Shoe Shopping

I went with the significant other last weekend while she bought shoes. And realized that the way girls buy shoes is completely different from boys’ decision process. Yeah, I know you’ll be thinking I’m just stating the obvious, and I might be doing that. And again, this post is based on two data points – myself and the significant other. I conveniently extrapolate.

Fundamental theorem of shoes: The number of pairs of shoes a boy owns is small compared to the number of pairs of shoes a girl of the similar age/socio-economic stratum owns.

I don’t think I need to give any explanation for that. The rest of this post is a corollary.

Corollary 1: The amount of time a boy spends in buying one pair of shoes is significantly larger than the corresponding amount of time a girl spends.

Yeah, this might sound counterintuitive, which is why I’m writing this post. So I think there are several reasons for this, but they all follow from the fundamental theorem of shoes
1. If you have one pair of shoes of a certain kind, you can’t afford to make a mistake buying them. You need to go through a careful decision process, evaluating various pros and cons, before deciding on your perfect shoe.
2. Boys’ shoes need to multitask. For example, you will wear the same pair of black leather shoes to office, and to that random wedding reception. The same sneakers you wear to play football might be worn for a casual evening out. So each pair of shoes needs to serve several different purposes, so the search space comes down accordingly
3. The cost of going wrong is too high – if you have a policy to own a limited number of shoes, and you buy an ill-fitting shoe, you have to live with that (or throw with extreme guilt) for a very long time. ┬áThis happened with my earlier pair of sneakers, with the unintended consequence that I went to the gym much less often than I’d planned to
4. The amount of time a boy spends in a particular shoe is much more than the amount of time a girl spends in a particular shoe. So it is important for boys that each and every shoe is absolutely comfortable and fits perfectly. Again increases search time.

Recently when I had to buy a pair of formal shoes for my engagement I drove Priyanka mad with the amount of time I took to decide. I visited several shops, tried out lots of shoes, walked around, walked out, visited more shops and so forth. And all this after I had decided I wanted a pair of brown shoes without laces.

Corollary 2: The average cost of a boy’s shoe “wardrobe” is comparable to the average cost of a girl’s shoe “wardrobe”

Yeah, unintuitive again I guess. But backed up by data. My shoes, on average, cost well over a thousand rupees. Priyanka’s shoes, on average, cost well under that. It’s a vicious cycle, and I don’t know where it starts. I want my shoes to last longer, so I want to buy shoes of better quality, so I end up spending more on them. Or it could be like I wanted my shoes to last longer precisely because they are expensive. But I’ll stick my neck out and say that all this stems from the fundamental decision of not wanting to wear too many pairs of shoes.

For a girl, the cost of going wrong with a shoe purchase is low, given the frequency with which she wears a particular shoe. Also her shoes don’t multitask, so she can afford to have a few pairs which are not exactly perfect fits, as long as they serve the purpose. She has this urge to shop for shoes, and with her monthly budget in mind she is naturally conditioned to not splurge on them.

So I was kinda horrified (not exactly, since this had happened a couple of times before) last weekend when Priyanka walked into a shop, picked up a pair of chappals from the shelf, dropped them to the floor, stepped into them for a few seconds and decided to buy them. They didn’t cost too much, so I guess the cost of going wrong was small, but I would’ve never done something like that.

FabIndia Koramangala

There are very few clothing stores that I can say I’m in love with. There are very few stores where I feel like buying a large proportion of merchandise on display whenever I visit it. There are very few stores where just the atmosphere makes you buy much more than you had planned to. And it’s a pity that on two of my visits to the store, I bought nothing.

I haven’t been to too many FabIndia stores outside Bangalore (only a handful of stores in Gurgaon and maybe one in Delhi) but having shopped a few times at the FabIndia store in Koramangala, I feel distinctly underwhelmed whenever i go to any other outlet. Having been several times to this beautifully designed house, I find FabIndia outlets housed in less spectacular buildings sad. Of course there have been times (including two days ago) when I’ve shopped at other outlets but the experience simply doesn’t come close.

The first time I went to the store was some four or five years back when Anuroop wanted to check out kurtas. I think we went there on Bunty’s recommendation but I remember that I hadn’t bought anything. I had quickly made amends for it a couple of months later when I bought a couple of shirts, and then a year later when I bought a dozen shirts at one go!

The only other time I went there without purchasing anything was yesterday morning, when I was visiting the store after a gap of some two or three years. The first thought was one of guilt – of having shopped in a less spectacular Fabindia store (the one at Kathriguppe) just the previous night, and then as I got over it I got overwhelmed with the variety on display. I suddenly got afraid that I might over-spend and made a dash for the exit.

I wasn’t gone for too long, though, as I returned in the evening with Priyanka, and this time we discovered something even more spectacular – something that I had completely missed during my hajaar earlier visits – the store cafe. The brownie was decent, and the coffee was just about ok, but that didn’t matter one bit. Once again, it was the atmosphere at play, and that the coffee shop had in plenty.

It’s something like a small arena. If you can perform some visual art (say a play or a dance) in a five feet square area, this is just the place for you! All around the 5×5 “well” (which is full of pebbles) are stone benches, at different levels. Cushions have been placed on some arbitrary benches, and we understood that that’s where it was supposed to sit. There wsa some music that I didn’t quite recognized but was quite pleasant, and the wooden trays in which the waiter brought our coffees were also beautiful – I might have bought something like that from the store had I been in a spendthrift mood yesterday!

If you are in Bangalore and are interested in cotton clothes you should definitely check out this store sometime. It’s in Koramangala, in the extension of the intermediate ring road. Make sure you go there leisurely, for there is plenty to see and buy (the inventory is about six times as much as that of an “ordinary” FabIndia store). And while you are there, do visit the cafe and lounge around there for a while. And think about Priyanka and me while you are there.