Dear Sweatshop Boots,
The day I first met you was a day like any other, but it still lingers in my mind. The weather was starting to turn- frigid winds were curling summer leaves into fiery droplets and long outdoor brunches were being replaced with cosy fire-side lattes.
All over town, breezy summer dresses that spoke of endless romance were being replaced by thick, puffy coats and indigo jeans. I was starting to feel the chill myself, but did not expect to find my heart warmed by a pair of suede brown boots. I considered myself above such superficiality, and besides, I was not usually one to fall victim to ‘must-haves’ created through Instagram feeds and targeted marketing.
I entered the glass and steel compendium full of purpose and resolve. I was there to purchase ingredients for a hearty and nutritious dinner, not be swayed by violently red ‘40% off!‘ or ‘Buy one Pair, Get The Second Free!‘ signs that accosted passers-by.
Contemptuously, I put my head down and walked briskly along towards the grocer. But then I saw you out of the corner of my eye, sitting proudly on a gleaming white pedestal. I could do nothing but stop and stare. You rose above the other shoes displayed at various levels below you, like worshipers paying homage. Your long, graceful lines suddenly filled a void in my closet… and my heart.
You were exactly what I’d been looking for.
Literally- I’d been searching for your type for months, and was yet to find anything that compared to you. I’d envisaged you sitting sleekly over my jeans for dinners out, and matching perfectly with that winter dress I loved. And suddenly… here you were.
While other shoppers continued to swirl around me in a haze of consumerist-bliss, I stared through the storefront window at you, contemplating a barrage of thoughts.
Because I wanted you.
But I knew.
I knew the brand name attached to the label lining your interior. I knew their ethical and environmental policies… or lack of.
I knew that someone, somewhere had paid a huge price in creating you.
I’ve read Marie Kondo. I knew that on a completely superficial level, your presence in my home and on my feet would spark joy. You were so pretty. But every time I let myself consider the cost of your existence, that joy would drastically diminish….
Because right now, you may be the star attraction in a gleaming white window display in a safe, conflict-free country where boots just like you line the shelves of bursting wardrobes, but we bo th know you didn’t start out that way.
You started stretched out on a long table, being stitched, piece by piece, by the talented hands of an overseas worker. Maybe a man, maybe a woman, maybe even a child. And this- let’s say woman- stitched you together in an unbearably hot factory with nothing to keep her cool. Her back ached from countless hours of not moving from a hard stool, working hard to meet her shift quota. You and I both know she was severely underpaid for her skills in creating such a gorgeous piece of footwear. But her children need to be fed and provided for, perhaps even go to school so that they can have a better life than she does. So she stays, day after day, in horrendous conditions that I struggle to grasp.
And what about the leather that found it’s way onto her table in the first place? What about the thousands of tonnes of water that went into the rearing, production and tanning of the leather? What about the once-pristine waterways that have been polluted, and continue to be polluted by the leather industry? The once green, life-filled rivers that are now choking under the weight of chemicals and toxins?
And we don’t need to get into the story of the cow who was killed for you to sit there on your white pedestal.
As these thoughts flow through me, gradually gaining speed until they become a torrent of disgust, I know I can do better. Suddenly, your perfectly-proportioned construction of leather and rubber has lost all of it’s appeal.
Sure, you’re still beautiful to look at.
But how could I possibly put you on, and create memories filled with joy and laughter and love, knowing you’d been created in misery and pain and suffering?
I couldn’t. And suddenly, it became incredibly easy to turn my back on you, and walk away from that glossy store.
Dinner was more important, anyway.