Shih Yen’s second book

I’m surprised that there are still visitors to this blog, even though I haven’t made any updates in a while. Sometimes, I see things about shoes that I could write about and I’m tempted to write a blog post. But I also know that I’m not able to write regularly like I used to, so I don’t attempt to write a blog post. Sometimes I also think about starting a different blog, on a different topic. I’ll think more on that.

I wrote this blog every month for 10 years! Here’s something else that also took me 10 years. I have just published my second book. It’s a collection of short stories, and the oldest story in the collection was written just over 10 years ago. This collection is very ‘me’ as a writer, and I really hope you will check it out, via the link below.

shihyenshoes says ‘Goodbye!’

Happy new year 2022! Normally at this time of the year, I say something along the lines of, ‘Here’s to another year of writing about shoes.’ But this year, I am saying ‘Goodbye.’ I had been thinking about it for a while, and I kind of decided when I wrote the 10 year anniversary post last month.

When I first started the blog, I thought I would only write for 2 or 3 years. And now I’ve been writing this blog for 10 years. When I look back on all the posts I have written over a decade, I can’t believe I wrote so much about shoes, footwear and socks. I always said I would write until I ran out of ‘ideas, motivation or readers’. I haven’t run out of readers (thank you to you!), but yes, perhaps to ‘ideas and motivation.’ I know I could continue for a little while longer, but I feel like anything else I write would just be mediocre. And I know I couldn’t do it for another 10 years. A decade seems like a good time period to say ‘goodbye’. Thank you for 10 years. It has been fun.

I’ll always have an interest in fashion and footwear, but I think it’s time for me to go and write other things. As I bid you farewell, I leave you with details to my first book that was just published last month. It has nothing to do with shoes. It was not something I set out to do, but I wrote a book during lockdown. I hope you will check it out.

shihyenshoes Celebrates 10 years!

I first started writing this blog on this date exactly 10 years ago! At that time, I had a lot that I wanted to share about shoes. I thought I would write the blog for maybe 2 or 3 years before running out of ideas. But it’s been a decade and I’m still managing to write a post once a month.

For this month’s post, I thought I would do something different – a shihyenshoes retrospective. It surprises me what posts people find interesting or what posts are more popular. In all the 10 years, I’ve never really looked at the statistics to see what topics are more popular, because when I write my blog posts, I write them for myself, and the number of views aren’t really important to me. But for this 10 year retrospective, I have done just that to see what people have liked on the blog.

The most popular blog post is from September 2012, a post about different ways to tie shoelaces. And these are the most popular photos on the blog.

This is the most popular photo on shihyenshoes

This photo is also popular on shihyenshoes

This is also a popular photo on shihyenshoes. It was also Shih Yen’s favourite way of tying shoelaces as a teen.

The post from October 2012, titled ‘House slippers and the culture of taking shoes off indoors’ was the next most popular post. The post from September 2013 titled ‘what to do when your sneakers don’t fit (and you can’t return them)’ was also popular.

Then, there are the posts that I don’t know why are popular. I have written a couple of posts about Chinese clogs, in January 2012, and again in August 2016. Both have been popular, which really surprised me because Chinese clogs are kind of old-fashioned footwear. Footwear that my grandmother wore. This photo of Chinese clogs from my grandmother’s home is a popular photo on the blog.

Chinese clogs (木屐) or ‘cha kiak’ from Shih Yen’s grandmother’s home

This next photo from March 2014, in the post on ‘Fashion and Footwear from the 1970s’ was also quite popular. I don’t understand why because I didn’t think it was a particularly interesting photo.

Shih Yen wears 1970s-style metallic gold high heels, part of her costume for a stage musical set in Vietnam in the mid-1970s.

Hello Kitty Sneakers

For someone who writes a blog about footwear, surprisingly I don’t buy many pairs of shoes. This is especially true in the past 2 years when the focus has just been on ‘essential’. But the thing is, if you only focus on ‘essential’, eventually in time, ‘non-essential’ will become ‘essential’. For instance, yeah, you won’t die if you don’t buy shoes, so it’s not essential. But over time, when your shoes all fall apart and you’re forced to walk around in bare feet, I would call that pretty essential!

This whole year, I have only bought one pair of shoes. I don’t think I’ve ever bought shoes online. I want to be able to try on shoes to know that they fit. The only pair of shoes I bought this year is this pair of pink and purple Hello Kitty sneakers. I like the colour and design of these sneakers, and they are quite comfortable.

Shih Yen’s latest pair of Hello Kitty sneakers in size LL

I have been the owner of at least 3 pairs of Hello Kitty sneakers. The last pair of Hello Kitty sneakers I bought are too small for me, even though I did try them on in the shop. They were made in Japan and came in sizing that I was not familiar with. I have given up on Japanese women’s shoes for me. They are always too small. But I’m still in denial about these red Hello Kitty sneakers I bought. They are too small for me, but I can get my feet in them, even though it hurts to walk. So I still keep those sneakers. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m hoping my feet will grow smaller, so I can somehow wear them.

Shih Yen’s previous Japanese-made Hello Kitty sneakers, which are too small.

My latest Hello Kitty sneakers are made in China. The quality is not as good as the Japanese-made sneakers, but they were 40% cheaper than the Japanese sneakers. The sizing was also strange. I bought the largest size available – LL, and they seem to fit me.

Care Bear Socks and Covid Vaccine

Back in August, I wrote about Sailor Moon socks, a Japanese cartoon from when I was young. I was going to follow that up in September with a post about Care Bear socks, another cartoon from when I was a child. Unfortunately, because of sudden Covid restrictions, I was not able to complete that post. This month, I’m writing about those Care Bear socks, but this post has turned out very differently from what I had initially planned, because of Covid. I find that I can’t write about Care Bear socks without also writing about Covid!

The complete set of 5 pairs of Care Bears socks in a box.

I had booked my Covid vaccine for the 18th of August at a ‘good’ time. I had taken great effort to choose this date and time. My aunt even consulted a Chinese (feng shui) calendar for me to check for auspicious-ness. According to the Chinese calendar, the 18th of August was a good day for healing. Incidentally, it was also a good day for a wedding or for laying foundations.

The venue I chose for my Covid vaccine was a shopping mall, and my plan was to check out these Care Bear socks that were being sold in a shop in the mall while going for my vaccine. There were some things about the socks that I couldn’t find out online. That was the plan. But on 17th August, people in New Zealand were given less than 5 hours’ notice that the whole country was going into the highest level of lockdown (Level 4). I’ve learned that globally not all lockdowns are created equal. In New Zealand, level 4 lockdown meant that only supermarkets and pharmacies would be open. No shops would be open, not even for takeaway, drive-through or contact-less pick-up.

Additionally, all vaccinations were suspended for 48 hours, and subsequently all vaccine appointments booked for 18th August were cancelled. That’s 50 000 vaccine appointments that were cancelled that day, and mine was just 1 of the 50 000. I couldn’t believe it! I thought vaccinations were supposed to end lockdowns. Ironically, my vaccine appointment was cancelled because of lockdown. How can vaccinations not be an essential business during a pandemic? So, 18th August didn’t work out for me to have a vaccination, but it was good because I had already prepared. I had stocked up on food and booked sick leave from work in anticipation of any side effects from the vaccine, and I was able to go into lockdown immediately when it was announced. I didn’t leave the house, not even going outdoors for 15 days until my food supply started to run low. I rescheduled my vaccine appointment for another (in my mind) auspicious date and time. By that time, Covid restrictions had eased a little outside of Auckland, and shops were open again. So after a very long preamble, here’s more about Care Bear socks.

Care Bears were originally printed on greeting cards in the early 1980s. They were created by Those Characters from Cleveland (owned by American Greetings, a greeting card company) that also created the Strawberry Shortcake characters. Each Care Bear has a different colour and personality. From greeting cards, Care Bears then became plush toys in 1983, and had an animated TV series. Care Bears are making a comeback currently with new toys out, but I prefer the original toys and cartoons from the 1980s.

The Care Bear socks that I wanted to check out was a box set of 5 pairs of Care Bear socks in a box. When I went after lockdown, I couldn’t find the socks in the shop. I asked the sales assistant and she showed me a different box of Care Bear socks. I didn’t like this design or colours. I thought they were a bit grey and dull. Then, the sales assistant looked behind the counter and said, “We have one last box of the Care Bear socks you want, but they are faulty.” I asked, “Faulty, how?” I couldn’t imagine how socks could be faulty, unless they had a hole in them. It turned out that the fault was the box set of 5 pairs of socks was missing one pair. The sales assistant was prepared to sell me the ‘faulty’ box of socks at a 70% discount, and I was very happy to buy them at a discount.

Shih Yen’s box of Care Bear socks was missing a pair.

Here are the Care Bear socks in a box. There is Tender Heart Bear, who is a lovable bear. He’s the leader of the Care Bears, and his socks say, ‘Today I need a hug’. Who doesn’t need a hug?

The Tender Heart Bear socks say, ‘Today I need a hug.’

There is Funshine Bear, a yellow bear with a smiling sun on the tummy. Funshine Bear is a happy, sunshiny bear. The Funshine Bear socks are yellow, which is such a cheerful colour, and they say, ‘Today I’m sunny’.

The Funshine Bear socks say, ‘Today I’m sunny.’

My box of socks was missing the blue pair of Grumpy Bear socks. Grumpy Bear is a blue bear with thunder clouds on his tummy. He is a grumpy bear and rarely happy.

Shih Yen’s faulty box of Care Bear socks was missing Grumpy Bear, who says, ‘Today I’m grumpy’.

There was another blue pair of socks in the set, so it’s OK that I was missing Grumpy Bear. The other pair of blue socks was of Bedtime Bear. He is a lighter blue than Grumpy Bear. Bedtime Bear’s personality is always sleepy, and the Bedtime Bear socks say, ‘Today I need more sleep.’ Who doesn’t need more sleep?

The Bedtime Bear socks say, ‘Today I need more sleep.’

I felt that it was my lucky day. I got my Covid vaccine, and I bought a box of Care Bear socks at a huge discount. These Care Bear socks are so cute and cheerful. I’m sure just wearing them will brighten your day.

Gudetama Sneakers

Apologies to regular readers for the lateness of this post. I’ve been writing this blog for almost 10 years and I’ve always managed to get something out on the 1st of each month. Even when I’ve been sick or traveling or moving house; during earthquakes, tsunami, and the first Covid lockdown, I managed to post something. I was working on something else when sudden Covid restrictions came into force in New Zealand, and I wasn’t able to finish my post. But no matter, here’s a different post for this month.

Gudetama is a cartoon character by Sanrio that first appeared in 2013. Sanrio is the same company that brought you characters like Hello Kitty and My Melody. Gudetama’s name translates as ‘lazy egg’ in Japanese, and the Gudetama cartoon character is that of an egg, specifically an egg yolk. Gudetama is usually depicted with other food, and he is always kind of lazy and depressed.

Gudetama Sneakers

Here’s a pair of Gudetama sneakers called ‘You crack me up’. It shows Gudetama on the tongue, with different pictures of food all over. There is also an egg on the side of the sneaker that opens up to show Gudetama inside.

The side of the sneaker, featuring Gudetama.

This is a cute sneaker, especially if you love Gudetama. But for me, it’s just too busy, and over designed, with too much going on.

Sailor Moon socks

Back in December of 2020 was when I first came across the concept of mismatched socks still being able to be a pair. I also wrote a post about mismatched socks in February 2021. Since then, I’ve been on the look out for mismatched pairs of socks.

I got really excited when I saw these Sailor Moon socks because I thought they were a mismatched pair. But they are actually two pairs of socks, one of Sailor Moon and one of Luna the talking cat with a crescent moon on her forehead. The way the socks had been packaged made it look like one pair of mismatched socks. Though I suppose you can always wear the two different socks as one pair if you really wanted mismatched socks.

Two pairs of Sailor Moon socks, featuring Sailor Moon and Luna the Cat. The way they had been packaged made them look like mismatched socks.

Sailor Moon is a manga (Japanese comic) series written and illustrated by Naoko Takeuchi. The series was first published between 1991-1997. The comic was then made into an animated TV series that ran from 1992-1997. I love the cartoon, but I didn’t watch it regularly enough to follow what was going on or who all the characters were, because there were many characters that looked similar. So, recently I’ve started reading the Sailor Moon manga, and I’m enjoying it.

Sailor Moon is part of a genre called ‘magical girl genre’. This is a genre in manga (Japanese comic) and anime (Japanese animation) where a regular girl has magical abilities and can transform into her magic self, usually with the help of a magic accessory like a wand.

This encounter with Sailor Moon socks and the Sailor Moon manga made me remember Japanese cartoons that I love as a child. The earliest one that I remember is this one below. It’s called Magical Princess Minky Momo. It took me a while to find this, because in Malaysia she was known as Gigi, not Momo. Magical Princess Minky Momo was an anime from the early 1980s. It aired in Malaysia as Gigi in the mid-1980s. In it, Momo/ Gigi is a girl who magically transforms into an adult with different occupations to fit the situation. I love this anime because it is super cute, and it was the first one that I remember watching.

Blundstone Canadian Eh! Boots

Today, the 1st of July, is Canada Day, the national day of Canada. So I thought I would write about something Canadian. Well, it’s a Canadian boot design made by Blundstone, an Australian brand.

Blundstone is an Australian footwear brand that started in 1870 in Hobart, Tasmania. The company was started by John Blundstone. It is most famous for its Original 500 series, also called Chelsea boots, which was designed in the 1960s. This is an ankle boot with elastic sides, a design which seems to be popular in Australia, New Zealand and also in Canada.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the Chelsea boot design, but Blundstone made a limited edition Canadian boot and I really like that design. It’s hard to imagine an icon that’s more Canadian than the maple leaf, but the maple leaf only came on the Canadian flag in 1965 when Canada changed their flag. Blundstone Boots made the special edition Canadian boot with a maple leaf on the elastic side. The Canadian Blundstone boot also have the words Eh! on the shoe’s tongue, which is very witty because Canadians are known to say ‘Eh!’ a lot.

Blundstone Boot with the Canadian maple leaf design (Photo by CK).
The Canadian maple leaf and the words Eh! on the Blundstone Boot’s tongue (Photo by CK).

Since I’m Malaysian, I would love if Blundstone made a Malaysian Lah! boot. It could have a Malaysian icon like a tiger or a red hibiscus on the side. Two tigers are on the Malaysian coat of arms, and the red hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinesis) is the national flower of Malaysia. Malaysians are also known to say ‘Lah!’ a lot, so that would be perfect on the tongue. Yeah, that’s a boot that I would totally buy.

The Jesus and Satan shoes

Recently, Nike sued a New York art collective called MSCHF for trademark infringement of their Nike Air Max 97 sneaker. The art collective MSCHF made something called the Satan shoe by customizing Nike Air Max 97 sneakers. This was done without Nike’s permission. Both parties have now settled their legal dispute.

The Satan shoe is a customized black and red Nike Air Max 97 sneaker. The shoe has a pentagram charm on the laces, and the words ‘LUKE 10:18’ on the shoe. This is a reference to a verse from the bible that says, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’ Apparently, the Satan shoes also contain a drop of human blood in the soles. Only 666 pairs of the Satan shoes were made. As part of the legal settlement, MSCHF will recall the shoes and refund customers.

In 2019, MSCHF also customized a white pair of Nike Air Max 97 sneakers, and made a Jesus shoe. This Jesus shoe has a Jesus on a crucifix as a shoelace charm, and has holy water from the river Jordan in the soles. On the Jesus shoe, there is also a biblical reference to Matthew 14:25, which is a reference to Jesus walking on water. Interestingly, Nike didn’t sue the art collective over the Jesus shoe.

Frankly Funny ‘What the Duck’ socks

Last month, I wrote about unsuccessfully buying a pair of socks with a rubber ducky design on them. Specifically, they were socks in the style called ‘What the Duck’ by the brand Frankly Funny.

‘What the Duck’ socks by Frankly Funny.

I tried many ways (all unsuccessful) to buy these socks: in-store and online (on a bizarre website that only shipped within Australia and nowhere else) and then when I tried to get my order shipped to a friend in Australia, the company implied that I was trying to commit fraud.

After all that, I came to the conclusion that the universe didn’t want me to own these socks. End of story. Except that some time later, I found similar socks with a rubber ducky design in-store, when I wasn’t even looking for socks. It was in a stationery shop that also happened to sell socks! They were not the ‘What the Duck’ design I wanted, but they were similar enough that I was happy to buy those socks. End of story… or so I thought.

Shih Yen bought these socks when she couldn’t buy the ‘What the Duck’ socks by Frankly Funny.

A short time after having bought those other socks, I found the Frankly Funny ‘What the Duck’ socks in-store. I had previously gone to this shop months ago, specifically to look for these socks, and they didn’t stock them back then. Again, I was very happy to buy the socks that I had wanted so much for so long. Now I have an abundance of rubber ducky socks!

Now I need to re-assess my earlier statement that the universe didn’t want me to own these socks. The universe works in its own mysterious way and sometimes you do get what you want, but the universe decides when. Even though you think it’s the end of the story, the universe makes the decision on that.

Sometimes you wonder why things happened, or why they happened the way they did. I’ve learned that it’s because the universe wanted it to, and it was just meant to be. Pretty big lessons to learn from buying socks!

Shih Yen is now the happy owner of ‘What the Duck’ socks.