The Ruby Slippers, worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz, are the most expensive pair of shoes ever sold, making $660,000 at an auction in 2000. My mother in law, who has a thing for footwear, once owned a pair of purple velvet Versace evening shoes with Louis heels, encrusted with real gems. My daughters have Granny’s passion too and the higher the better, like scaffolding rigs. I generally prefer more sensible footwear. Or so I thought.
It was a pair of gold leather loafers with silver tassels that caught my eye in Clarks last week. They stood out from the rest, the light bouncing off them like a pair of shimmering golden galleons, calling “Buy me! Buy ME!” They were a size 5, that’s my size. It was a sign and if ever a pair had my name written all over the sole, it was these.
I had gone into Whitewater, the local shopping centre, to take shelter from the rain when the glistening loafers distracted me. Never mind that I would get stick from the kids, or that I’d need a new wardrobe from God knows where to go with them, they had to be mine. The gold and silver spectaculars were marked down from €100 to €25. Bargain. My pulse was racing.
I do not have a fetish for shoes as such. What I do have is about five pairs that I wear most days and another five (or so) pairs of ridiculously glamorous heels that rarely leave the house. Included in the latter collection is a pair of dangerously high Jimmy Choos that my mother in law sent me for a significant birthday fifteen years ago.
The six-inch heels, that I have only worn once, come out when my teenagers are bored. I found my fifteen year old cleaning her bedroom in them recently. I didn’t moan, just quietly left her to it wishing that I had thought of the idea. But like many women, I do appreciate a good pair of shoes; show me a woman on the planet that doesn’t. It’s a girl thing.
A poll of 1300 women revealed that in her lifetime, the average woman owns a mind boggling 434 pairs. I have a friend who might be at that figure already. Mrs X in Naas hides shoes all round the house. Her husband has no idea of the boxes hidden in the hot press, under the bed and in the attic. Mr X has no clue that his wife has a shoe addiction. “I don’t need help,” she tells me. Some people collect stamps, others collect shoes. It’s the same part of the brain at work.
Back in Whitewater, the shop assistant took my card and stuck it into the machine. I stood in front of her with a goofy smile on my face. That happens when I buy shoes. It’s the same face that a child pulls when he or she gets a big ice cream. I was smiling because I knew that each time I wear the shiny golden loafers I will get a huge buzz. It’s exactly that feeling that Mrs X in Naas thrives upon.
“Would you like leather protector?” the assistant asked. “Yes please”, I replied. I shall wear the metallic loafers til I am ninety and they’ll need all the protection that I can get. She put them in a bag and handed me a small blue leaflet along with my receipt. “If you are having a sort out and have any spare shoes…” Spare? Each child has a pair of summer sandals that they’ve hardly worn, and old school shoes too. I’ve at least eight pairs good to go. I read the leaflet and little bells went off in my head. That happens when I discover something brilliant.
‘ShoeSHARE’ has been around since 2008. Clarks stores in the UK and Ireland use their shops as collection points and members of the public are invited to drop in unwanted shoes. The style and size or the shoes is unimportant, likewise, the condition. The oldest pair of runners can be sent in along with old wellington boots and slippers.
There is immense satisfaction to be found in donating shoes. For every tonne of shoes, Clarks make a financial contribution to the United Nations Children's Fund. Clarks recycle the shoes and UNICEF educates children in some of the most troubled countries on the planet. Over a million Euros has been raised to date. In the world today, there are in the region of 57 million primary school aged children deprived of an education.
For many children in poverty or war torn countries, they are getting an education thanks to ShoeSHARE. Through the scheme, UNICEF provides basics like pens and pencils giving children the right tools to learn. They also train teachers and work with governments to ensure the standard of education remains high and children are leaving school able to read and write.
Simply put, the more shoes Clarks collect, the more they donate. The more they donate, the more children in countries like Zambia, Ethiopia and the Philippines benefit. ‘Shoe Share’ is a great idea and like the best ideas in the world, is so simple. All it takes is a few moments of our time and a little de-cluttering.
So here is the plan, it’s like the ice bucket challenge but with footwear. Let’s make Kildare the county that bombards Clarks with shoes over the next few weeks. If I ask all my neighbours to donate just one pair, and ask everyone on Facebook to do the same, I could get in a hundred pairs of shoes with very little effort.
If everyone who donates a pair passes on the ShoeSHARE request to their neighbours and friends too, a lorry load of shoes could be heading to Clarks. Are you up for the challenge? I’m starting my campaign this week so Mrs X in Naas, you had better get ready.
I’m putting on my new shoes and heading to your house first. You will definitely see me coming.