Why the quest for the perfect shoes left me hollow and guilty

Why the quest for the perfect shoes left me hollow and guilty

We’re sharing this piece as part of our #GirlsTakeover initiative, in line with International Day of the Girl. 

I spent – and I kid you not – a good few weeks trying to find mules. What are mules you ask? Don’t worry, not a lot of people knew exactly what I was referring to on my quest. One person thought I was on the prowl for a literal donkey. But I’m not one to contribute to the spread of misinformation; a mule is actually the offspring of a horse and a donkey.

In this context, however, a mule is a closed-toe shoe that has no constraint on the back of your foot. It’s basically a glorified slipper that makes you look like you’d just woken up in Feudal Europe. Don’t get me wrong, its simplicity makes it very dainty and cute. But not a 3-week hunt type cute.

I really don’t know why I wanted them so badly. I might have seen them in a photo on Instagram once and developed a concerning fixation. I can’t be too sure though, the obsession remains untraceable. I had a look in mind that I ached to fulfil and, strangely enough, mules were the key.

I scoured vintage stores in an effort to shop as sustainably as possible. I found the perfect pair, but they turned out to be half a size too small. I found the perfect size but they just weren’t what I had in mind. I found the look I had in mind in the perfect size but they hurt. I grew more and more frustrated. How could a practically invisible shoe with no heel even pinch?


I try to shop sustainably where I can. I don’t believe that I am personally making a difference in the grand scheme of things but I do my part nevertheless. I’m honestly not sure whether I am abetting my own moral conscious by refusing to support fast-fashion brands but I think it’s important to at least be aware of the conditions under which they produce their goods.

Recently, multiple fast-fashion brands such as H&M and Zara have signed onto French president Emmanuel Macron’s “Fashion Pact”, a vague, to put it bluntly, goal to maintain sustainability in the fashion industry. Zara specifically announced that it would utilise, “recycled and organic fabrics”.

Zara’s reputation in accordance to labourers producing the fast-paced garments has been nothing but dicey. They’ve been accused for years of unpaid slave labour outsourced from developing countries. Kind of an ironic display of the two ends of the wealth spectrum considering Zara’s owner is the sixth wealthiest person in the world. And white. Not to be an on-brand university student, but Marx is literally quaking in his grave.

We hear these magic signifying words like recycled and sustainable and lay back in our sofas with a cup of tea thinking our moral compass has been levelled. Admittedly, it is a great marketing ploy disguised as action; it puts fashion-hungry consumers at ease whilst harnessing a positive reputation for its brand. While re-using fabrics is certainly one step in the right direction, we still have about 999 steps to go. Sustainability isn’t just about recycling your plastic water bottle, it’s also about the ethical treatment of human beings whose livelihoods are at the hands of rich corporations like Zara. To focus on one aspect, like organic garments, is to ignore the systematic failures of whom it has actually affected. So, I take it back. It actually isn’t one step forward in the name of sustainability. It actually reinforces the negative aspects that this so-called action attempts to ameliorate in the first place.

What does this have to do with my mules? I got so desperate that I ended up buying them from a brand like Zara. I simmered in my privilege and thought about who made this specific pair of shoes. To me, it was a quick and easy purchase. I could control the style and size to my liking and obtain it with one swipe of a card. To someone else, it could mean a missing meal, sleep deprivation, and a lack of security.

Take my advice, next time you’re on the look-out for mules just go ahead save your money. Or better yet, if you’re really aching to spend it, pledge the same amount you would use to buy the donkey slippers to a charitable cause. It might be an everyday nicety to you, but to someone else it might mean reinstating that aforementioned security.

And so, I sit my self-coveted shoes, that I wasted three weeks of my life hunting down, as I write this. The fact of the matter is, they aren’t even that great.

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