I believe it was Henry David Thoreau who first assembled two of the same verbs and separated them by commas and a conclusive exclamation point to make an untrammeled point with the conviction of a snowball that is New York City bound: “Simplify, simplify!”
Today, I borrow this template. But my remark is imbued with the implications of how integral customization has become to the human experience.
I was at a mandatory assembly in high school the first time it occurred to me. The principle of my school, a rabbi, started to speak. “iPod, iMac, i This, i That,” he said in that inflection indigenous to religious Jewish men. “We’re becoming too invested in appeasing just ourselves.”
I understood that his ultimate point was to stand against the paradigm’s highly selfish changing trajectory and harken back to one of the most salient totems of Judaism: love thy neighbor as you love thyself (presumably as opposed to as you love your iPod) but the deduction I left with was quite simply: customize, customize.
It was the future of commerce.
The most valuable things we were coming to own were those that we could manipulate to reflect who we were, loading iPods with music that appealed only to our auditory senses, and iMacs with files which were important for us but likely irrelevant for everyone else. Then there came the iPhone and the iPad and the…“i This and i That,” altruism be damned!, and now, here come the shoes, which, if you think about it, make perfect sense.
We have proved ourselves as a culture ruled by the pursuit of that which is limited edition or exclusive or on the brink of selling out perennially, and why? Because we want to be commended for our individualism. To separate ourselves. To feel customized, like we’ve tailor-made tangible experiences that apply only to ourselves.
This is where Stuart Weitzman (the shoemaker, not the Jewish version of the literary mouse) comes in.
Last week, the brand launched a shoe-customization program titled SWxYOU. It will run until March 14th and allows participants to put their stamp of individualism on a classic single strap sandal called The Nudist in a selection of twelve different colors that after the 14th will no longer be available for consumption. The process is incredibly simple in that you select your heel height (four and half inches or two and three quarters — the world is your oyster and you are its faceted pearl) and then your limited edition color. After that, you pick your size, your width and depending on how you’re feeling, either check out or continue shopping.
They say you shouldn’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes but who’s to say a pair of shoes actually belongs to anyone if they haven’t been tailor-made? Especially with a silhouette so unassuming you’re effectively entitled to wear as many patterns as you’d like, the least you can do is really — and I mean really — make the shoes your own.