Thrifting a quality shoe

Let's me first say that it took me a good minute before I would even consider stepping my foot into a thrifted pair of shoes. With clothing, I can always take it home and wash out all of "the nasty". Smells, deodorant stains, dog hair...doesn't matter. A few tumbles in the washing machine and the garment is right as rain. However, with shoes, we KNOW what our feet do in enclosed environments; they sweat! How can I get someone's sweat out of leather??? You can't! LOL The change for me happened when I found a pair of lightly worn Manolo Blahnik pumps at my local Goodwill for $4.99. There was NO way I was leaving those babies on the shelf. Luckily I had on boots and concurrently, a pair of socks, so I slowly slipped my foot into the shoe with its protective cotton barrier and was immediately smitten. Now, I did wipe the shoe down a few times with a warm damp cloth, but that day transformed my way of thinking about thrift shoes.

Now, just because I’m no longer weary of thrift shoe, does not mean that I just purchase any old thrift find. I am still a very wise and cautious consumer. So, here are a few details to look for in a thrifted shoe:

1.    A New Sole I won’t purchase a shoe with too much wear on the sole (bottom). All of the thrift shoes I’ve purchased are brand new (with the sticker label of the initial store of purchase attached) or lightly worn (meaning no foot imprint, not foot crud, original grooving or grip can be seen, no internal markings). Make sure to check out both the sole AND the cap of the heel. They are the best indicator as to if the shoe has been worn or not and if so, how much.

2.    Scuff marks or tears I love a patent shoe, but it is prone to that really nasty scuff mark that you can’t get out no matter how hard you try. Same with leather and the small tears that can occur from daily wear. Any shoe with a scuffed heel is DEFINITELY not something you want to add to your wardrobe. So if you find a new or lightly worn pair of shoes and it contains any of these markings, leave them at the thrift store. That is unless you have a really good cobbler who can bring the shoe back to life.

3.    Seams and stitching As with clothing, I look at the seams and closures of all thrifted shoes and boots. Does the zipper work? Is it rusted? Any stains on the stitching? Is the shoe sewn together or glued together? That’s a biggie for me because that speaks to the quality of the shoe. Also, it goes without saying, but you want to try on the shoe to make sure the heel is sturdy and doesn’t have a crack, or even worse, is broken. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve found a brand new pair of thrifted shoes in the store only to have the heel give out from under me. Now I know why that individual donated these brand new pair of Jeffrey Campbell. The heel is broken!!! Oh well, off to the cobbler ;-)

4.    Discoloration If the store I’m shopping doesn’t have ample lighting, I make sure to take all of my thrift shoes to a window or door so that I can check out the colors in the light (don’t worry, I let the cashiers know what I’m doing and most oblige). Some colors look different in the light than they do in the dark (this is especially true with suede) and I want to make sure that the two shoes match each other. Funny story, I purchased a pair of blue dress sandals a few years ago and was SOOOOO excited to rock them on a brunch date with the hubs. I walked out of the house, feeling all sexified, strutting my stuff when he asks, “Babe…why do you have on two different color shoes?” My immediate thought was, “How is he gon’ play me like that. I KNOW I look good!” That was until I looked down at my feet and indeed, I had on two different color pair of shoes. You see, in the dimly lit store, the sandals looked identical. However, in the broad daylight, they looked totally different. Lesson learned. Every shoe I purchase now, has to pass the ‘sunlight test’.

It’s pretty much common sense when thrifting for shoes. If you wouldn’t purchase a pair of scuffed up, worn out shoes from your traditional retailer, why would you purchase it from the thrift store? You shouldn’t. Keep an eye out for brand new or lightly worn shoes and use good judgement. No stinky, dirty shoes in your professional wardrobe. Only the best of the best for where you’re going!

Dionne Dean