Let me state at the outset, “I think we need only about 50 pairs of shoes during our entire lifetime.”
Maybe we need even fewer, depending on a number of factors, such as where and how hard we work, how long we live, whether we can afford shoes and not much else.
Stylishness counts only a little bit. It’s more important when you are younger, trying to look cool or courting.
When I was a boy growing up on our farm, I had two pairs of shoes to wear at any given time: good shoes for Sundays and school and my outdoor work shoes. All were high topped.
When my work shoes wore out or became too small, my Sunday shoes became my work shoes. My parents and I would visit the shoe store the next time we went to town.
My parents made me wear special shoes that had lifts to correct my pigeon-toed walking. All I wanted was something sturdy that kept my toes from getting mashed when cows stepped on them while being milked.
My shoes were repaired a lot. Dad made me begin milking cows at 5 years of age for my evening chores. I didn’t have to begin the morning milking until I was 8 years old.
My parents bought me shoes that I could wear for up to two years, depending on how badly I needed the next pair or because I had a misfortune such as getting sprayed by a skunk while trying to keep it out of the chicken house.
After carrying out my good deed involving the skunk, I missed church for three Sundays in a row. The shoes I was wearing at the time were retired to the attic.
Every so often, my brothers and I ventured into the attic to see if they still stunk — and they did for years! I was a hero for trying to save the hens that, along with the cows, produced the eggs and milk that paid many monthly bills.
About age 8, I became more socially conscious. Most of my male classmates, all farm boys, wanted to look cool.
Some of the popular boys wore loafers, the low-sided shoes that became even more esteemed after a little slit was invented that allowed one to slip a penny into it, where the tongue was attached.
After I graduated from high school, I determined a pair of cowboy boots would be my next possession. I purchased a pair of pointy-toed, shiny, Cordovan cowboy boots.
Although I was tempted to stuff my pants cuffs inside the boots so I could show off the fancy leather stitching, I kept the cuffs over the tops so people wouldn’t make me into a laughing stock.
I wore these boots to college classes, on dates and even when hiking in the mountains around Boulder, where I attended the University of Colorado. Later on, I wore them at the University of Utah during graduate school and on my various jobs as a professor and practicing psychologist.
I wore these boots for more than 40 years. For the past 20, they resided in my bedroom closet. I wore them on special occasions like fairs, cattle shows, conferences and congressional visits to the hallowed hallways of the Senate Office Buildings in Washington, D.C.
When I made appeals for health-care programs for farm and ranch people, photographers took pictures. I felt I had an impact on legislative causes that advanced the well-being of people associated with agriculture.
By the time I married, I owned three pairs of shoes. Of course I had to purchase a pair of black patent leather formal shoes to accompany my long-tailed wedding tuxedo.
Three pairs are enough shoes to own. I have replaced a pair now and then. I usually improved each version of my shoes (e.g., loafers that could be worn as slippers, lug-soled work shoes with a steel toe that doubled as hiking boots and always another pair of cowboy boots).
I like cowboy boots because when my heel elevates and squeezes down as I step along, the movement of air around my feet keeps them dry.
I like my work/hiking boots because they keep my feet warm during sub-zero temperatures and because the steel toe in my right shoe saved my big toe when I stuck my foot in a combine auger on July 24, 1990.
I lost my middle three toes and most of my little toe in the auger, but the steel toe saved the most important digit on my right foot.
As I get older, I don’t need as many shoes. I don’t take as many steps! Fifty pairs of shoes might be enough for my lifetime.
The footwear industry need not worry. My wife makes up for my deficit. She buys that many pairs in a couple years.
Whoops, I shouldn’t have said that because now I’m in big trouble if she reads this.
– By Mike Rosmann, Ph.D.