Functional Shoes

Tuesday, August 24 2004

I walked into a downtown Portland skateshop this Saturday with the intent to buy some new shoes. On a single pillar display in the shop were about four pairs of Vans, with no other shoes in sight. The guy behind the counter was in the trance of a skate video on an overhead monitor, and uttered the most profound stupidity I’ve ever heard in response to “Are these your only shoes?”.

“Yeah, we only carry functional shoes.”

“You don’t carry Etnies, or eS, or anything else?”

“No, we’re into, you know, what works. If you want fashionable shoes, you can go over to this place a few blocks that way called The Outdoor Store.”

I smelled a rat instantly. This guy was feeding me a line of crap. The true story was more than likely that because The Outdoor Store had a relationship with a major distributor of skateboard goods, this little shop wasn’t able to get anything but the cheapest and most short lived shoe in the business, shoes that last about a month with regular skating – Vans. Distributors are super picky about keeping their goods in a single, tried and true shop. So I bit back.

“Ah, so that’s why you only have Vans. You’re in the shadow of The Outdoor Store when it comes to being able to get product.”

“No man, we just stick to functional shoes. We don’t do all the fashionable, latest trend shoes. The shoes work. They might not have all the latest gizmos and bullsh*t, but they stay on your feet.” (getting a bit worked up)

“Not even Kostens? I’ve been wearing Kostens for years now. They’re one of, if not the most popular skate shoe ever, and have been super functional every time I’ve purchased them. There’s no gizmos or anything. These have lasted a year, with me skating on them nearly every other day” as I lifted my foot up so he could.

With that, he was silent. He lost me forever that morning. It’s one thing to be honest and say “man, distributors are hard on us, maybe we can special order or something”, but it’s another to lie and insult someone standing in your store with a fist full of cash, ready to give you the high profit margins you desperately need to maintain a downtown, first floor store front.

I met back up with my Mom who was at Saturday Market, and we walked back to the car. On the way there, we saw The Outdoor Store, and went inside. It turns out I have yet another reason to never set foot in Cal Skate again – the only footwear The Outdoor Store sells are cowboy boots.