I recall buying my first pair of Stan Smiths. It cost a RM45 a pair back in 1977. This was an insane amount for a pair of shoes when, for example, a clerk at MAS at the time earned only RM175 a month. It was even more insane when you happen to be a 15-year old student with no income to speak of.
But buy them I did. I even tried bargaining with the lady. Since I had rather dainty feet (size 6, actually), I argued they should be cheaper because less material was used. I thought this was rather clever. Then the lady replied, “OK, I understand. But if you want your money’s worth, young man, may I suggest you get a size 11?”
She got no further argument from me. I forked out my RM45 and walked away as the proud owner of a pair of Stan Smiths – size 6, naturally.
I practically lived in my Stan Smith – until they got stolen about a year later. Since I had no other shoes, I went out, hustled the billiard tables at Pertama Complex, won my RM45 and got me another pair. Back then, I used to believe that everyone needed only a pair of shoes. You bought them, you wore them out and then you bought the next pair.
Little did I know that my innocence was going to be shattered. How? I got to myself a real full-time girlfriend (well, a few, actually). It was then that I realised that women have a sort of genetic imperative to own at least 5 more pairs of shoes than there are days in the month. It was too much for my very young mind to understand. So I went through life accepting this phenomenon as a fact of life – pretty much like the likelihood of you passing gas loudly increases the moment you step into a lift full of strangers.
As I aged, my powers of observation got even sharper. I began to realise something else about women and their shoes. Not only did they need to have 5 more pairs of shoes than there are days in a month, but they also needed an equivalent number of days to inspect, select and eventually purchase a pair. Though it took all my creativity to come up with excuses not to follow any female when the likelihood of shopping for shoes arose – I assure you – it was worth it!
Of course, sometimes you lose. On those rare occasions when escape was not possible, all I could do was sit there, grit my teeth and think of England. Sometimes (not often enough, I tell you) the ordeal would end rather mercifully – we were out of the shop before it was dark. Most times, however, the prospect of leaving only presented itself maybe 3 minutes before closing time.
It was during one of those excursions – while twiddling my thumbs and contemplating death – that I did the math: a woman will eventually pay RM100 for a RM25 pair of slippers. How? If she earn RM2,000 a month working a 5 day week, the time-cost of her six hours choosing the ruddy footwear works out to be RM75! Add that to the actual cost of the pair of slippers (RM25), you get a whopping total cost of RM100. And that doesn’t include MY time-cost!
But despite my keen powers of observation and my finance-savvy brain, I am above all smart: I am smart enough NOT to mention to the women in my life how ridiculous it is to own so many shoes and how insane it is to spend such an inordinate amount of time choosing them. I guess survival is still the strongest human instinct, after all.
Though Stan Smiths now cost RM200 a pair, I’m thankful that all I need is a single solitary pair and that the time I need to buy the blessed pair is still under 10 minutes. But most of all, when the possibility of shopping for female footwear arises, I am thankful that I can still keep a straight face and say, “Not today, dear. I have a headache.”