On a recent trip, my partner was poking fun at me as we were wandering the streets of Montréal when he asked “Don’t you need to look for shoes?” Of course, he was partly right in that no trip to Montréal is complete without at least a peek in some of the fine shoe stores. However, do I need shoes is another matter entirely.
In practical terms, I probably have enough shoes to last me this lifetime, and perhaps the next one too, yet the hunt never really seems to be over. Why?…
Deprivation! Shoes are hard to find when you have size 6 feet!
While I don’t want to point fingers, it is clear that I drew the short straw, genetically speaking, from one side of the family more than the other, but that’s life. Other than cholesterol issues, my genetics are generally pointing to a very long life ahead, so if living with size 6 feet is the price I have to pay, I will take it.
Just to give you some context, for men in North America, size 6 is the no-man’s-land of shoe sizes: it is at the very bottom of the men’s sizes and at the top end of the boys’ sizes, but size 6 is often overlooked by men’s product lines. So for fashionable footwear options, I have generally needed to find the smallest fitting 7 I could find and compensate for the remaining space by using thicker socks, orthotics or extra insoles, or a combination thereof. This is far from ideal.
It is not a big thing, but in my adult life, I have never said “too tight” when trying on shoes, as “too big” or “too wide” are the norm. Some seasons, it is downright depressing when nothing fits properly.
The only ones who really get it are my friends with wide feet or my tall friends at the opposite end of the spectrum where size 14 onwards starts getting increasingly rare.
By some coincidence, I was at a New Year’s party a few years back where I met two other fellows, similar heights and builds, and I don’t know how we got on the topic, but the three of us chatted what seemed like hours over the size 6 situation. In any case, it wasn’t a short conversation.
However it’s not all doom and gloom. From time to time, I do run into the occasional miracle when I find a store that carries brands and designers that make a US size 6 or a European size 39. When I find those, I instantly become a regular, checking out their mix of classic and trendy styles and purchasing fashionable pieces that complement my wardrobe. That is, until something catastrophic happens like they stop carrying the brand, the sizing scheme changes, or the store gets bought out by another store that doesn’t “get it”… probably run by men who wear size 10… the bastards!
When I do find those rare 6’s and can wear them with just a dress sock, unassisted by extra insoles or thicker socks, those shoes get the best care a shoe ever saw, in a desperate effort to prolong their life as long as they remain stylish and that they co-ordinate with the wardrobe.
But that is where the sense of deprivation comes in. For every 25 pairs of cool styles produced in size 9, I might have 1 pair. As such, “sole searching” becomes a more labour-intensive and time-consuming process for guys in the size 6 range, especially if that 1 pair to choose from isn’t really in their style.
While some might say that an awful lot of room in my closet is allocated to shoes (tip of the hat to Céline Dion and Mariah Carey), the fact is that maybe only half get worn regularly while the remainder are some kind of experiment with a size 7 requiring some sort of filler to make them fit. But as I find true-fitting 6’s, those 7’s are getting phased out and donated. Now, when a salesperson encourages more insoles in their desperation to make a sale, I just give them the evil eye.
Size 6 is out there.. I just have to look harder!
I would like to take a moment to recognize and offer a big thank you to some of the fine stores and designers who make the effort to incorporate men’s size US 6/EUR 39 in their product lines:
Keep up the good work! I’ll be back… shoe shopping… again!