Like most men, I imagine, I only own a few pairs of shoes, and will wear them repeatedly until the soles fall off. New shoes are something to be purchased once every ice age. And judging by the weather outside, I'm thinking it's time to buy some shoes.
This recent realization led me to a second, more disturbing realization. The mens' shoe store has gone the way of the woolly mammoth.
Several years ago I purchased a pair of Clarks casual shoes at the Bostonian store in our local mall. I finally decided to put them out to stud this month and investigate the latest in men's work/casual footwear. So I went to the mall, and headed directly to Bostonian, only to discover it had pulled up anchor and left the mall years ago. And so had Florsheim. And every other decent shoe store. In this relatively average-sized mall in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, the ONLY place to buy men's shoes were Foot Locker and Payless, two places I really have no interest in setting a socked foot into.
Have shoe stores gone by way of the local hardware store? Subsumed by the likes of Wal-Mart and other big boxes? I couldn't believe it. There had to be options out there.
I knew that within the city limits of Pittsburgh were two "classic" shoe stores that should fit the bill, Gordon's and and Little's. I first went to Gordon's, a store that used to be located in a historic and easily accessible section of Pittsburgh known as Bloomfield but now located in Homestead, an area known more for shopping trendiness than accessibility. After I discovered that the closest thing Gordon's now carries to a practical dress casual shoe is made of purple suede, I left the store and sat in post-shopping traffic for over an hour as I tried to get out of the shopping center.
I then went to Littles, still located in Squirrel Hill since the original owner got off the boat at Ellis Island, accidentally took a left, and ended up in Pittsburgh. I eventually found something adequate if not overpriced. But the shoes I selected were truly a compromise. What are men wearing on their feet these days? Where are the Rockports? The Clarks? Am I that old that I missed the point where men's shoes went the way of the Oldsmobile, only to be replaced by hip metrosexual purple suede high tops that slide on like slippers and look like you're wearing eggplants on your ankles?