Thursday, April 4, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Vintage Shoes

For years, despite my love of vintage clothing, I always steered clear of the shoe section when vintage shopping. The idea of wearing someone else's shoes, and not knowing how to sufficiently clean them seemed, for lack of a better word… icky. A few years ago I was thrifting, and came across a pair of black slouchy leather boots that I LOVED. Yes, they had belonged to someone else, but suddenly I was able to justify trying them on. They fit perfectly, and looked great. Squeamishness be damned - I had to have them! 

I have since amassed a sizeable collection of second-hand footwear, and because I'm such a cheap-o, my vintage and thrifted shoes and boots are among my most prized, and best quality footwear. A few things to keep in mind if you're thinking about perusing the shoe racks at the next swap you attend:

1. Check for wear. 
Shoes conform to the feet of the wearer, so shoes that are misshapen or whose soles have uneven wear and tear can be bad for your feet. I always check the upper, inside the shoe, and the soles, as well. If you are a bit squeamish about wearing someone's old shoes, confirming there's no wear to the soles can also be reassuring.

2. Ignore sizing. 
Just eyeball it. When buying/swapping vintage, you often don't know where the shoes came from - country, era, even gender sometimes. I recently picked up an awesome pair of grey ankle boots in a size 6. UK size 6, men's 6 - who knows? I was just pleased to find that they comfortably fit my size 8 1/2 feet.

3. Clean 'em. 
As well as the usual weatherproofing and polishing, I like to spray some deodorizer inside the shoes for good measure. Baking soda works as well. Just remove it with a damp cloth before putting them on. I also like to get shoes that are teensy bit too big when possible, so I can stick some insoles in, to soothe my neurotic germaphobe soul.

4. Get creative. 
Not really shoe specific - this is something advisable for swap finds in general. When you get something for free, trying a DIY re-do is a pretty low-risk proposition. The idea of re-vamping shoes is less likely to occur to people, though. Although re-styling possibilities are limited compared to what's possible with clothing (unless you've got some cobbling experience), it's amazing what can be done with a bit of paint, fabric, and sequins. Check out our Footwear DIY Pinterest board for inspiration.

Are there any great second-hand shoe tips I've missed? If so, please share in the comments!


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