Much unlike many a magazine editor who recommends you buy all sorts of crap that they most likely got for free, your Jezebel staff doesn't get jack shit (other than books, unsolicited). And that's how it should be. But on our own time, in our personal lives, we still buy stuff. So this is Worth It, our recommendation of random things that we've actually spent our own money on. These are the things we buy regularly or really like, things we'd actually tell our friends about. And now we're telling you.
I spend a lot of my life in flats. And it's been a much happier life since I found Salvatore Ferragamos.
Back in 2006, I was a college student in a small Midwestern town working two different minimum-wage jobs. I had just discovered eBay — that great online marketplace where one can find half a 6 oz top-grain cowhide, a vintage dress pattern, and a pair of Victorian paste earrings all in a day's searching — and had recently become very excited by its potential application as a shoe source. All the gorgeous designer shoes I was curious about, but could no more have located at a brick-and-mortar retailer in Iowa City than I could have in my native Christchurch, New Zealand, were on eBay — and many of them had, helpfully enough, been previously bought from department stores by women who then lost interest in them. Designer goods are just like automobiles: about a third of their putative retail value evaporates the moment they roll off the lot (or out of the store). "Worn twice but decided too tight after all," went the eBay product descriptions. "Barneys won't take the return. My loss is your gain." I could ill comprehend such profligacy — who were these women and how were they so rich that they could afford to drop $400 on shoes and just eat the loss? But I could certainly profit from it.
That spring, I bought a pair of cap-toe Ferragamo flats in a shade of beige that matched my pale legs. They were $36 and as signs of wear go, their soles bore but the merest of scratches. They retailed new for over $300. I wore them for years — to my first job interviews, to castings, to parties — and in fact I still wear them from time to time. Soon followed a pair of Ferragamo loafers ($9.99), a reptile-embossed Cordovan pair with Ferragamo bows on the toe ($26), more Ferragamo loafers ($15.50), brown leather Ferragamo T-strap sandals ($19.99), more reptile-embossed Ferragamo bow shoes in a color the seller described as "Papaya" ($32), black tasseled Ferragamo flats ($16.99), embroidered Ferragamo ballerina flats ($36) and — my greatest eBay coup to date — a pair of white ghillie-laced pierced Ferragamo brogues ($4.99; I was, somehow, the only bidder). Add to that the occasional thrift-store finds ($5.99 for a pair of high-heeled black patent Ferragamo peep-toe pumps with grosgrain ribbon bows, thank you very much Goodwill) and I have six years of experience wearing about a dozen pairs of these shoes. By now, every Ferragamo shoe in my closet is so imbued with positive memories — there are the ones I wore to my graduation, there are the ones I bought when I took that trip to Los Angeles, there are the ones I wore to that concert — that wearing them is like an emotional security blanket. Friends tease me about never wearing any other shoes, but fuck it. Ferragamos are just the best.
What I like about this brand is simple. The sizing is consistent, so every Ferragamo shoe manufactured in your size and width will fit you — which makes ordering online a cinch. (I have an eBay alert set in my size.) (The one exception I ever found to this rule was the aforementioned $5.99 patent peep-toe pumps, perhaps because they weren't flats, but heels. I got them new heel tips, cleaned and polished them, and sold them on eBay at a profit.) Ferragamo also makes each shoe size in at least six widths, so if you have very narrow or very wide feet, you're in luck. The leather and the workmanship is always of excellent quality. (These aren't like some designer shoes I won't name that feel only about as durable as Steve Madden, despite costing ten times the price.) They feel solid on your feet. And Ferragamo has been making most of its styles for decades — including the "Vara" flat with the grosgrain ribbon and the brass Ferragamo nameplate, pictured above, which is my absolute favorite — so there is a robust and well-stocked secondary market. Varas made in 1978, the year the shoe was designed, are as far as I can tell identical to Varas made in 2007. And believe me, there are a lot of little old rich ladies (or grown children of little old rich ladies) who periodically experience a need to unload a half-dozen barely worn pairs of about that vintage. You can and should take advantage. I look at it like this: from each little old rich lady according to her ability, to my closet, according to my need.
Ferragamos are comfortable. This probably depends on the shape of your foot, but for whatever reason, these shoes always fit me right out of the box (the Priority Mail flat-rate box, that is). Ferragamo makes flats that are built right: they have arch support, the right amount of room in the toe, and solid leather soles (which I always get the cobbler to resole with rubber, for extra durability). Arch support! These aren't those flimsy little slipper-shoes that some companies pass off as flats. These are real shoes. Shoes you can walk in for hours if you so desire. With regular polishing and careful repairs, I haven't had to retire a pair yet. And they're so cute.
Why am I blowing up my own spot? Well, I think there are enough of these shoes to go around. Also, the Ferragamo company — having gone through an IPO, held a flashy fashion show at the Louvre, and launched some probably inevitable but unmistakably cheesy social-media campaigns — seems like it's about to go the way of other gorgeous, stately heritage brands (see: Coach) that have jettisoned decades of hard-won customer goodwill for higher MSRPs and editorial credits in the "hip" magazines. (They just better not fuck with the Vara, or there'll be hell to pay.) Ferragamos used to exist beyond the paradigm of what was "cool"; they just were, take them or leave them, as they had been since the company was founded. Who knows what they'll do now they have shareholders to answer to quarterly. My advice is to get 'em (on eBay) while you can.