I recently had these boots resoled and reheeled (a dying art in a world of fast fashion), and as part of my commitment to make/mend/thrift, I felt these boots encapsulated a lot of those values as well as some other, nonsartorial, things.
I’m pretty sure my mother bought these Robert Clergerie boots for me at Bergdorf Goodman in 1995/1996. I remember that the ladyfriend and I were still maintaining separate apartments and more importantly, separate finances.
For years my mother and I have had a semi-annual date to go shopping in New York, a tradition that has lasted into the almost 11 years I’ve been in Hamilton. On each of these trips, my mother buys something for me. My receptivity to this has varied over the years. There was a time when I didn’t want her to buy me anything because I thought it undermined my independence and sense of adulthood; there was a time when it made me anxious because I knew she’d feel the day was a failure if I didn’t have something to show for it; there was the passive-aggressive phase when I tried to maximize my haul. Over the past twenty or so years, I’ve come to a more nuanced understanding of this dynamic.
When I played show-and-tell with the ladyfriend the evening after that shopping trip, I was taken aback by her outright indignation over the cost of the boots. She didn’t have to buy them, why should she have any objection? Her thought was that I didn’t need the boots; I needed the money. Neither of us at the time fully understood what was at play here between my mother, shopping, and me.
I was defensive. Stuck uncomfortably between my mother and my ladyfriend, I was also surprised at how pissed she was. Didn’t she understand that that was not how it worked? Couldn’t she appreciate how well these $500 (yes, in 1995/96) boots would wear? Didn’t she understand that a lot of this had more to do with communicating affection than amassing physical objects? (Okay, I might not have understood that then myself.)
Nonetheless, the boots stayed (I don’t think returning them occurred to me, even if that’d been an option), and they’ve endured. There have been years where they were worn infrequently, and I may have thought about letting them go once or twice, but something has always made me keep them. Maybe it was due to the ladyfriend’s initial objection; I didn’t want them to turn into the impulse purchase she had characterized them to be. (This is not to say other items didn’t fall into that category…)
I got them resoled and reheeled and found they have an important place not only in my wardrobe but also in my life. The ladyfriend acknowledges now that they’re a well-made pair of boots worth the cost (while still rightfully maintaining the fact that I could’ve really used the cash). They represent how the ladyfriend and I have learned to communicate and have moved our values and ideas of how things should be closer to one another.
Oh, she was mad back then; she will sometimes mention it when she sees the boots, but then she adds, “Well, you’ve gotten your money’s worth out of them.”
I’m not saying that $500 in cash wouldn’t have been more helpful at the time, but these boots have certainly earned their keep; not only are they still viable and stylish, they gave me an opportunity to understand a lot of things beyond footwear.