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).

 

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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.

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’.

A Malaysian cobbler

The word ‘cobbler’ is such an old-fashioned word. A cobbler is a person who repairs shoes, and it also seems an old-fashioned profession. With an increasingly disposable/consumer society and with increasing labour costs, these days it is becoming cheaper and easier to throw things away rather than to try and repair them.

In Malaysia though, cobblers are still very cheap. For example, gluing back a shoe’s soles costs about 30 US cents, and you can also bargain with the cobbler. Malaysian cobblers are much cheaper than cobblers in first world countries because in Malaysia, cobblers don’t work out of a proper shop. In general, you can find cobblers sitting on the footpath.

A Malaysian cobbler. It’s common to find cobblers working on the footpath in Malaysia.

As I was going home to Malaysia, I purposely brought with me 2 pairs of footwear to be repaired. I love both pairs of footwear, or I wouldn’t have bothered to get them mended. One was a simple glue-on job, but the other was more complicated, the soles of my sneakers having cracked on both shoes. I wore the sneakers with cracked soles on the flight home and hoped that they would survive the long plane ride. I brought with me only those 2 pairs of footwear, and I knew if I couldn’t get them repaired, I would have to buy some new shoes.

Shih Yen’s Hello Kitty sneakers with the cracked soles.

I found the cobbler in the Atria shopping area of Damansara Jaya, near the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. There’s more than one cobbler working in this area. I call my cobbler by his title of Tuan Haji. He brings the tools of his trade in a suitcase and sets up a stall on the footpath outside a closed shop.

The cobbler working on the simple glue-on job.

The cobbler working on the Hello Kitty sneakers with the cracked soles.

The cobbler did my glue-on job immediately while I waited. He even provided me with a pair of spare slippers to wear as I waited. The sneaker repair was completed on the same day. He glued together my cracked soles and then stitched all along the sides of my sneakers. The cost (after a bit bargaining) was RM 18 (less than US$5). I am happy with his workmanship and I’m confident that my sneakers can last at least a few more months.

Shih Yen’s sneakers after repair; the cracked sole had been glued and stitched up all around.

Allbirds merino wool shoes

It’s autumn in the Southern hemisphere, and there is a definite nip in the air as the weather gets colder. As it’s getting colder, I thought I would write about these New Zealand merino wool shoes that can keep your feet warm.

The fairly new label is called Allbirds, and they make footwear out of merino wool. Allbirds is a New Zealand label, and they call the shoes ‘from the land of 29,221,344 sheep’. Allbirds was founded by Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger. Tim Brown was a former professional football player who played for the All Whites, the New Zealand football team. He retired from professional football in 2012, and in 2014 used crowd funding to produce their first wool runners shoes. Joey Zwillinger is an engineer and renewable materials expert who helps develop the sustainable materials the shoes are made of. This includes the textile and insoles for the shoes. The shoes are made from 16 micron merino wool (micron is a measurement of the diameter of wool fibre in micrometre) with the textile woven in Italy. The insoles are made of a vegetable oil-based polyurethane and can be machine washed.

To me, machine washing shoes is a very alien concept, though I know that people do it and I guess it’s very convenient. Allbirds shoes are super comfortable and can be worn without socks with no worry about odour. Hey, the shoes are made of wool. It’s a bit like wearing woolen socks, but they are shoes.

Personally, I find Allbirds shoes a bit plain both in design and range of colours. Allbirds shoes only come in 2 styles: sneakers, called ‘wool runners’; and slip ons, called ‘loungers’. And both styles come in very limited colours. Allbirds market that as a selling point, preferring to focus on simplicity in design and premium, natural materials. It is also a very new shoe company, so I’m excited to see more from them in the future.

An Allbirds merino wool shoe. This is their sneaker (wool runners) design.

Photo by Dora Yip at http://www.mrsturnip.com

Minnie Mouse Keds sneakers

A few years ago, I had a pair of Mickey Mouse sneakers. You can read about them here. Recently, I bought a matching pair of Minnie Mouse sneakers, but sadly I no longer have the Mickey Mouse sneakers, as they became too worn.

Shih Yen’s pair of Mickey Mouse shoes.

There’s a mildly funny story about when I bought the Minnie Mouse sneakers. I saw the sneakers advertised in one of those print ad brochures that get delivered in the letter box with the newspaper. I love the design and immediately went to the shop looking for them, but I couldn’t find them. So I went to the counter and said,

Me: Hi, I’m looking for the Minnie Mouse Keds.

Salesperson: We don’t have Minnie Mouse Keds.

That made me confused. Had I accidentally gone into the wrong shop? Then, I saw the exact print ad sitting on the counter, so I picked one up, pointed at the picture on the back page and said, “This one”.

The salesperson consulted another staff member and it turned out that the sneakers wouldn’t be in stock until the following month, which annoyed me a little. Why were they advertising something they didn’t have?

White Minnie Mouse sneakers in Keds’ iconic Champion design. This sneaker also comes in black with Minnie Mouse wearing a red bow.

But no matter. A few months later, I finally bought a pair of Minnie Mouse Keds sneakers, and they were on sale. Bonus! There were a few different Minnie Mouse designs. One was a white pair with a picture of Minnie Mouse on the side. After being forced to wear all-white canvas shoes in Malaysian schools for 11 years, I now refuse to wear white shoes. So I bought a black pair with a platform sole. I love the design, even the design of the shoelaces. The shoelaces have gold metal aglets. (If you don’t know what aglets are, they are the plastic or metal tips at the end of shoelaces).

Shih Yen’s pair of Minnie Mouse sneakers, with gold aglets on the shoelaces.

Keds is a very old sneaker brand, and has been around since 1916. In 1916, the United States Rubber Company advertised their Keds brand tennis shoes as ‘sneakers’ because this appealed to their target market of teenage boys who used the term ‘sneakers’. Keds’ iconic style is the Champion sneaker – canvas shoes with rubber soles. In 2015, Keds launched a campaign called ‘Ladies first since 1916’. This campaign focuses on female empowerment and features celebrities like Taylor Swift.

Glitter light-up sneakers

My friend, who is petite, bought this pair of glitter light-up sneakers from the children’s department. They were nice, comfortable and cheap, and there were 3 pairs left in her size. So she bought all 3 identical pairs.

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Glitter light-up sneakers (photo by Leonie Kueh).

I’m always slightly envious of adults who can buy footwear from the children’s department, because children’s shoes are usually cheaper and have more cute designs than adult shoes. I could not wear children’s shoes even when I was a child. Before I was 10 years old, I could already fit adult sizes. So that makes me ask, ‘Why don’t they make them in my size?’

Glitter light-up sneakers (Photo by Leonie Kueh).

Sneakers with lights in the soles (photo by Leonie Kueh).

I think this pair of light-up sneakers is pretty cool. They have colourful glitter straps across the front. Do manufacturers think that adults don’t want to wear glitter? Even cooler, in my opinion, are the lights in the soles. The soles of the sneakers light up in different colours every time the wearer takes a step. There are batteries in the soles that power the lights. Considering that there are lights and batteries in the soles, these sneakers are not heavier than regular sneakers. In this particular pair of sneakers, the batteries are not replaceable and there is no way to turn the lights off. I have seen other light-up children’s sneakers that come with an on/off button in the heel, which would prolong battery life.

lightup-sneaker-1

Sneakers with lights in the soles (photo by Leonie Kueh).

I think these light-up sneakers are very cool, especially when worn in low light. It’s a bit like having your own disco on the soles of your feet. So shoe manufacturers: ‘Why don’t you make them in my size?’

lightup-sneaker

Sneakers with lights in the soles (photo by Leonie Kueh).