What is it about boots? I don’t covet any other footwear and never have. But shiny, black, tall, leather, brown, scuffed, parade, steel-capped, knee-high, sexy, utilitarian, macho, cutesy – boots in all their manifestations I lust after.
And yesterday I made two of the best boot purchases of my life. Daytons. The ones I could never afford but have wanted ever since I first saw them fifteen years ago in the showroom on Hastings Street. Oh yes.
My first pair of boots in my mid-teens was a cheap pair of Canadian military-issue parade boots. The kind that every nascent punk rocker wore because you could pick them up for 5 or 10 dollars a pair at the army surplus outfits. Easy to find in small sizes because they are used in the cadets by wanna-be military kids. Not particularly comfortable, you could shine them up all glossy – unlike the cheap drill boots that were easier to walk long distances in but always looked worn. For years I wore either drill or parade boots because they were accessible, cheap, and gave me the tough stompy-boot edge I was looking for in my brasher incarnation. What I really wanted was Doc Martens, but in the late 1980s there was no place to buy them in Victoria and besides that they were really expensive – $100 to $140 depending on how many “holes” they had (denoting the height of the boot).
They were, back then, the pinnacle of punk rock. Like the leather jacket and the multiply-pierced ear (or nose if you were daring) Docs were a symbol of toughness and quality. The Vibram sole in particular was the thing, you didn’t walk in those boots, you almost bounced. Or strutted might be a better way to describe the light-footed and cocky walk of the properly-decked out punk rocker. And they came in colours. Oxblood, green, blue, even pink – straight outta England to only a select few stores in the colonies. And they lasted forever.
At nineteen I acquired my first pair of these beauties – 14-hole oxbloods bought second hand from a friend for $40. The sole not quite so bouncy by the time I got them (they were probably five years old by then), I didn’t care. For they were a joy to lace up along my calves and comfortable to walk in. I realized later I was lucky to get a pair of these originals, for around the time I turned twenty Doc Marten construction had gone really downhill (likely due to outsourcing of the production), and both pairs of subsequent docs I owned (some shoes and 10-holes) were a disappointment in terms of quality and wear.
My next memorable boot purchase came in 1995 when I permanently moved to the big city. Flush with a student loan cheque I was determined to find myself a pair of tall, black and sexy in leather-form. And of course those had to be Fluevogs, because it was Vancouver after all. Disappoint they did not, as a back-to-school sale yielded a 22-hole pair of eyelet-laced black boots with a block heel and pointed toe. Paired with a short plaid skirt and a fitted black bustier, I went out to many a fetish party and club in my first months here – my cute but rowdy demeanor matching the outfit until I finally got tired of the act. The boots remained though and for the next three years I wore them every other day until a friend borrowed them and I let them go to her collection (she loved them and I was glad they went to a good home).
Since the late nineties I have not had much in the way of notable footwear. The last few years has seen the fashion resurgence of the tall, black, zippered boots which I have owned three pairs of (2 vinyl and 1 leather) all of which looked sexy as hell but none lasting more than two winter seasons. Serviceable for an outfit but not for daily wear. And last year I did purchase the best hiking boots of my life to which I wrote an ode here. Though as wondrous as they are, they have a single purpose and aren’t anything I could wear with any regularity.
During this fallow period of exciting footwear I have several times perused the Daytons store on Hastings Street and the website – knowing that while I was purchasing crap footwear the best boots ever were being cranked out of the factory only a few blocks from my home. But at three or four hundred dollars a pop, I couldn’t justify it. Yes, it is footwear that will last the rest of your life and is handmade in East Vancouver from the highest quality materials (hence the price) but really, the idea of shelling out that much at one time was too much for me to seriously contemplate.
Last week when Brian and I came back from Victoria we noticed green flyers announcing a sale at Daytons tacked up around the neighbourhood. Huh? Really? No way. Daytons rarely go on sale and even if they do have “boots for as low as $62” I’m sure I’d never find a pair in my size. I’m sure going up there will just be an exercise in futility and I’ll end up with a $400 set of footwear that I can’t justifiably afford right now. But I guess we should check it out. Yeah. Let’s just go see.
And yesterday, we did. While some of their regular boots were marked down to $100, the best deal by far was the $62 factory-seconds. That is, boots with a small flaw making them unfit for regular retail. For example – the black boots above (which retail for $320) are a size 5 but were built slightly smaller than the regular Daytons size 5. And the brown boots (which I bought for $99 but normally retail for $400) are missing some sort of inner-liner along the heel. The seconds generally come from the training of new employees who may turn out a few less-than-perfect pairs before getting the hang of boot-making as craft. Apparently these seconds really pile up in the factory warehouse and so as part of their birthday sale this year the company decided to sell them off at crazy-low prices. For $180 (including tax) I bought two pairs of boots that would normally have cost about $750. And although they are seconds, they still carry the lifetime guarantee which means that I can have them repaired, stretched or resoled at the Dayton’s factory in my neighbourhood when need be.
I could go on and on about my pleasure at this purchase. About how the boots are stiff and need to be broken in but I can tell already they will be my favourite footwear ever. And the price! Can you believe the price? But I won’t, because I’m sure you all know and you can see the photo above. By far the best quality I have ever owned, I am ridiculously excited for the inclement weather of fall so I can justify their wear. Oh yes. Beautiful new boots.
(And yes. The sale is on until next weekend.)