Shoe Tales: Quality over Quantity

I love a bargain, I love the sense of satisfaction I get when I can buy two or more lovely items with the money I have instead of using all the money I have on one item; Especially shoes.

My mum does not understand my obsession with low-priced shoes: She has always advised me to invest in a good pair of shoes that will cost more and last longer as opposed to cheaper shoes that wear out quickly.

But the fashionista in me always wants to have the prettiest shoes to match my outfits; after all, it’s not what you wear but how you wear it.

Mother’s know best! Even when it comes to fashion and I got to learn that the hard way this weekend.

If you are a woman living (and walking around) in Nairobi then you must be familiar with the term “Viatu na Bei”.

You cannot walk a 500meters in the streets of Nairobi without running into these shops that sell ladies shoes at a fair price with a loud speaker calling you “mrembo” and asking you to walk in to the shop and buy these shoes that you see on display.

It was in one of these shops that I bought the cobalt blue ballerina flats that I wore on Saturday to match my striped blue crop top and black jeans.

After running my errands, and doing a bit of shopping, I was now ready to go back home.

However, as I walked back to the stage, I noticed that my right shoe felt funny.

Upon further inspection, I discovered a huge crack on the sole of my shoe. I couldn’t believe it, this shoe was barely 3 months old and it was already ruined! I was infuriated. My Mum’s words kept replaying in my head and on that Saturday, I decided that I would never buy a cheap shoe ever again for as long as I live: I don’t care how cute it looks or how hot the color is.

In the novel Men at Arms, author Terry Pratchett illustrates how buying cheap shoes can actually cost you in the long run, with what he calls the “Boots Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness”:

“…good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap [ten dollar] boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.”

I don’t mean to tarnish the names of the hard working businessmen/businesswomen who own these shops but truth be told, I am over and done with “Viatu na Bei”. I have been buying flat shoes from these shops from the time they first hit the market because I had somehow convinced myself that it’s far much better to invest in high heels than in flat shoes.

Looking back, in the last year, I have thrown away 15pairs of these “Viatu na Bei” shoes (Not an exaggeration, 4 Pairs of open flat shoes and 9 pairs of closed flat shoes worth Sh8,300).

Torn inner soles, cracked outer soles, the top part of the shoe detaching from the sole, straps that have cut that’s how these shoes looked when I decided to throw them away.

While it can be argued that other factors such as shoe care, and how one wears the shoe come into play to determine how long a shoe can last, it is really hard to justify how one can wear out 15 pair of shoes in just one year.

Now, if I just listened to my mom’s advice, I probably would have bought four or three pairs of better quality flat shoes with that money and would still have had some change to spare on top of that.

With that said, I can comfortably admit to learning a valuable fashion lesson over the weekend, so fair thee well “Viatu Na Bei”. It was fun while it lasted but I have to move on; Quality over Quantity.

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