Posted by Wood | Monday, November 07, 2005 |

Anybody who's been reading this blog knows Dutch is cheap. He buys everything (and I mean everything, including work clothes) in thrift stores or on eBay. Whenever I come home from Target or another big-box store with my latest-baby-related-purchase, he throws up his arms in exasperation. "Did you even consider eBay?", he'll exclaim. No, honey, I didn't. I didn't consider buying diapers, wipes, and bottles on eBay. How silly of me.

But, in addition to being cheap, he is also one particular son-of-a-bitch. Especially when it comes to clothes and shoes. While I settled for the first wedding dress in a bridal store that looked decent and was within my budget, Dutch spent months scouring eBay before selecting a brand-new Versace tuxedo that I must admit fit him perfectly and looked damn good. He's always bragging about the new Battistoni shirts he gets on eBay for ten bucks and when it comes to thrift stores (as he wrote not long ago), he can spot a good bargain hiding on the back of the rack in a small-town Salvation Army store with the skill and finesse of someone who for all intents and purposes probably shouldn't be straight. I have to admit that many of the staples of my own wardrobe were found by his eagle eyes, even long after I'd given in to thrift-store-exhaustion and was rolling my eyes as I stumbled along behind him.

While I can acknowledge that his thriftiness saves us money and that I have benefitted from his style particularity, when it comes to shoes, this man has gone too far.

When Dutch and I first started dating, he confessed that he saw no reason for someone to own more than one pair of shoes. At the time, his shoes of choice were Timberland leather deck shoes, and he wore them everyday for the first few years I knew him. His next pair of shoes were Doc Martens that he purchased in Ireland (and thus saved 10 whole dollars over the US markup!) and wore for three years. When the thick rubber soles finally gave up, Dutch was righteously pissed, and denounced the entire brand. Those were the most expensive shoes he'd ever bought, and he only got three years of wear out of them. Imagine!

His current shoes, however, demonstrate the worst of this trend.
Despite the fact that he probably has at least 20 pairs of vintage sneakers in his closet in a huge variety of colors that he's bought at thrift stores over the years, for the last four years he's been wearing the same pair of gray generic sneakers. They were already well-seasoned when he got them, and he's worn them almost every day since he pulled them off the shelf and handed over $1.98 to the transexual cashier at the Ypsilanti Value World.

As Dutch will tell anyone who will listen, he loves these shoes in particular because "they don't have any brand!" He'll challenge his friends to search the shoes looking for a word, any letter of text, in any language, and when they admit that the shoes are indeed brandless and logoless, he'll extol the virtues of the "golden age of generic products" back when K-mart and Hills and Meijers made their own products---from shoes to breakfast cereals---all in black and white packaging without any flash, Repo Man style.

From Dutch's perspective, eventually the big evil supermarket chains caught on that such generic labels and packaging lacked "marketing" or "brand" appeal, so they came up with their own brands of cereal with stupid brightly-colored faux-cartoon characters to sell them to little kids and shoe brands with names like "MTA Pro" or "Trax" to follow Nike's lead. Dutch LOVES his generic shoes, which were probably sold at a supermarket for less than five dollars 25 years ago with a plastic tie keeping them from getting separated.

As you can imagine, these shoes have seen MUCH better days.
Last year for his birthday I bought new laces and had them re-soled. Before they were fixed, his socks were poking out of the sides. The tread on the bottom was so bare that his feet hurt if we walked more than a couple of miles around town. If he accidentally stepped on a sharp pebble, he yowled in pain as though he were barefoot on a bed of hot coals. But after half a year of wearing the fixed-up generic shoes, the socks are again sticking out the sides, and the shoes look worse than ever before. Now that he's aware of the Chinese shoe-miracle-man, he's talking about bringing them in himself. But we'll see what he does when he realizes it'll cost at least $50 to fix them. Will the thrifty side yield to style and the generic aesthetic? I've got my money on the Dutch side.

His ancestors wore wooden shoes, for chrissakes.