A Girl Who Wears Sneaker Wedges

My sister and I did far too much shopping this summer. It was July. I was in Europe and there were sales. The amount of damage I did to my bank account balance is really not my fault. There’s no better way to take in a city than to wander around the streets o and pop into any store that looks remotely interesting. It was in Amsterdam, therefore, in a store called Supertrash I had never heard of that I found sneaker wedges. Not just any sneaker wedges, though. Ones with cut outs. 80% off sneaker wedges (again it’s the big foot advantage). It had to be too good to be true. So of course, I started to overthink the shoes. Sneaker wedges? Really? Could I pull them off? People who wear sneaker wedges are cool. Not only were they cool, but they’re a specific type of cool person. A glamorous person. A girl who wears sneaker wedges has interesting places to go and people they need to impress when they get there (but they do need to get there, hence the sneaker). She has to be both practical and fabulous, cause she’s doing things but looking great while doing them. Was I that person? Could I even fake being that person?

These shoes weren’t me. They by no means fit in with my general aesthetic. I tend to dress vintage and cutesy, not hyper trendy. Yes, I have to get from point A to point B, so I guess my life necessitates the sneakers, but I don’t necessarily go interesting enough places or live a glamorous enough existence to demand any type of heel whatsoever.

Despite my hesitations, I walked around the store a bit with them on, and checked myself out in the mirror. Over the course of my stroll, I came to a realization, a fashion Ah-ha moment if you will: wearing the sneaker wedges made me feel like a person who wears sneaker wedges.  Even if I wasn’t cool or glamorous and my shit was by no means really together, I felt like it looked like it. That slight amount of suede encasing my foot and the bit of rubber under my heel just made me feel cool. The way the little lift of my foot made walk put some swing in my hips. I liked the person I saw in the mirror. She looked glamorous. She looked cool. She looked like maybe her shit was pretty much together.

Maybe me wearing sneaker wedges is somewhat disingenuous. I always say fashion is an argument, and maybe the argument I’m making by wearing sneaker wedges is totally false. But maybe I’m ok with it. Yeah my outfit might not be particularly true to my life, but I enjoyed the ‘me’ that I felt like I was wearing it. What you wear can argue who you are, but it can also shape the way you feel, which in some ways changes who you are. Maybe I’m not actually cool enough to wear a crop top and rock the whole sweat pants look. But I like the way I feel when I try to, and I think fashion is about expressing who you are, but also who you want to be.

Sneaker Wedges: Supertrash, Top: Akira Chicago, Pants: Nina Kendosa Paris

PhotoCred: My lovely roomie Meredith Edwards

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In Which I Make it Abundantly Clear I go to a Liberal Arts School

Sorry for getting preachy and wordy and not posting pictures with this one, but I just needed to get a little bit of a rant out of my system. You see, I have one mall-going quirk that consistently frustrates those I shop with: I refuse to go into Forever 21. I know I sound like a snob (remember: thrifting is my thing), but I have zero desire to give that store my patronage. The store lacks the organization necessitated by something that size and the racks are simply un-shoppable. Also, it’s destroying the environment.

Let’s focus on that last statement (I doubt I have to convince anyone of how overwhelming walking into that store can be—do it and you’ll see what I mean). I knew I didn’t enjoy the experience of going there, but I wasn’t able to validate my dislike until I did a bit more research on their manufacturing practices. Forever 21 and stores of its ilk (Zara, Charlotte Russe) are low-profit margin, high sales volume retailers. In other words they sell clothes at low prices, make a small amount of each individual item, but sell enough to still make massive amounts of money.

And this business model works. I can certainly testify to the dire reality of the closet-full of nothing to wear issue, one that can seemingly only be solved through wearing down ones credit card a bit more. Trends are constantly changing, which seems to necessitate a constant flow of new items into ones wardrobe. These retailers capitalize on this need, giving women access to trendy items being sold for low prices. This sounds like heaven, why is it an issue?

Well, for one, it’s the environment. When a woman buys a something she knows is big for that season, she only anticipates wearing it for a short period of time. She didn’t buy her high-low for its practicality, she bought it because she felt dramatic and maybe a little bit like a fairy when she wore it with that adorable crop top she got last week. Once she’s over it she’ll get rid of it.

Consumers don’t buy these things with the intention of wearing them every day, and the manufacturers don’t make them to allow them to do so. In order to have high enough sales-volumes for these chain stores to make a profit, their factories need to churn out a huge amount of clothing. When their concern is speed of production, quality inevitably suffers. We think about it every time we throw away a candy wrapper, but we don’t consider the waste created when throwing away a piece of clothing.  We try to recycle plastic bottles, and re-use materials, but these poorly made garments are made to fall apart before they can be re-used. People aren’t about to go to a tailor to have their 10-dollar skirt fixed. It just ain’t gonna happen.

These factories are creating waste and smog along with the acid-wash cutoffs (I knew they looked evil), creating further environmental degradation. To meet the high demand (and to keep the price of the item low) the factories also pay their workers next to nothing and make them work insane hours.

Obviously I’m not the first person to mention human rights violations in the same breath as the manufacture of clothing, and excess in manufacture is clearly not so good for the health of things like forests. I get why these stores flourish. I don’t go to Forever 21, but I somehow find myself in Zara on the weekly, and I will admit they are perpetrators of the same problem (the Spanish retail giant only takes 2 weeks to get a design from the drawing board to the store). For those of us interested in fashion, being cognizant of the effect our habits have on more than just our bank account is essential.

The more consumers are made aware of the issues surrounding the impact of what they buy and wear the more retailers will be forced to respond, and maybe change their ways. Consumers can attempt to buy clothes considering the potential for further use, and make sure they at least have that in mind. We gotta stay current, obvi, but maybe using some methods to make our clothes last a little longer is just what we gotta do.