Shoes fed and clothed me for 21 years. Shoes put me through school and university. Shoes allowed me to go on holidays. Shoes gave me my first car. Yes, I’ve been blessed thanks to shoes.
My parents are ‘footwear agents’, mainly for the big retail chains. As a kid, I’d look at my dad’s showroom with wonder. Shelves of shoes from wall to wall. Buyers from Foschini, Truworths, Woolworths and Edgars would come and choose which styles and colours to order. For one glorious year I was sample size (size 4), which meant I got shoes nobody else would ever own.
The upside of having parents in the fashion biz is that they dress pretty well, and I was the first teenager to get Doc Martens and Worker Boots. The downside was saying, “My dad sells shoes,” and having snotty-nosed classmates reply, “Oh, you mean like Al Bundy in Married With Children?”
Obviously, I have an ingrained love and appreciation of shoes. They’re the one item of clothing you can’t really make yourself. And unlike a size 12 shirt on a size 10 body, shoes have to fit properly. You can’t wait to ‘grow into them’.
You also can’t get very far without a pair of shoes. Shoes represent our basic mobility. Imagine walking 10kms to school without shoes. Some kids do.
So I’m very excited about the BobsForGood initiative, which I heard about at the 27Dinner a few weeks ago. For every pair of shoes you order from BobsForGood, a pair of school shoes is donated to a child in need. And even better, the shoes are manufactured by Eddels, a local factory my parents have dealt with for ages, which produces 3000 pairs of quality shoes every day.
Eddels is also one of those local factories that managed to survive the onslaught of Chinese imports. About 10 years ago my mother would often come home in tears because another factory had been forced to close and people she dealt with on a daily basis suddenly found themselves out of work after 30 years.
The fact that Eddels has survived and is now making a difference to those less fortunate is one of those uniquely South African stories, full of gees and hope. It’s also testament to the importance of shoes.