Well Worn: Michelle’s John Fluevog designer shoes
Illustration: Erin McPhee
I hadn’t thought of these shoes in years. At the time, they seemed so precious, so adorable, the perfect way to hide what I believed were my ginormous feet. They were John Fluevogs in Mary Jane style. They were stiff black leather with red flowers embroidered on the top, such delicate, feminine little things—a modern twist on silk brocade. They reminded me of those cloth shoes you find in Chinatown but they came with a $200 price tag.
I had just finished university and was still living at home when I came upon them. At the time I made money tutoring rich exchange students. I focused on grammar, conversation and reading comprehension. And then I met “Mark,” who was living on his father’s dime. Mark found one of my handwritten, photocopied ads that I had posted all over campus advertising my tutoring services. He emailed and asked for help with his History 101 course. Whatever Mark had promised his parents before he boarded that plane, I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t to neglect his studies, party with other students, spend all day playing computer games, flunk history and pay someone else to write his essays. But that’s what he did.
Mark asked me to write a history essay for him. I noticed he never paid attention when I was tutoring him, preferring to answer phone calls and make plans with his friends instead. Eventually all this slacking off caught up to him as mid-term season rolled around.
I struggled with making a decision, anguishing for days over whether to write the essay or not. After consulting my business-savvy cousin and another ogling session at the shoe store, I decided to do it. I could’ve taught Mark to fish instead of reeling in the pike myself but he seemed determined not to learn anything.
My asking price was $180, twenty dollars less than the asking price of those John Fluevogs. It was as if this low-balling would salve over feelings of guilt. I worked hard for the cash, toiling for hours over the essay, a weekend spent at the university library even though I was no longer a student. History wasn’t my forte, so I had to brush up on my World War I facts. I had done enough writing in my own academic undergrad career to know that some essays weren’t about critical thinking at all, rather they were paper containers for dates, names and places. Still, before the convenience of Wikipedia, it meant that I would have to actually read through multiple books before distilling an entire war into five pages.
Even after I handed over the essay to Mark, I was plagued with anxiety and stress. I hadn’t guaranteed him a certain mark or percentage, but I feared his professor would know that I was the miscreant scribe. Mark didn’t seem to care and was happy submit something;in his mind, this was a fair trade for his father’s dollar bills and hours of video gaming.
After I bought the shoes a wave of euphoria and guilt washed over me. I did not escape unpunished for this deed. The shoes hurt like hell. Trying them on, I told myself I just needed to break them in but they ended up scraping up my feet and giving me blisters. I only wore them a handful of times before I finally threw in the towel. Today, they live in my parents’ closet, gathering dust, the formerly shiny leather and exquisite embroidery dulling over time. When I first brought them home, my mom asked me how much they were. I lied and told them they were about 140 percent cheaper than they actually were. Even at that fake sale price, she said they weren’t worth it.
Michelle Kay is a writer and editor in Toronto. She is the former Features Editor for Shameless. Nowadays she considers fashion and comfort when making shoe choices. Find her on Twitter @yo_mk.