Let’s blame a man with a microphone. It was the annual Nordstrom shoe sale. Complete with open boxes on the floor, empty display cases, and cut price footwear. The man with a microphone directed traffic. I usually hate sales. Too noisy, too much visual clutter, too much pressure to Buy Now.
But I had been thinking about buying a pair of oxfords, having seen them in New York, and in magazines. To say nothing of feeling the breath of fall under the full heat of summer.
So I bought these.
And cringed. The Steve Madden brand is not one I am proud to own. And any time I feel shame in purchases, I have to deconstruct. What is it about Steve Madden?
First of all, actual Steve is a crook. He went to jail for fraud and was removed from his company. That puts him somewhere between Bernie Madoff and Martha Stewart. But that is not enough, by itself, for brand shame. Greed in America often takes entrepreneurs off the Calvinist track.
[This] cost him about eight million dollars and control of the very company that brought him such riches. Madden was sentenced in 2002 to 41 months in prison for his role in a stock swindle scheme coordinated by the now-closed brokerage, Stratton Oakmont. His wrongdoings include conspiring to manipulate the stock prices of more than 20 companies, including his own. And, he did it at the expense not only of the public but his own investors who lost more than 100 million. (LegalZoom)
The answer to my shame can be found front and center on Madden’s brand management website.
Madden has innate sense of what’s hot, what’s next, what’s exciting and more importantly, how this will translate to his consumer. [GRI]
There you go. The company targets strivers. Unabashedly markets to happy wannabees. Actually wants to be trendy. High WASP are mortified to show any signs of trying. Any at all. We prefer to at least pretend we do not care. That we are not trendy. Au courant, perhaps. Fashion forward, rarely. Trendy, never.
It’s not that we want to buy brands that show our wealth. The opposite. I suffered a veritable crisis when I bought a Louis Vuitton bag. I could only do so because the Monogram Vernis line renders that ubiquitous logo nearly invisible. Nor do High WASPs shun discount stores. Target is our friend. Merona makes fantastic tee shirts, in both fit and price.
But we don’t want to strive. We were supposed to have finished striving in 1892. Steve, clearly, is not targeting me or my ilk. I am fascinated by his clarity of vision, and shaking my head once again at the power of well-executed branding. Brand well, and you will attract your target consumer, alienate others. Design good products at a good price, and even those you alienate with your brand may purchase your stuff.
The brogues, on the other hand, I liked very much. Soft distressed leather. Nice detail. Comfortable. Interesting color that works well with khakis. One cannot, after all, wear nothing but black on the feet forever. The only issue I have is the synthetic sole, preferring the texture, sound and sensation of leather. Of course, to prevent wear I always have to get the shoe repair place to cover them with rubber, but that is beside the point. Uhuh, it is so.
Finally, Steve prices for value. The brogues cost less than $70.00. To a woman who has sworn by Ferragamo all her life, and confesses to having regarded Stuart Weitzman as down market, $70.00 is a remarkable price for a pair of shoes.
Let’s face facts. My family fortune has faded. I need to keep building up a decent casual wardrobe for what appears more and more likely to be my imminent retirement. I am a Sturdy Gal who hates high heels. All signs pointed to one and only one conclusion.
It would have been dumb not to buy these. Dumb, and a symptom of the High WASP snobbery I struggle to resist. I liked the shoes. I could afford the shoes. I bought the shoes. Some of us grow both by indulging in slightly vulgar dreams of Louis Vuitton and by coming to terms with a reality of Steve Madden brogues.
And lest you think I am virtuous, it has occurred to me that no one will know they are Steve Madden unless I tell the Internet.
Shoes: Steve Madden “Trouser” from Nordstrom