Leather Boots, La Cordonnerie and the Guilty Closet Shopper.
I think there is something very important to say about how the French live. I could of course go into talking about food here, but I’ll save that for everyone else. I want to talk about shoes. In every town you can find ‘La Cordonnerie’ on just about every street. For those of you who don’t speak French—‘La Cordonnerie’ means ‘shoe repair shop’ …of course it sounds much better in French. Not only does ‘cordonnier’ sound better than…shoemaker? Or wait, cobbler?—do we even use this term anymore? I only just re-discovered the word ‘cobbler’ after double-checking my French-English translations online where I soon came to realize that I knew the French word, but didn’t really know the proper English term! And you know what, now that I have just used the word ‘cobbler,’ I realize that I actually like our term for ‘shoe repair man.’ Okay, I’m going off topic here.
What I was trying to say was, not only does the word sound better in French, but it sounds better in France. In France, being a cobbler is an honorable job. In the U.S. we would smirk at someone who said that they repair shoes for a living.
In summary, we no longer really have cobblers in the U.S. because 1) we have no demand for them; we throw out our poorly made shoes instead of repairing them because they probably can’t even be repaired and 2) because we have lost respect for the craftsman.
Okay enough about the cobbler—let’s talk about shoes.
My dad, an environmental guru, has always believed that I have an excessive amount of shoes. He is probably right—but I love shoes! So does this mean that I can never make amends with the environmentalist? I hope not, because I like to consider myself as an ‘eco-friend.’ So how can I be a friend of the environment while being an avid shopper and trendsetter as well? Here is where I bring back my lesson from living in France—quality over quantity.
Let’s talk about leather boots. I have two really nice pairs of leather boots: one black and one brown. I love them. I wear them all the time—they feel very used, in a good way! They have both been re-soled (at a Cordonnerie in France actually) and I regularly polish them (with a polish I purchased in France). So yes, to produce the boots in the first place, it took a toll on the environment, and the polish itself is perhaps not eco-friendly, but the fact that they are not throwaway boots means a lot.
We can’t eliminate shopping; we can’t prevent people from shopping (even people who have a special affection for the environment like me). But we can make better decisions about what and how we buy. True, better quality usually means more expensive, but we can save up for a really nice pair of leather boots by choosing not to make all the lower quality purchases or we can just go to the thrift store—and voilà, I think we have just made both a financially and environmentally conscious decision! My hope, is that we will eventually have the option to not only buy a nice pair of leather boots, but to easily find ones that are made in an environmentally conscious facility (and yes, fairly-traded and locally crafted etc., but let’s take things one step at a time in our new boots).
So am I trying to justify my love of shopping by all of this? Well, yes! But I’m a quality shopper :-)