Saturday, June 2, 2012

Expensive Shoe Phones

Sneakers is a 1992 film starring Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, Mary McDonnell, River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier and David Strathairn. Early in the movie there is a great scene that stuck with me since 1992.  

Two scary looking guys walk into the office, looking for Robert Redford’s character. The receptionist sneaks into the back and she looks worried.  She says “there are two guys out front and they asked for you - by name. They knew your real name”.

Redford pauses a few seconds, then asks: “Suits?” Receptionist: “yes”.
< he meant........are these guys wearing suits? >

Redford: “shoes?”  Receptionist: “expensive”.
< he meant..........are they wearing expensive shoes, or regular shoes? >

Expensive shoes. Why did Redford’s character ask about her about the shoes, and why did the Receptionist know what he was getting at, and why did she know that the right answer was to say “expensive” or “not expensive” to her boss with the secret identity? That dialogue between the characters was very short, but it was very deep, and I caught it. 


You can fake many things. You can wear a fake Rolex or wear fake designer clothes.  You can lease an expensive car, the same make and model car that you could never afford to outright purchase.  You can rent things, borrow things, you can use things that can make you look better or make you look more successful than you really are.

Unless you are bowling, you don’t rent your shoes.

If a man is wearing expensive shoes then he is a person of means; he is definitely not a chump. Men do not rent nor do they borrow shoes.

Some people believe that the more expensive a pair of shoes, the better it must be. But are expensive or designer shoes worth the extra money? There are several factors that contribute to the price of a pair of shoes. The materials used plays a big role in the final price of any product. Specialty leathers and exotic skins are far more expensive than a basic black leather. But there are other, less tangible factors in pricing as well.

Creating a quality and comfortable shoe takes research, time and effort -- and manufacturing costs and methods can vary greatly. Some popular brands use hand-crafting techniques that are paid for every time a pair of shoes is made, instead of using underpaid labor or machines that are paid off after the first few lines are released.

And the concept for many people to wrap their heads around is that talent costs money. Quality costs money. When you see an expensive pair of shoes, there's a talented designer behind them. Their time, creativity, and ability to create a unique design is as billable as an accountant's skill with taxes.

Now, a $100 pair of shoes will protect your feet. They will keep your feet safe when walking the streets of NYC, and they will probably look “OK”. But you can just tell a $100 pair of shoes from a  pair that costs $500 or more - it sticks out from across the room. Expensive shoes will always be associated with the word “Success”.

Do iPads work better than any other brand of (less expensive) tablet PC?  
Do iPhones work better than smartphones by any other (less expensive) brand?
Does a luxury SUV truly run better than a similar SUV that costs $20,000 less?  

Cheap shoes are made by machines; the really expensive shoes are made by hand (just like how really expensive cars are made by hand). It is all about the craftsmanship, the experience, the knowledge, and the quality. Can you not see in your mind’s eye, a craftsman making a $1000 pair of men’s shoes? And if everything is not just right, that same craftsman will throw away the shoe and start over.

When shoes were invented, they served a very specific purpose. When Og the Caveman ran away from the "saber-toothed tiger" he ran faster with shoes on his feet than when running barefoot.  Style (or expense) had little to do with the invention of shoes. It was all about helping Og to run faster on rocks, sticks and stones. When you buy technology are you buying a tool, or are you buying a status symbol?

You can buy 10 pairs of $100 shoes for the cost of one pair of Bruno Magli shoes. You could wear a different pair of $100 shoes every day for 10 days vs. wearing the same single pair of Bruno Magli shoes, every day. The Bruno Magli shoes will wear out. The other shoes are only worn 1/10th of the time, each individual shoe will therefore last longer. Buying ten pairs of $100 shoes makes more sense. Unless of course, you are trying to look successful.

I think that in business, we need to rethink how we spend our money (on everything) especially how we spend our hard earned, after-tax money on technologyAre we paying good money for the right tool for task at hand? Or are we more concerned about how the technology that we purchase will “make us look” in the eyes of others? 

With that being said, I wonder if Bruno Magli makes flip-flops in my size.....

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