We’re having some wonderful winter rain showers here in Tucson. While I hate driving around and doing errands in the rain, on some level the rain is always a welcome sight. Not only do we need it here in the desert, but good soakings in the winter usually means spring flowers. All good.
So David and I got home this morning, unpacked groceries, got the holiday goodies out of the car trunk and plopped down on our kitchen chairs to chill. That’s when I snapped this photo of our “vegan” feet (I’m the boots; he’s the Crocs!).
Shopping for animal-friendly footwear has been an interesting experience. Since Tucson is hardly the fashion capital of the world, we are more or less limited to finding “unintentional” vegan shoes, or those that are wholly man-made for reasons that have nothing to do with animal welfare. The “intentional” brands come from manufacturers who are promoting animal-friendly products. The more stylish and higher quality ones are around, but they are pricey and (for us) only available online. Moo Shoes (website here) is one such retailer in New York and Los Angeles. In general, selection is limited, and never mind trying to buy shoes without trying them on first. Not likely to be too successful for me.
So back to the unintentional vegan shoes. I figured I’d check out DSW because I found my Big Buddha bag there, and the selection is crazy. My rule of thumb is that the cheaper the shoe, the less likely it is to contain leather. So off I went to peruse the least expensive options at DSW. In order to not drive myself completely crazy I decided to focus on just boots and/or clogs to replace my ancient (and leather) pair of Borns.
In the store I only found one really cute line, Bernie Mev, that looked “vegan” to me. Have you ever seen these?
These Bernie Mevs are actually made of elasticized material and memory foam, and a quick check on my phone indicated (through bloggers) that they are “vegan”, although there’s no indication on the shoes or box that they are. I couldn’t help but wonder if manufacturers of non-leather shoes specifically avoid labeling them as “vegan” even if they contain no animal products. Stranger things have happened in the marketing world, and I imagine that a company’s market research would indicate how specific labels would positively or negatively impact sales. In the end, I was left feeling unsure about this brand, but it was a moot point because they didn’t fit me anyway. I didn’t do any better with the boots. Leather, leather everywhere. While I didn’t buy anything at DSW, I did become adept at finding and reading labels.
David had better luck, and happily left DSW with his Crocs and another pair of canvas sneakers. Is shopping ever not simpler for the guys?
I decided that I had to downgrade some to find a selection of boots and shoes without any leather, so I went to Payless, and that’s where I found the boots from the photo. They are neutral, comfortable and no leather:
Since I live in a warm weather climate I don’t worry about warmth or durability so these will work.
But these shoes are not without their problems for me, ethically. I really don’t like “fast fashion” and I’ve tried to minimize my support of this industry both by making my own clothes and scaling way back on my trips to the mall. I doubt I’d be too happy to know about the working conditions of the people in China who made these shoes. Nor am I happy about the manufacturing that is outsourced so that I can wear really inexpensive boots. I’d rather pay up for an intentionally-made pair of vegan boots manufactured in the USA. For now though, I have few options, so I will live with the fast fashion boots. I just couldn’t get comfortable with being a walking advertisement (literally!) for the leather industry.
In my vegan life I’m lucky that I haven’t been forced to compromise diet-wise, and I would not willingly do so at this point. I take some comfort in knowing that it is the demand for meat and dairy that drives the factory farming production. Companies will likely stop using the animal by-products if and when the supply of such by-products goes down and the prices correspondingly go up.
One step at a time.