English teacher Ron Bell is quite the lover of shoes, his favorite being cowboy boots. And he’s especially proud that he always gets them at a fraction of the price.
Q: How many pairs of shoes do you have?
A: Well, at home I counted 34. This includes some “specialty” shoes like a pair of water shoes, Uggs (and) work boots. At my cabin I have a couple of pairs of old shoes I use when I’m working outside in the woods.
I (also) have a collection of vintage cowboy boots – I like to collect those for fun. And then I have lots of shoes that come and go. Every once in awhile a pair wears out, and I throw them away.
Q: When did you start your collection?
A: Probably more than 20 years ago, because I recently threw away a pair of shoes that I have had for 25 years. And they had really only just begun to wear out after that period of time because if you have lots of shoes, and you rotate them constantly, then they don’t wear out very fast.
I’ve probably always had this interest (in shoes). Shoes are a fun accessory – that’s basically why I collect them. There are certain kinds I like, like these wingtip kinds that I’m wearing right now.
Q: Why do you like shoes?
A: Well, I had a lot of trouble with my back, so I started paying a lot of attention to shoes in terms of “Were they comfortable?” and “Could I put a lift (more height) in them?”
I buy a lot of clothes in thrift stores. So you can go into thrift stores and look around. If you see an interesting or fun pair of shoes that are not worn, they generally cost only about $5 a pair.
Q: What’s your favorite type?
A: Cowboy boots, actually, because they come in a wide range of colors, stitch patterns, leather and so forth. They are a fun thing to wear, and I haven’t worn any to school in a long time.
But I just think they are fun to collect, and they kind of resonate with my background – you know, I come from Fresno, where there’s a large farming and ranching culture. My father was from Texas, so that would be (part of my background).
I think my second favorite would be these brogue or wingtipped shoes. I look for those when I go out and when I’m browsing around a thrift store or a clearance rack. I rarely pay full retail for something.
Q: What was the best deal you ever got?
A: I found a barely worn pair of very expensive dress shoes – we’re talking about the custom-made kind that can cost many hundreds of dollars – at a thrift store that was having a sale. Yes, a thrift store having a sale! I paid one dollar for them.
Q: How do you pick what shoes you wear?
A: Well, I kind of like to “violate” the normal protocol of shoes, if you know what I mean. Sometimes (I wear) dress shoes with casual clothes or boots with a suit. At school I wear all different kinds of shoes.
Q: What’s your favorite pair right now?
A: My favorite shoes, currently, are Skechers relaxed fit shoes: I have two pairs. They’re lightweight, which I like, and very comfortable.
Q: Do you have a favorite brand?
A: I like the Clark’s brand, which are very high quality, and I like the Skechers brand.
—By Spencer Scott