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Monday 27 July 2015

An Open Letter to Children’s Shoe Manufacturers

Dear Shoe Manufacturers,
I don’t need to tell you that the summer holidays are upon us. For a working parent, this brings with it not rest and relaxation but the additional juggling of different childcare settings in an effort to ensure one’s children are appropriately looked after. Children these days are fickle – they like a reasonable mix of activities. Add that together with a job that involves shuttling up and down the M4 on a vaguely regular basis, and timetables have to be managed with military precision.
Before you think I’m complaining – I’m not. We’ve a few years of it under our belts, and we’re lucky enough to have a choice of good childcare settings that the kids are happy to attend. So, yes, it can be a little stressful sometimes, but it’s nothing compared to another stress that also rears its ugly head at around this time of year. The dreaded Back To School shopping. Or, to be more precise Back To School Shoe Shopping. We all know New School Year = New School Shoes. Just the thought is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat, however. (In fact, I’ve spent the last three days writing this blog post as I’ve had to go for a lie down after every other sentence.)
Nothing in my life is as stressful as school shoe shopping. Nothing.
Clearly, my eldest daughter (despite both looking like me and being close to me in personality), missed the “OMG, I love shoes” gene. However, even my youngest daughter, who has inherited some of her mother’s shoeaholic tendencies, is less than enamoured with this annual torture.
What is it about school shoes, and specifically those aimed at girls? When it comes to both design and build, they are dire. My children have been known to get through 3 pairs in the space of six weeks in the past. These were not cheap pairs, either. I’ve spent anywhere between £15 and £45 on a single pair of school shoes in desperation, with no discernible difference in durability. In fact, if anything, unscientific experience seems to indicate that the more expensive a pair, the shorter their lifespan. At least with a cheap pair you don’t feel quite so bad about them ending up in the bin every couple of months…
Whilst boys’ footwear mostly looks like it can withstand a) the British weather, and b) a reasonable amount of rough and tumble, young girls have to make do with dainty open shoes with flimsy straps that are barely better equipped than a sandal for the British autumn. 
I give you my top three gripes:
  1. Open fronts

It rains quite a lot in this country. Had you noticed? I wonder also if you’ve noticed that wet socks are really quite uncomfortable?
  1. Flimsy Velcro fastenings:

…behold the dreaded silver ring, or the “roulette ring” as it’s known in our house, as we hold our breath to see which gets ripped apart first – the ring, or the…
  1. Thin Soles

Is it just my children that appear to be able to unglue the upper and the sole of a shoe before the term is out? I'm sure the amount we spend on superglue is sending off alarm bells somewhere. (Do kids still sniff glue? Is that even a thing, or have all the new trendy "legal highs" we parents supposedly have to be alarmed about overtaken that habit?)
Anyway, in my desperation, I've even tried persuading my daughters to give "boys' shoes" a try. Peer pressure is stronger than my negotiating skills, however, and the trauma of the teasing I endured as a 12 year old (when my mother bought me what would now, bizarrely be the height of fashion - rounded lace-ups, but in the 80s turned me into a playground pariah when everyone else was wearing pointy slip-ons) remains with me to this day. I'm not brave enough to inflict something similar on my children.
However, all is not lost. Last year, for the first year, we struck gold when it came to 50% of the offspring at least. Youngest daughter chose these fab boot-like constructions from M&S:

Nice and enclosed, no roulette ring to worry about, and soles worthy of the name. THEY LASTED A WHOLE SCHOOL YEAR, and even better, it looks like they are selling the same ones this year.
So, if the rest of you would just be so kind as to follow their example, I'll be eternally grateful. In the meantime, I'm off to stock up on a pair in every size.

Yours, exasperatedly…


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