Door mats and Diadora slippers

Happy new year 2018! Here’s to another year of writing about footwear.

I have come to the realization that I’m a slightly obsessive shopper. I don’t shop often and I’m not a big spender, but when I find something I like I’ll keep buying it until they stop making the product. This explains why I have a cupboard with enough spare curtains for the whole house to last the next 10 years or more. Or why I have written with the same model of pen (Pilot V5 Hi-tecpoint in blue) for the last 25 years. Everything important that I have ever written was with a blue Pilot V5 pen – all my exams, all my stories. I even bring my own pen to sign important documents. All these blog posts start first from the nib of a blue Pilot V5 pen.

Two of Shih Yen’s very, very many Pilot V5 Hi-tecpoint pens in blue.

I have also worn the same type of Diadora slippers for over 25 years. Apart from a year in the mid-1990s when I wore a pair of purple slippers with orange polka dots and a foam crab with googgly eyes across the strap. I love that pair of slippers. They were super cute, a gift from Thailand from my aunt. But I digress. Diadora is an Italian company that started in 1948. Diadora manufactures athletic footwear and clothing. I first wore Diadora slippers as a child, and I like them so much, I just kept buying them and never stopped!

Two of Shih Yen’s numerous pairs of Diadora slippers.

I now realize that I am slightly obsessed with door mats. I bought 5 door mats in 14 months. I don’t have enough front doors for all these door mats, and I still think of door mats that I wish I had bought, like the one that said ‘Hello’ in speech bubbles in many different languages.

The first door mat that Shih Yen ever bought.

My house is free of many things. It is child-free! Pet-free, smoke-free and also a shoe-free zone. It is the norm in many countries to remove shoes before entering a house, but this is not the norm in New Zealand. I found a door mat with a message directing visitors to remove their shoes. I bought 2 of those door mats.

Shih Yen’s numerous door mats, including one asking visitors to remove their shoes.

A few days ago, I bought another door mat, my 5th. It says ‘I’m not your doormat’. At first I read it literally, but later I realized that there is another meaning for ‘doormat’ (a person who gets walked over), and I thought it was quite clever.

Shih Yen’s latest door mat. It is placed sideways to face the neighbour’s front door.

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Happy St Nicholas’ Day!

It is December, which means that Christmas is coming soon. Santa Claus is believed to have come from St Nicholas, a bishop in the fourth century. St Nicholas’ Day is on the 6th of December. There is a European tradition associated with shoes on this day. On the eve of St Nicholas’ Day, children leave their shoes or boots out. St Nicholas will come in a sleigh drawn by a white horse and leave goodies in the shoes of good children. These are treats like oranges, apples, gingerbread, sweets, chocolates and nuts. This is a tradition in European countries like Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia and Romania. I think it’s a great tradition, though I wonder about the hygiene of putting food inside footwear.

Here’s the perfect sparkly sneaker for the festive season. Merry Christmas to all readers and see you in the new year.

Purple sparkly Deelo canvas sneaker by Deuce (photo by Ely Rodrigues).

 

The origins of Nike sneakers

Today, this blog turns 6 years old. To be honest, I’m amazed that I’m still writing it. I thought it was something that would last 3 years maybe, but it’s still going.

This month, I thought I would write about the origins of Nike sneakers. In the 1960s, Phil Knight was a middle distance runner at the University of Oregon. His pet event was running one mile. He wanted sneakers with better traction for running. One day, he experimented by putting a piece of rubber in a waffle iron and heated it. This produced a waffle-shaped pattern in the rubber.

After graduation, Phil Knight went on a round-the-world trip in 1962. In Kobe, Japan, he discovered Tiger brand shoes, which were cheap and of good quality. He started selling Tiger shoes in the USA. In 1964, Phil Knight partnered with his former running coach at the University of Oregon to sell the shoes, under the company name of Blue Ribbon Sports. In the early days, Phil sold shoes out of the back of his car at track meets. The first employee of Nike suggested renaming the company Nike. In 1978, Blue Ribbon Sports changed its company name to Nike.

A Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34 women’s running shoe, with the distinctive Nike ‘swoosh’ logo.

The brand Nike (pronounced Nigh-kee) is named after Nike, the ancient Greek goddess of victory. In ancient Greece, Nike is normally portrayed with wings, golden sandals and wreaths. Nike the goddess, flies around battle fields rewarding the winners with a wreath of laurel leaves. Nike the brand, manufactures sneakers with a tread and higher-traction sole for running. The Nike ‘swoosh’ logo is one of the most recognized brand logos around.

My Melody ankle socks

I think it’s unfair how when you have a group of characters, one character always becomes more popular than the others. One example is on children’s television show, Sesame Street. Elmo monster, who made his debut in 1985, has become more popular than the other puppets. Personally, I dislike the Elmo character. I don’t like Elmo’s high pitched voice or the way he talks in the third person, and I can’t understand why he is more popular than other (in my opinion, better) characters. I prefer older Sesame Street characters, like Grover and Bert and Ernie, who have been on the show since the start in 1969.

An autographed photo of Grover, Shih Yen’s favourite Sesame Street character.

It’s the same with Sanrio characters. Sanrio is a Japanese company that manufactures lots of cute things, and Sanrio is the company that brought Hello Kitty to the world. Sanrio also has many other characters, not just Hello Kitty. But the other characters are not as popular as Hello Kitty.

I don’t have any problem with Hello Kitty, and I personally own many Hello Kitty products, including shoes. But I think it’s unfair that Hello Kitty should get all the glory. There are other Sanrio characters, which I think are equally as cute as Hello Kitty, and they seem to have faded into history. Hello Kitty made her debut in 1974 on a coin purse. There are other Sanrio characters from that same time period; and when I was young, I liked those characters more than Hello Kitty. These characters are My Melody, a cute rabbit and Little Twin Stars, twin brother and sister Kiki and Lala, who are stars and live in the sky.

Sanrio characters – My Melody, the rabbit with Little Twin Stars, Kiki and Lala.

A friend who knows that I like My Melody gave me a pair of My Melody ankle socks. I love the socks, but when I first saw them, I thought there is no way these socks are going to fit me. These ankle socks are meant for the Japanese market only, and they are probably meant to fit the average Japanese woman. Unfortunately, my feet are not the size of an average Japanese woman. On me, these ankle socks are more like heel socks! I still love the socks, even if they don’t fit.

Shih Yen’s My Melody ankle socks.

Attempting to wear My Melody ankle socks.

Cute socks and towels

Towel cakes have become a recent trend. This is where small towels are presented as if they are food. So for example, a face towel or a hand towel could be folded and made to look like a slice of cake. If the towels are brown, they could be put into a mug to look like a cup of coffee, or made to look like chocolates or muffins. I think it’s just a way of marketing boring towels to make them more attractive and interesting to customers.

I had only seen this trend in small towels until I saw these cute socks recently. The socks were packaged to look like popsicles and they are super cute. One pair had an ice cream design and the other a watermelon design. This could be called fun things to do with ice cream sticks, as I also had little face towels that had been packaged to look like lollipops.

Lollipop face towels, with a pair of ice cream socks.

Shih Yen’s pair of ice cream ankle socks.

Lollipop face towels with a pair of watermelon popsicle socks.

Shih Yen’s pair of watermelon ankle socks.

When I saw the watermelon design socks, I knew the perfect pair of shoes that would go with those socks. That would be watermelon shoes by Hot Chocolate Design. Hot Chocolate Design is a shoe label from Venezuela, and it is one of my favourite shoe labels. This label was started in 2004 by Pablo Martinez and Carolina Aguerrevere.

Watermelon shoes by Hot Chocolate Design, from their chocolaticas range (in style patilla).

Normally I limit my blog to just footwear and socks, but many things surprise and shock me about Venezuela, so I thought I would write a bit about Venezuela, the country where these shoes are designed.

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. Yes, Venezuela has more oil than Saudi Arabia! And yet, the country cannot feed its own people. Venezuela is currently in social and economic turmoil, with widespread shortages of basic goods, like lack of food, medicines and toilet paper. Hyperinflation is a major problem, with inflation in triple digits.

Lucky then, I guess, that Hot Chocolate Design shoes are designed in Venezuela, but made in China.

The hypothetical quinceañera

The day before my 15th birthday I wrote, ‘A decade and a ½ seems old.’ 😀 It has been many, many years since I was 15, and I now find that statement to be quite funny. I never had a 15th birthday party, and since I didn’t have a party, I also don’t have any photos from my 15th birthday. This is because 15 is not a particularly special age in Asia, or in many parts of the world.

However in Latin America, the 15th birthday is a very, very big deal for teenage girls. Quince (pronounced keen-say) means 15 in Spanish. The birthday girl is called the quinceañera (pronounced keen-sa-nye-ra) , and the 15th birthday party is called fiesta de quince años in Spanish, or festa de quinze anos in Portuguese-speaking Brazil, and it is celebrated in countries all over the Americas. In the past, the 15th birthday party was a way to present a girl to society, much like a debutante. It signified that the girl was ready for marriage. These days, it’s more of a celebration of the girl like a princess.

When I say that the 15th birthday party is a big deal, I mean it is a seriously big deal, like a wedding. Possibly the most famous quinceañera is Mexican teen Rubi Ibarra García who had a 15th birthday party on 26 December 2016. The video invitation to her 15th birthday party went viral on social media. More than a million people responded to the invitation saying they would attend, and Rubi’s 15th birthday party spawned many memes. In the end, thousands of people attended Rubi’s 15th birthday in La Joya, a small village in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí. The village normally has a population of 200. Despite added security, one man died during the horse race and another was injured.

Since I never had a 15th birthday party, I thought it might be fun to have a hypothetical one. The dresses that quinceañeras wear are big, elaborate dresses fit for a princess. They are much like wedding dresses. Traditional colours for the quinceañera dress are white or pink, or pastel colours. But really these days, it seems like any colour is fine. For me, the age of 15 was sort of filled with teenage angst. I’m not sure I would have gone with the whole girly Barbie-type dress. Maybe that’s something I would have chosen if I was 5 years old. But if I had to pick a girly quinceañera dress for myself, I would go with this one:

Quinceañera dress from Q by Da Vinci in flamingo (style 80292).

In general, the fiesta de 15 años in every country involves dancing, usually a waltz with the birthday girl and her father. For this post, I’m concentrating on the 15th birthday party in Mexico because the Mexican fiesta de 15 años has many traditions that really resonate with me. The 15th birthday party is a transition, from being a girl to becoming a woman, and the Mexican birthday party has many symbolic touches to reflect this transition. One such element is called la ultima muñeca, or ‘the last doll’. In this tradition, the birthday girl is given a doll at her birthday party. The doll is usually wearing a similar dress to the quinceañera. This doll is the last doll that the quinceañera will play with, and the doll is a symbol that the birthday girl is now giving up childhood toys and becoming a woman.

An example of a ‘last doll’ or ‘ultima muñeca’ wearing a dress to match the quinceañera.

Another element of the Mexican fiesta de 15 años involves shoes (Finally! Were you wondering when I would get to the part about shoes?). This Mexican tradition is called ‘changing of the shoes’. During the birthday party, before the waltz, the quinceañera changes her shoes from flat shoes to high heels. These are meant to be the quinceañera‘s first high heeled shoes, and like the last doll, they are a symbol that the girl is now a woman.

I only recently found out about this ‘changing of the shoes’ tradition. If I had known about it when I was turning 15, I would have had a party just to get some new shoes. So here are some footwear options for my hypothetical 15th birthday party.

Shoe by EricDress.

This pair of shoes by Eric Dress would match the quinceañera dress, but in my opinion, the rhinestones are too bling, and the heels are too high for my 15-year-old self to realistically walk in. If I had to pick shoes for the Mexican ‘changing of the shoes,’ I would go with shoes by Venezuelan label, Hot Chocolate Design. I would start with these flat pink Mary-Jane shoes, by Hot Chocolate Design from their Chocolaticas range. These flat shoes have silver glitter soles. Not as bling as rhinestones, but suitably shiny for a quinceañera.

Chocolaticas by Hot Chocolate Design (style ‘Space’).

Then, at the party, I would change from the flat shoes to these Mary-Jane high heels, also by Hot Chocolate Design.

Chocolaticas high heels by Hot Chocolate Design (style ‘Marie Antoinette’).

Minnie Mouse Keds sneakers (part 2)

Don’t you hate it when something goes on sale after you have already bought it? It makes me want to buy the thing again just to get the discount, even though that makes no economic sense. This situation happened to me recently with Minnie Mouse sneakers.  You can read about the first time I bought the sneakers here.

Shih Yen’s pair of Keds Minnie Mouse sneakers with platform soles.

The retail price for the Minnie Mouse sneakers with platform soles is NZ$119. I bought them on sale for $69, which I thought was good. But after I had bought them, they were discounted further to $49! That is so frustrating! Since they were on (even more of a) sale, I bought another pair of Minnie Mouse sneakers in a different design. This time I bought one with flat soles, not platform soles. Even though they are the same size and from the same brand, I find the flat sole sneakers more comfortable than the platform soles. The ones with platform soles seem narrower and pinch my toes more.

Shih Yen’s pair of Keds Minnie Mouse sneakers with flat soles.

Keds is an old American sneaker brand, dating from 1916. Equally, Minnie Mouse is also an old icon, first appearing in 1928. I love them together – Minnie Mouse on Keds sneakers. Since the beginning in 1916, Keds has always focused on female empowerment, and they have a tagline ‘Ladies first since 1916’. Keds also has the motto: ‘A lady can do anything she wants in the right pair of shoes’.