How could I go to Mexico City this fall without a pair of Mexico 66es? Designed in anticpation of Mexico City's 1968 Summer Olympics by Onitsuka Tiger, they remain available today in a prime example of the aesthetic timelessness — or at least wide-timespan-iness — I so desire in my wear, foot- and otherwise. They belong in my sneaker pantheon alongside the equally venerable Adidas Samba and Puma Turin. You may call me foolish to spend money on this sort of thing instead of saving up to move to Los Angeles, but I see Onitsuka Tigers as more like investments in my aesthetic future. Besides, they represent the meeting of two places, Japan and Mexico, that fascinate me — in shoe form! Could you really expect me to resist?
I bought my pair, along with a pair of Onitsuka Tiger's nearly-as-timeless Ultimate 81s, at Zappos, a site that seems to have made itself synonymous with shoes-on-the-net. I found their prices reasonable; I found their process painless. Indeed, Zappos publicly prides itself on being a service company first and foremost, but one that just happens to sell shoes. Its CEO, Tony Hsieh, has become something of a celebrity on the back of the company's cheerful ethos. (Zappos Family Core Value #5: "Pursue Growth and Learning". Zappos Family Core Value #9: "Be Passionate and Determined".) The man even wrote a book called Delivering Happiness, and I can't call it mistitled. The sight of that chunky, substantial Zappos box on my doorstep did indeed make me happy. Wearing the shoes inside makes me even happier.
And yet, pondering the existence of Zappos, I feel a debilitating wave of sadness. Despite my satisfaction with every stage of my interaction with the company, I can't get over the fact that people get up in the morning and devote eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve hours — the prime of their day! — to an internet shoe store. The very idea thet some of these employees might devote their entire careers — let's face it, means their entire lives — to this cause crumples me under an onrush of nihilism. Third-hand word from business articles tells me that Zappos has happier, more satisfied employees than most comparable firms, too, so why should I feel so sad? Hell, even the very lowest man on the Zappos totem pole makes more money than I do.
Yet even the vast fortune of the highest man on the Zappos totem pole — Hsieh made $214 million in the company's sale to Amazon — could not lure me into the internet shoe industry. This sounds stupid even as I type it. Croesan wealth and the knowledge that I've played a part in making people happy by helping them get boxes full of Mexico 66es? Who could ask for more than that? What could possibly be wrong with me?
These thought crimes lead friends to accuse me of professing belief in capitalism without really believing in capitalism. A real capitalist would watch the invisible hand of the market rush to fill the world's Japanese shoe needs and get all moist-eyed — with joy. A real capitalist wouldn't puss out and wring their hands about the abyss that must a life dedicated to figuring out a better way to sell shoes on the internet must surely be. I understand all this intellectually, but, for some reason, a part of me will always believe that every Silicon Valley multimillionaire harbors a quashed composer of atonal symphonies deep inside.