Sole Searching

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“Bad taste is better than no taste at all.” – Jonathan Meades


I need new shoes. My urban restlessness has finally taken its toll on my Doc Marten boots and they have, after several years’ faithful service, finally worn themselves down to a leathery nub. My Vans aren’t doing much better.

Shoe shopping, like clothes shopping in general, can be a bit tricky for me. Firstly, it’s difficult to hack through the jungle of Beijing’s many and varied garment markets (especially when wearing a leathery nub). Secondly, I have the fashion sense of Slavoj Žižek.

There’s a movie where a shabby-looking Bradley Cooper asks “who, other than a homeless person, would go out on a weekday dressed like this?” Some wiseacre, obviously unaware that it was a rhetorical question, answered “Ben!”*

Several years ago someone offered me a bag full of hand-me-down t-shirts (at least one of which I still own), which were sitting next to a black bin bag full of old rags deemed unfit even for the charity shop. I hastily incorporated both bags into my regular wardrobe.

Although I have recently flirted with hipsterdom (trilbies/bandanas/jumpers), my default setting remains a sort of ‘Stasi chic’: rumpled shirt, jeans, leather jacket, little notebook full of observations about other people.

To me, ‘semi-casual’ is synonymous with ‘socially awkward clusterfuck’. I’ve always just sort of assumed that every colour and pattern goes with every other colour and pattern, often with a hat on top.

Long story short, I went to Xidan shopping district** looking for shoes. The gf came along, but flat-out refused to translate “how much for the sports coat adorned with howler monkeys?”

I spent two hours in Xidan and I didn’t purchase so much as a slipper. I’ve since tossed the nubs in the cupboard, soaked my barking dogs in a bowl of hot water and am now searching online for a pair of boots, resigned to a weekend spent in scabby old Vans.


*The character goes on to explain himself by saying “That’s right, I’m a writer.”

**(where I previously purchased another faithful pair of shagged out trainers [pictured] that now belong to a hobo in Vancouver)

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