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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Shoe Shopping in France with Frugal Son

He has a tiny budget and needs some new shoes. He's trying to shop French-style: more quality, less quantity. So far, he's just window shopped.

Wednesday January 18, 2012: Bref. J’ai fait du leche-vitrine.

Although in the US I normally detest shopping, I feel like in France it is a lot different. For one, most shopping in the US seems to involve going to some gargantuan mall and spending all day flitting from shop to faceless shop, invariably one of the many chains that is exactly the same and found all over the country. Plus, shopping in the US is about buying a LOT. In France, while there are of course the grands surfaces that are more or less like malls in the US, shopping seems to more focused on small businesses that specialize in a few things. Inevitably this makes the goods more expensive, but that leads me to the next reason that I find shopping in France bearable and even enjoyable. In France, buying stuff is more about finding a few high quality items that you are going to keep for a long time and wear over and over, instead of getting twenty junky items that you are going to chuck out next year so you can repeat the whole cycle. Of course there are the H&Ms and other chains where price and quantity trump quality, but I think that French people and French sensibilities still place a lot of value on having a few great, albeit cher, items bought with care and intended to last.

Today after school I decided to go walk downtown and do a little window shopping, or leche-vitrine, which literally means “window licking”. I have been ogling some desert boots à la Clarks for some time, so today I decided to finally go try some on. The walk from my school to Place de la Republique follows Rue Nationale, which is a very commercial street with tons of different stores for everything from clothing to honey (yes, there is a store that only sells honey and honey products) to kitchen supplies. On the way to Republique I decided to stop in a yarn shop to look at what they had for my new obsession—knitting (more on that in a later letter)—since I had just run out of my first ball of yarn. This leads me to another thing that I love about shopping in the little stores, which is that it is a very personal experience. The store was tiny—just a narrow room with floor to ceiling shelves stocked with all kinds and colors of yarn—and the only person in the store was the owner. We talked about yarn, and he told me about the various products he sold, and even though I didn’t buy anything I think he was happy just to talk to me about beginning knitting and, consequently, I am now much more likely to go back there to buy my yarn. He had tons of cool stuff (the store only sells one brand of yarn, Bergere de France, but running the gamut from 100% synthetic to 100% cashmere to alpaca / wool blends) and I can’t wait until I’m good enough to start using some of it.

After leaving the yarn store I kept walking down Rue Nationale, which turns into Rue Minimes just before joining Place de la Republique. Rue Minimes is really the street to do shopping in Le Mans; it’s where all the big stores are (H&M, Galleries Lafayette, Eram, etc) but it’s also where the fancier independent stores are. I first went into a little shoe store called Heyraud (might actually be part of a chain, I’m not sure) because that’s the only store I know of in Le Mans that has actual Clarks Desert Boots. I didn’t try them on because I didn’t have the nerve (the store was very empty and I felt out of place), but I did feel them and look at them to see how they felt in terms of quality since, at 119€, they are the most expensive of my options. After, I went across the street to Eram and went and looked at some of their Eram brand desert boots. I actually tried them on (they looked good!) but I’m not sure if the quality is as good, although at 59€ they are half the price of the Clarks. After Eram I went to Galleries Lafayette, and there I looked at, but didn’t try on, the Hush Puppies desert boots (89€, but I think that’s pre 30% discount) and the Lafayette brand desert boots (79€, but again, I think that’s before a 30% discount).

Of course, me being me, I’m incapable of making a decision for myself, so I’m going to wait until MK or someone can come with me to help me make a decision. All of the shoes look good, but I want a second opinion to back up my ideas on the quality. Right now I’m kind of leaning towards the Hush Puppies, but I’m still thinking pretty strongly of getting the Clarks. I figure if they are as good quality and last as long as these Johnston and Murphy’s loafers I have now then they are well worth the price. I also went upstairs to look at sport coats / jackets; unfortunately the only one I found that I liked cost…435€. After Lafayette I popped briefly into H&M just because I know they have some fitted khaki denim type pants that are stylish and that I like. While I was there I ran into Laine, Bernie, and Diptesh (all three are fellow assistants) so I hung out with them while they finished their shopping and then headed home. One day I’ll buy something stylish to complete my makeover!


Duchesse said...

It's funny that Son describes shopping as it used to be when I was growing up in the US. There were no malls, and downtowns with their small specialty shops had not been destroyed by them.

Both Le Duc and one son wear Clarks desert boots and like them very much.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--Those halcyon days! The Clarks are very au courant for the younger guys at the moment.

Victoria - Ozarks Crescent Mural said...

I loved this post! I enjoyed it so much. I think this just might be the best blog post I've ever read. What an interesting POV. I felt like I was actually there. The italics were wonderful. I've never wanted to move to Paris, but I do now.

Jane W. said...

You raised a son who shops for yarn? Well done!

Anonymous said...

I loved reading about his thought process. I have only ever owned one pair of Clarkes. They lasted me years and were well worth the investment.

Knitting, huh?