This post was originally posted on the Monday Molly Musings blog on January 22, 2024 under the title “Entering the Flueniverse”. It is reposted here, with minor alterations, by the author.
… I want to focus this week’s blog post on something a bit more indulgent and playful: my evolution in just a year from discovering Fluevogs to becoming totally immersed in this “shoe culture”. (To make it a bit more educational a post, I’ll connect it to some media literacy concepts.)
|Me wearing my first pair of Fluevogs
I first heard about these Canadian designer fancy shoes when I attended the Global Media Education Summit in Vancouver in March 2023. My old friend Kim Davidson from Toronto and newish friend Joanna Marshall from Chicago were both enthusiastically sharing details about their passion for funky footwear from this particular brand. We tried to walk to the flagship store a few blocks away but it was closed when we arrived.
The next day, March 4, my very supportive colleagues from the Association of Media Literacy, Carol Arcus and Neil Andersen, took me to the Fluevog store in Vancouver so that I could explore for myself. Based on my reflections from that day, I wrote back then:
I have to give a big shout-out to Rocco at the Vancouver store for giving me a brief history of the shoe brand AND letting me try one three different pairs of shoes. [In case a rich person with lots of money and nothing to spend it on is reading this blog post, I wore a pair of Derby Swirls (size 6.5, from the Seventh Heaven collection), a Barnett Biblio (size 7, from the Eastend “family of shoes”), and a Chakra (size 6, from the Soultalk “family”)]. At first, I didn’t understand the appeal of these very expensive and unusual looking shoes. However, I was fascinated with the passionate community that has developed around them and found them very comfortable to wear – even the heels, which is a minor miracle for me!
I tried on three pairs and left without any intent of purchasing any for myself. The shoes were just too expensive and out-of-the-ordinary for me (or so I thought).
My First Pair
My sister lives in Calgary and, it turns out, is also a Fluevog fan. She came to visit Toronto and family for Easter 2023. She stayed at my house during her visit and I thought it’d be nice to take her to one of the two Fluevog stores in Toronto to look around.
Maybe it was the company. Maybe it was the environment. Whatever the reason, I tried on even more shoes that day and actually took the plunge and bought a pair. If you are unfamiliar with the Fluevog phenomenon, shoes have “families” and “names”. I purchased a pair of plain black Tippi shoes from the Thrillvog family. My sister did not go away empty-handed; she bought a pair of stylish and unusual Vagabond boots.
I liked my Tippis but there were a few concerns. Little blisters formed on my pinky toes when I first wore the shoes. After just a few wears, I had badly scuffed up the leather exterior. I paid full price for my first pair and the bill with tax came up to almost $450. They were (and still are) the most expensive piece of clothing or footwear I’ve ever owned (and that includes considering my wedding dress!). I thought that this was just a one-time indulgence that didn’t go as well as I predicted. Yes, the heels were comfortable and I liked how they looked, but I fretted about the cost and damage (to the shoes and my feet).
I talked to my friend Kim about my shoe dilemma and she offered to help. She recommended wearing socks or tights with the shoes to prevent blistering, which helped tremendously. She also offered to share her special shoe polish with me to fix the marks.
For Christmas, my sister sent a package in the mail. Inside was another pair of Fluevog shoes. Before you think my sister is made of money, she actually was regifting a pair she already owned that were slightly too big for her. These shoes are called Innovative from the Enneagram line. They were quirky, unlike anything I’ve ever owned – and I loved them.
Another Enabler and a Super Sale
I texted my friend Kim to let her know about my newly acquired second pair of Fluevogs. She responded enthusiastically and advised me to join the Facebook group called Flumminity. This group is an online community of people who like Fluevog shoes. I joined and was fascinated to see all these joyful posts of people wearing their shoes and sharing tips about shoe care, outfit matching, and other topics related to these shoes. I also started taking furtive peeks at the Fluevog website. I added to the list on my phone of styles that intrigued me.
Just before the spring line of new shoe styles comes out, Fluevog has a big sale. All of a sudden, those shoes that seemed financially out of reach looked slightly more affordable. I didn’t dare order online, because the shoe sizes aren’t as regular as all that – the fit depends on the shape and type of shoes. I invited Kim to come with me to the Toronto Distillery district Fluevog store to try on shoes and maybe pick a discounted pair to buy.
I skipped the gym that day (bonus!) and drove the two of us down. We had such a good time! Chy, the store manager, was very helpful and very patient. They brought many pairs for us to try. Some weren’t in stock, because the sale attracts a lot of buyers. However, I found a few styles that weren’t on my list but I really liked.
I surprised myself by finding and buying three pairs of Fluevogs! The mid-calf boots are Vagabonds. The ankle boots (my first pair of ankle boots ever) are called Nap, and the adorable shoes are called Paulson.
Even though I went home with three, there were several that seriously tempted me that I left behind.
I really resisted the pull of the Savasana dress boots, even though there were so many factors encouraging me to buy them. One, they looked good on me! Two, not only are they the last pair in that size in the store, they are the second last pair of that size in the entire country! Three, they were reduced in price (although *just $329.99 from $469). Look at our faces as I try on the Savasanas! My face says “awww man, they look so good; what will I do?” and Kim’s face says “ooooh, those look so GOOD on you!”
So, in the course of a less than a year, I went from first hearing about this shoe brand (and never thinking I could afford to buy a pair) to owning five pairs of my own!
Media Literacy Connections
Economic Implications & Media Construct Reality = When I moved to North Scarborough from South Scarborough, I thought I lived far away from my home of origin. My notion of what constituted far shifted over time. Driving to Pickering was far until I did it often enough and it wasn’t a big deal anymore. Driving to Oshawa was the “new far” until it didn’t. The same can be said for prices. I felt that paying over $200 for a pair of shoes was extravagant, until I actually bought a pair. What counts as “an expensive pair of shoes” shifts because of experience and the company you keep.
Values, Political, and Social Messages = Fluevog shoes come in a black bag in a blue shoe box. The black bag is marked with a quote attributed to shoe designer John Fluevog:
Always hold on to the truth. Don’t let others sway your heart. Don’t compromise yourself for the sake of temporal grooviness. Be separate from the crowd that’s awash with normality by standing out on a firm foundation. Never waiver in your love or faith. And in all you do, please wear my shoes.
These suggest the norms or beliefs supported or espoused by those that buy this brand. These shoes aren’t cheap but they are nicely made and different from a “typical” pair of shoes. That means that they appeal to (and are attainable by) a certain group of people that can afford to buy them. Having said that, I’ve seen on the Flumminity group that some people scrimp and save to be able to buy a pair, or they search the various sales groups to find heavily discounted shoes. (It reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Marge buys a high-fashion outfit and then struggles to “keep up” with her new crowd of friends that knows and likes the brand.) I’m not suggesting that people who wear Fluevogs are snobby or all upper-class, but I recognize my own economic privilege that permits me to buy a pair of shoes over $100 without having to sacrifice. In fact, I’m quite enamoured with the Fluevog community that I’ve joined – people from various countries, ethnicities and orientations all united over a consumer product (nice shoes).
This coming week is the OLA Super Conference. My daughter helped me select and coordinate my outfits for those two days to match the Fluevog shoes I plan to wear. I’ll write in depth about the conference next week, and hopefully I will get some good photos featuring my shoes. (That’s something I hope to learn from the Flumminity – how to take good selfies that show off the shoe but still reveal the outfit that goes with them. I’m excited to learn – and collect more!)