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[Listen to an audio version of this blog entry here.]

In my younger, more foolish and impressionable days when money was easier to come by, I had a tendency to impulsively buy clothes and footwear, then shortly afterwards realise I didn’t really like them.

Shoddy shoes: Finding quality yet reasonably priced footwear in Colombia can be a challenge.

So far, only the Westland boots (bottom) have stood the test of time.

Nowadays, I’m practically the complete opposite. The mere thought of having to go and buy clothes fills me with dread.

Cold feet
The fact that I currently don’t have a steady income and thus parting with cash for items that won’t necessarily give me any great satisfaction is just one reason for this. This does, all the same, fit nicely with what could be seen as my more mature approach to fast fashion in these environmentally conscious times. It’s cartoon style of sorts — same outfit, different episode.

Even if I was in a better financial position, I don’t think I’d feel more relaxed forking out for what are in today’s world effectively essentials — unless one ends up on the street or decides to live a largely solitary life, at one with nature.

A more significant reason for my current reluctance to buy new clothes, particularly footwear here in Colombia, is down to the abject quality of much of what’s on offer. This, together with the difficulty of finding a broad range of styles for my relatively large foot size (honestly!).

Granted, I haven’t ventured to the upper echelons of the pay scale and bought the well-known, made-in-China global brands in “reputable” stores. This is because I prefer to get these back in Europe.

‘While aesthetically pleasing, the shoes started falling apart at the seams and the sole after two months. A representation of many things in Colombia, one might say — all style, little substance.’

A trick of the mind it may be, but paying 60 euros for a pair of Adidas in Ireland seems fair while paying around 300,000 pesos for the same product in Bogotá seems extortionate, even if at today’s conversion rates it’s the same price, give or take a few pesos. In fairness, using minimum wage as a guide, it is extortionate. 300,000 pesos is almost a third of the monthly minimum wage here, with 60 euros in Ireland equivalent to about six hours’ work on a basic salary.

That being said, many of my friends have pointed me in the direction of ‘quality, cheap fakes’ or ‘decent and affordable Colombian or nondescript brands’. The results, however, have been far from satisfactory.

For example, somebody suggested Payless shoes — with a name like that, how could one go wrong? A pair of runners, or ‘tenis’ as the Colombians call them, I got there, while aesthetically pleasing, literally started falling apart at the seams and the sole after two months (a representation of many things in Colombia, one might say — all style, little substance). I had to send them to a cobbler’s for life-saving repairs.

Payless could do worse than to borrow the old slogan of a margarine brand: ‘I can’t believe they’re not quality shoes.’

Go Westland
I wasn’t expecting much from runners I bought at Éxito — a Colombian Tesco — at the beginning of this year but at 90,000 pesos I felt it was worth the gamble.

Not quite a success: This pair of runners (or sneakers, trainers, 'tenis', whatever you call them!) from Éxito fell apart after a couple of months.

Unsurprisingly, this Éxito pair didn’t last long.

Again, they held together for about two months before problems, um, kicked in. And again, to continue using them, the cobbler’s services were required. For repairs that cost 30,000 pesos, they functioned for another couple of months before the heels gave way. I somewhat stubbornly persisted with them but it got to the stage where it was nearly better to go barefoot than to wear them.

That’s because entangled in all this are the innocent socks. I’d be as well to invest in the hosiery industry if I were to buy stockings every time holes appear at the heels or on the underside predominantly due to this dodgy footgear. But I don’t. Thus, most of my current socks are “holier” than the communion of saints.

Having not been back to Ireland for over three years I haven’t had the chance to buy shoes in which I have confidence that they’ll be somewhat durable. Oh, how I miss those sturdy and versatile Adidas Chile that travelled the world with me, serving me well for years.

So my latest footwear foray is with a Colombian brand, Black Mountain. I bought two pairs for 200,000 pesos, with a four-month guarantee included. If I get four months out of them it will, of course, be an improvement on what’s gone before. One can only hope this isn’t yet another case of shoddy shoes.

I must say, it hasn’t been footwear failure forever here. In 2018 I bought a pair of Westland steel-toe-capped boots at a discount price of 150,000 pesos, a right bargain. Apparently, they had some minor production-line defect.

These seem pretty much indestructible and have, um, stood the test of time. However, they’re rather heavy and not the best to use if one is on a 10-kilometre-plus walk or dashing from here to there.

For now, it’s mostly Black Mountain that’s walking the walk with me. Will they stick the pace? Time shall tell.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.

Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan — The Blog & IQuiz “The Bogotá Pub Quiz”.

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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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