I try to stay away from controversial topics, but sometimes I just have to vent. Today I may offend a significant portion of my readers, but someone has to do something about the size 6-1/2 shoe crisis, and if not me, then who?
Okay, I’ll admit I’m a freak of nature. I’m barely under six feet tall and have size six and a half shoes. Yes, that’s USA men’s size 6.5. I’ve never met another man or boy my height, or even close, who has feet anywhere near that small. The only guy of more or less normal size (at least two inches shorter than me, though) who had smaller feet that I ever met had a birth defect and was missing his toes and some fingers. So I’m going to be hard to fit, but unlike that guy, my feet are more or less normal in shape.
Think about it. Every man who has feet larger than my size at one point in his life had the same size feet I have. (A mathematician can prove that to you using terms like continuous curve and derivative.) That’s pretty much everybody, at least in jumbo-size America. So that must mean that there is a huge market for shoes that size and stores everywhere carry them, right?
Wrong! Stores never carry them. I can shop for shoes for months or even years without finding any I can wear. Suppose I’m looking for a pair of dress shoes. I wore a lot of those when I was in the FBI and when I was a lawyer. My encounter at a high-end shoe store would typically go like this:
Me: Hi. I'm looking for a pair of dress shoes.
Salesman: Here, let me show you our styles. They're all on display right over here.
Me: Yes, I've looked at them. Almost any of these (pointing) would be fine, but I have hard-to-fit feet. Why don't you just tell me what you have in size six and a half.
Salesman: (Awkward pause) Hmm, certainly. Let me just go take a look in back. (Ten minutes pass) I'm sorry, but we don't seem to have anything in stock right now. Here's the smallest ones we have of these models. (Displays two pair, both size seven and a half).
Me: No, I'm sorry, those are too big. I might try a size seven if you had a pair, but a full size too big won't work. Some sevens work, some don't.
Salesman: Maybe your feet have grown. As people age, their feet flatten out. Let me measure your feet. (Measures my feet). Hmm, six and half. Well, if you can wear a size seven, I'm sure I can special order some for you.
Me: Will I have to pay for them even if they don't fit? And how long will it take to get them?
Salesman: Yes you will. We can't return them. Maybe six weeks.
Me: Then I won't do that. Do you have catalogs? Can you look to see if there are any shoe models in men's six and a half?
Salesman: (takes fifteen minutes hauling out and looking through huge, hernia-inducing printed catalogs). Okay, here, I've found a pair. It's by Nunn-Bush and looks very professional. You'll like them.
Me: Okay, I'll special order them in size six and a half. (I give my name and number and he writes this up and promises to call me in a few weeks when they come in. After three months I call the store and ask if my order came in. That salesman no longer works there. I explain the situation to the guy on the phone and he tells me that order was put in but the company said they don't make shoes that small any longer. The smallest they makes now is seven and a half. He says they were going to call me but the guy who had my number quit.)
I’ve been through that scenario several times with different stores and different shoe manufacturers. None of them have the small sizes they show in their catalogs and websites, and almost none of them even pretend to make anything below seven and a half. I’ve even tried ordering size sevens and the same thing happened. It still happens when I order online directly from manufacturers. Now suppose I try a department store next. That always goes like this.
Me: Hi. I'm looking for some dress shoes in size six and a half.
Clerk: We don't carry anything under a seven and a half. Try the Boys' department.
Me: They never have anything over six.
Clerk: (shrugs). Can't help you then.
Me: (I go to the Boy's department anyway, hope triumphing over experience). Hi, I'm looking for a dress shoe in size six and a half.
Clerk: We don't carry anything over size six. Try the Men's Department.
Me: I just did. They don' t have anything that small.
Clerk: (shrugs) Hmm, well all we have are these Buster Browns in size six. You can try them on.
Me: (I try on cheapie shoes intended to be outgrown in six months). Ouch! No chance.
Clerk: (shrugs again). Can't help you then.
Somehow I managed to stay shod in professional-enough-looking shoes throughout my FBI and legal career. One pair I remember, size sevens, Sears actually had on the shelf. One big and tall and extra small store had one pair of size six and a half dress shoes in stock. They were brown (I was looking for black), had pointy Italian toes, were ugly as sin, and wouldn’t fit because they were too tight on my instep. I have a very high instep. Remember, I said I have more or less normal shaped feet, not completely normal. Most of the dress shoes I had I bought back in the 1960s or 70s when people weren’t so huge. There were enough small guys that some stores would carry size six and half. Sometimes I would find something, usually a casual shoe like desert boots, in my size. I could get away with those if I wore a sport coat instead of a suit. Whatever I found I would get resoled forever.
Now that I’m retired I wear casual shoes almost exclusively. I can’t find men’s running shoes or hiking boots in my size either, but I can buy women’s size eight and a half for those. You can’t tell the difference as long as I don’t choose the pink ones. There are even a few men’s shoes in my size: Converse All-Stars (Chuck Taylors), Clark’s Desert Boots, and Merrell suedes. I keep one pair of black dress shoes, the old Sears ones, I think, for the day one of my kids gets married.
I think the federal government should begin an investigation into the shoe-manufacturers’ conspiracy to deprive the pedically challenged of proper footwear. And don’t get me started about socks. You know what sizes those come in? Only two: 6 – 10 or 7 – 12, depending on the manufacturer. You’ve got to be kidding me! That’s like a bra manufacturer offering one size that fits everyone from 30A to 42DD.
If you ever see someone limping along in a charcoal gray suit and tiny brown Italian pointy-toed shoes with sock heels hanging out over the backs, that’s probably me on my way to a job interview.
Do you have the same problem? Feedback welcome here. Any other guy with my size feet, I’d love to hear your story. Contact me through this form.