladesh like H&M but I doubt if India is any better. Bertie is not particularly proud of where their shoes are made because they don’t publish it on their social media accounts.

But let’s go back to that smell. Funny thing is, when I opened the box, that smell transported me back to my childhood, particularly to this shoe store called Footsteps. Footsteps is where almost everyone on the island buy their footwear. It’s like the most modern store on the island, they have shelves and window display and a ceiling where all the orders are dropped off. Other shoe stores were located in the dry market. Footstep has their own building so it was kind of a big thing. When you go to Footsteps, the same smell would welcome you.

Leather shoes are expensive. On the island, you’re among the lucky ones if your parents can afford them. They’re mostly sold in the big cities, so in order to buy proper leather school shoes, one has to take 12-hour jeepney, boat, and bus travel to the city. If it isn’t obvious yet, I didn’t wear leather shoes for school, but synthetic ones.

But they could last me a whole year perhaps even more. We use them for for school, 5 times a week, 8 hours a day. My father taught me how to take care of my shoes, clean them regularly, dry them when they get wet and store them properly so that they’ll last longer. Even if they’re not expensive, even if they’re not genuine leather.

Maybe to compensate for the years of not being able to afford good shoes, I bought lots of pairs when I moved to Europe, many are made of genuine leather, some are synthetic, few are designers, most of them I didn’t need. After I bought a house I couldn’t afford the shoe obsession anymore. When I became a mother, buying shoes became a minimalist thing. I only buy if the old one was worn out and couldn’t be repaired anymore.

Going back to the Bertie’s. I thought of sending them back but returning another pair is not exactly sustainable. So I’m keeping it. I don’t think the quality is at par with the price. Some parts are glued rather than stitched, and the stitches are mediocre, some thread are already loose. I wouldn’t say I was ever so demanding with any of my shoes until the white pair was worn out and I was looking for replacement.

But if I take really good care of it, maybe it’ll last a few years, until 2024 if I’m lucky. After I’ve paid all my debt, I’ll buy a proper English oxford in the colour and fitting of my old pair, or have one made if I couldn’t find the right fit. Maybe a pair of Carmina or Crockett and Jones. But they’re in the price range that I couldn’t afford at the moment. But if I survived 16 years on the island without quality leather shoes, there’s no reason why I should not be satisfied with these Bertie’s.