Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Had a Great Time Buying Man Shoes in China

A Nike store in Shanghai.
So recently I decided I need new tennis shoes. I wear size 9 in women's shoes, which is 41 for Chinese sizes. (Note: I am from a part of the US where we use "tennis shoes" and "sneakers" interchangeably. If you speak a slightly different dialect, please translate accordingly.)

The problem is, Chinese women have small feet. A size 41 women's shoe is unimaginable, seemingly impossible to find here. (At 5' 7", I'm taller than the vast majority of Chinese women and maybe half of Chinese men.)

Initially I didn't realize this. So I'm walking into shoe stores asking to try this or that shoe in size 41, and the employees are like, no we don't have that.

And another thing- nowadays, sneakers come in all kinds of awesome colors! Orange, yellow, purple, red, pink, etc. Is this a new phenomenon? I've only ever bought tennis shoes in boring colors like white. This is because I believed these 2 things: 1) it's socially required to wear shoes that correctly match one's outfit, and 2) I, Perfect Number, have zero ability to tell whether a given pair of shoes matches a given outfit. So I always just wore white and hoped I got it right.

But I don't believe that anymore- now I wear what I want. So I'm walking into stores like Adidas and picking up bright blue or bright purple shoes, and I'm excited! Until I find out, nope they don't have them in my size. (Seems like the highest they go in women's shoes is 39, which is 7.5 in the US, according to this chart.)

Anyway, for some reason, the first day I went out looking for shoes, I went into it with the assumption that because I'm a woman, I would be only looking at shoes which a store labels as being for women. That's an odd belief. They're tennis shoes. Is there any actual difference between what men and women (and non-binary people) need from a tennis shoe? Like, why did I even think that?

So I would ask if they have size 40, and they would say no. Then they would come up with a 39, or a size 40 of some other women's shoe that I really hate, and I would try them on and they would be totally not right.

That was the first day of shoe shopping. It didn't go well.

After this, I decided to quit fooling around on the outer limits of Chinese women's shoes and just shop in the men's section. WHICH MADE EVERYTHING BETTER. I'm size 41, and they always have all the men's shoes available in size 41.

But the colors are so boring.

Like I said, nowadays you can get sneakers in all kinds of fun colors. Well, it turns out the shoes with the most fun colors are all marked as women's shoes and therefore not available in size 41. So sad for men. And me.

In men's tennis shoes, pretty much every store had blue and black and some boring colors. Occasionally there would be some fun colors, but then again, maybe not.

I shopped around a lot. I went to all the big name-brand stores: Adidas, Nike, Sketchers, New Balance, Vans, Converse. I stuck with big name brands because I have very little experience buying shoes in China and I don't know if cheaper ones would be low quality. (Though I did happen across a tiny shop in some alley with piles and piles of fake name-brand shoes for 60 kuai or so- that's 10 US dollars. I didn't buy them. They seemed like they were about to fall apart.)

Anyway, here's how it pretty much went: I would walk into a store, go to the display which had less interesting colors (that was how I could tell it was men's), and see if I could find any in an acceptably awesome color. Then I would ask a store employee to go get me a pair in size 41 (they keep all the shoes in the back, you have to ask them for it). They would say, "this is a men's shoe." I would say "do you have any women's shoes in size 41?" They would say "no." I would say "okay give me the men's shoes." (This is all in Chinese by the way.) My "favorite" employees were the ones that were like "there's no way you could really need a size that big" and then I try it on and guess what, I really do need a size that big.

The shoes were all pretty expensive, around 600 or 700 kuai (about $100 or so). I spent several weeks considering whether I wanted to spend that much money on shoes. I thought about trying on shoes in a store, writing down the product number, and then searching for them online for cheaper. But the problem is, if you find them online for A LOT cheaper, then they're probably fake and not very high quality. So I decided the online route wasn't worth it.

ANYWAY, the point is, you guys look at my new shoes:

I bought them from New Balance for about 650 kuai and THEY ARE SO RED. I love them.

SO RED. I am like Dorothy. We are not in Kansas anymore.

And if you ask me "so are they men's shoes?" well, they are my shoes. I bought them and I am a woman. So does that answer your question?

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