I might be a little over-dramatic in declaring these the last few warm days, but after a weekend that barely reached 45° (and offered plenty of boot-wearing opportunities), I feel pretty justified.
So this week, because it’s just a little too warm for my beloved boots, I’m making my daily rounds in my comfiest coziest flats.
The Root Collective sells accessories, jewelry, and shoes. The products are made by fairly-paid South American artisans, and 10% of each purchase is donated to one of three nonprofits working in the communities where those artisans live. The items are all handcrafted and made from ethically-sourced materials.
It’s easy to tell when products are made from good stuff: the colors stay truer, the stitches hold better. Ethically sourced materials are often higher quality simply because the manufacturers aren’t offering sacrifices to the gods of cheapness above all things, and this is often reflected in the price (as in, it goes up). But the Root Collective’s shoes (and its other wares), while hardly WalMart-level cheap, are all under $100—not always the easiest thing to find when shopping consciously. The flats, their uppers dyed striking contrasting colors, range in price from $79-$83. Their soles are sturdy black rubber, enough that I’ve worn mine through rainy days and down gravel roads without ever causing the soles noticeable wear. I do have a weird tendency to crunch down my heels, but the lining and uppers are thick enough that even this wearer-caused defect is not a problem.
I have to be honest: my first day wearing these, I was miserable and had to make an emergency stop at Walgreens for blister bandages. I almost gave up on these shoes right then; Overpriced hippie fodder, I remember thinking. But by day two, when I had regained my courage and I gingerly slipped my feet into them, the shoes felt pretty fully broken in. By now, several months later, they’re probably the most comfortable and least embarrassing flats in my closet, the ones I reach for when the scuff marks and worn-down heels on my other (cheaper) shoes are just too much to bear. They’re practically my sneakers, except I can wear them with dresses and skirts and jeans that don’t have holes, and I don’t have to wear socks with them (I hate wearing socks).
And the compliments. Lord, the compliments. You’d think nobody had ever seen bright teal shoes with chartreuse heels before. I’ve considered buying another pair just to boost my self-esteem. I can already picture passersby ogling the Mustard Diamonds and thinking, that girl has style. I bet she’s super fancy and charming and throws amazing dinner parties in her stylish apartment.
The most compelling thing about these shoes, though, was the little handwritten card they came with: These shoes were made by Otto. And, indeed, navigating to the Artisans section of the Root Collective website, one can spot Otto (he’s from Guatamela) and read about him. It’s the whole point of ethical fashion, narrowed down to six words: These shoes were made by Otto. Or, in more, other words, These shoes were made by a person. A person touched them and shaped them and made the pieces fit together, and that person has a name and a history and a home, and is not an anonymous faceless laborer whose identity is not allowed to corrupt the corporate standardization of every piece of cheap junk he produces, and who is considered disposable by his employers and, by his customers, never even considered at all. No. These shoes were made by Otto.
And Otto: I love these shoes.