Consumerism is a funny old thing. Consider, for example, my ever-more pantingly pathetic desire for a pair of these.
Now, it has always pleased me to sneer amiably at kids who wear Converse**. Kids who wear stunningly expensive skinnyjeans, carry high-fashion outsize handbags a la Nicole Richie and/or wear ‘disposable’ fashion – sweatshop-made three-pound puffball t-shirts that get thrown away after two washes when celebrities stop endorsing the style. Now, it’s a fact that a large majority of high-street fashion houses are implicated in sweatshop scandals. It’s also a fact that fashion branding, as well as one of the best low-level ways of Playing Fetch With the Hairy Capitalist Beast, is more than a little demeaning to anyone who gets entangled in its greasy, homogenising tentacles. Strange and cruel, then, that I’ve fallen like mad for a pair of lovely boots, stamped all over with metal discs bearing a brand name that’s well-known inside certain alternative circles. In order to ease my palpitating little socialist conscience, let’s weigh these Extremely Beautiful Shoes in the balance:
1. These aren’t a pair of Converse sneakers. They’re big, stompy, fuckoff gothboots. Goth= subculture agogo. So if I take them home and wear them, I’ll be subverting the dominant paradigm, right? Right?
2. I am a little person (physically). I am female. I live in London. Barely three weeks ago, I got assaulted on the street. I NEED big, stompy boots in order to make me taller, scarier and more imposing, and add a couple of pounds of good kicking strength to each foot. Don’t I?
3.They’re good quality shoes, and they’ll last for ages. This, together with the extortionate price and the fact that the company is Spanish, probably means that they’re not made in sweatshops. No, I haven’t checked, alright? I can’t bring myself to check!
4. Okay, they’re branded. Okay, they’re branded with big, hardcore metal discs set into the leather, probably precisely *because* scratty sub-culture kids try to tear them off. But give me half an hour with some strong solvents and a good pair of pliers, and I’ll be able to fix that. Guaranteed.
5. They’re damn expensive, though. I could use that money to buy a month’s worth of fairtrade groceries, give it to Amnesty, subscribe to Red Pepper. Or I could just, yknow, pay the rent.
6. With decent tools and some application, I could de-brand the boots. But I won’t, will I? Because it’ll damage the beautiful leather, and I’ll have to find the toolbox, buy new solvents, and by that time it’ll just be so much time I could have spent avoiding Uni work or watching illegal HBO downloads. Hey, we’re the instant generation. This is exactly how they get us.
7. But, but, but, they’re so pretty.
8. Oh, gods. I think I’ll just go and lacerate myself with my own debit card in a fit of anti-capitalist guilt.
Another interesting fact about this particular brand of footwear is that the insoles are deliberately canted slightly forward. This exaggerates the defensive, slightly-on-the-toes gait habitual to kids who identify with a subculture, to the extent that those who do martial arts, yoga or posture work often find it very hard to walk in this brand. Yes, they’re beautiful, beautiful boots. But just because we’re ‘alternative’, doesn’t mean they’re not after us….
**His Awesomeness the Tenth Doctor is, of course, excepted. Fashion doesn’t have the same globalised connotations on Gallifrey.