A Shoe for All Seasons

Back in the day when we first went vegan (mid-nineties), pretty much the only place you could find non-leather shoes was Payless, and they were guaranteed to be poorly-made by some poor Cantonese kid half-way around the world. I want to give Payless some cred, as, without them, many of us would have been walking around shoeless and coming across as even bigger hippies than the locals assumed we were, but, that said, it’s certainly glorious to live in a time when we’ve got some nice options to choose from finally.

Indeed, with the massive popularity of the ‘green’ movement in the past few years, and it’s supposed survival of any backlash that came from companies like Clorox going…ahem…’green’ (“Hey, if we add green dye to this cleaner and put some images of flowers and smiling kids in the ads, we can TOTALLY cash in on this eco thing”), sustainability and ethical consumerism are finally inching their way into the world of fashion. Yay. I’m not saying we’re good, but we’re better, at least.

To prove it, I give you a totally vegan pair of men’s shoes for each of the seasons (two for summer, just because we’re REALLY excited for summer).

Let’s start with spring, as, despite what we’re seeing here, I’m assured it’s soon to come. Native New Englander Rachel Comey started out as a menswear designer, dressing quite a few of the rock elite, and has more recently gained attention for a really nice women’s line. All that aside, she’s got some awwwwwwesome-looking new canvas oxfords coming out at the top of next month. I’m told by her reps that the black canvas ones and the blue ones (pictured) will be totally vegan. Very nice. You should be able to get the black ones at gimmeshoes and the blues at asos, hopefully among other places.

So on to summer and two picks from us for the balmy months: The first is from TOMS Shoes. TOMS Shoes is a company that was started by Blake Mycoskie who was both inspired by the simplicity of traditional canvas alpargata shoes in Argentina and struck by the country’s poverty. In 2006, he started TOMS, which produces shoes based on the alpargata and matches every shoe bought with a pair they donate to a child in need in places like Argentina and South Africa. So, pretty cool. Also cool, the company has finally made a vegan line (in addition to the fabric framework, other pairs included a leather insole, presumably to make the price tag more appealing to us Westerners). New Yorkers can pick them up at local eco-fashion haven Kaight (we’ve always loved their logo), or order them online from TOMS.

Our second summer shoe is something we saw (sorry for all the alliteration) at Oak recently, the Taylor, by Zuriick. It’s basically a canvas lace-up low-top akin to those popularized by Converse, but, with it’s clean design and pop of bright purple on the sole and one eyelet, these pop with a just enough subtle attitude. Also available in charcoal and black.

So, on to fall, tragically, the most prized, yet shortest-lived time of year in New York. Last fall I bought a pair of the Dennis, made by the superbly fair-trade Novacas,and have been wearing them way too much ever since. The construction is nice, with a more up-to-date rounding of the toe and a really great weight to them. The heels particularly are nice and heavy, making a solid thud with every step. That may sound off-putting to some, but I like it. Nothing says ‘out of my way you slow-walkers’ like a well-placed heel thud. To the sidewalk, not the people walking… On top of all that, the brown ones are made with a really great faux-suede that looks both luxurious and very convincing. Out cobbler was impressed with them just this week. “These are nice. They Hush Puppies?” Mmmm. Hush puppies. Available at MooShoes.

Lastly, on to the dreadful, withering winter, when all that’s good in the world freezes the breath of ex-lovers in the air. As the poet George Herbert said, “Every mile is two in winter.” As we say, “Winter totally sucks.” But, having some nice all-weather boots certainly helps matters, especially in the New York City, where it can and usually does go from sunny to snowy to shitty in a matter of an hour. Again, the alliteration… Though you may want a pair of rain boots for the two by two kind of weather, the Kiowa from outdoor roughin’ it experts Garmont can take care of everything else. And they don’t look totally ridiculous, so that’s a plus. We took these and they’re sister shoe to visit an outdoorsy friend in Seattle and were really pleased with the result. Comfortable, dry…it was like we weren’t ever outdoors. Also available at MooShoes.

So, thank you for all you did for me and others like me in the past, Payless, but I bid you ado. Unless, that is, you cash in on all this and start dying things green. It’d TOTALLY work.