John vs. Capitalism, the Soccer Shoe Edition

This is what happens if you oppose our marketing juggernaut

This is what happens if you oppose our marketing juggernaut

The Cast:

The Great Multinational Shoemongers hire platoons of designers, analysts and marketers to fine-tune their zeitgeist-piercing value propositions and beam them into the cerebral cortices of impressionable young shoe-shoppers, such as my son.

My son sees the images; he watches the videos; he reads the SEO-optimized web copy; he’s even downloaded the app, so he’s among the first to know of upcoming ripples in the Product Force. He is The Ideal Consumer.

Then there’s me, Just a Bloke Trying to Do Right by His Son and Keep His Wallet from Hemorrhaging

The Backstory

The Great Multinational Shoemonger’s latest creation is lurid, sparkly and complicated, the the novelty make my son’s eyes swim like this: @ @

Later, as if recounting a dream, he spouts its marketing specifics: “The Mephisto Dynaforce Attack 3000 has a bionomic cleat distribution pattern and a mechan-o-ptimized friction coefficient for precise shooting and passing. Oh, and they’re only $284.99!”

The Epic Battle of Epicness

This week I took the Ideal Consumer to the soccer store for a new pair of soccer cleats. On the Shrine of Consumerism (i.e., the back wall), an array of dazzling Lethal Viper Hyper Force Ultra Magic Attack gleamed, their allures singing like sirens trying to dash my wallet on the rocks of fiscal ruin.

My son’s eyes did that googly thing as his favorite pair of shoes dazzled his eyes. Reflected in his irises I saw the orange gleam of the shoes, which resembled a kind of deadly Amazon toad that emitted its own LSD.

“Dad, those are the Mephisto Dyna–”

“Can we see a pair of these black ones in a size 8?” I said to the clerk.

The black ones were sensible. They were made of leather, instead of Next-Gen ProVita Polymers, and had well-sewn seams so they looked like they might last a winter in Oregon. They had some heel cushioning too, unlike the Mephisto Dynaforce ballet slippers. I pictured those black shoes offering support and protection. My son might have to suffer a season without a Lethal Impact Friction Zone, and cleat distribution that hadn’t been optimized by a NASA supercomputer, but he wouldn’t have to suffer persistent heel pain, or a visit to the doctor.

Needless to say, my son the Ideal Consumer was aghast I would even consider ancient, graceless clunkers like those. (Ignoring the fact that his older brother had a pair, and liked them.)

The virtue of going to an Actual Soccer Store is they expect you to use the shoes to play Actual Soccer. As a result, the clerk is not one of those you find at the mall, whose enthusiasm disguises the fact that he’s been completely lobotomized by his own shoe inventory. This clerk was sad to inform me they didn’t have the black ones in my son’s size.

Sensing opportunity, my son again pointed at the beacon on the wall. The shoes looked like a pair of booties Daredevil or Spider-Man would wear, if a designer made a special edition of his costume for Pride Week.

I shook my head and recited the dull reasons for my decision: Durability. Protection. Cost (one-third of the Mephisto Dynaforces in Orgasm Orange). I wondered, briefly, how I’d become so dull and pragmatic, and then remembered all the money I would save if we bought shoes that weren’t coated in a sheen of lethal Amazon tree frog poison.

Father and Son Go Mano a Mano, in List Format:

  • There was sadness and pouting.
  • There was back talk.
  • There was an exasperated, desperate, helpless glance from father, and sympathetic clucking from the shoe clerk.
  • There was a cruel ultimatum, issued by this correspondent, to leave the Holy Shrine of Consumerism empty-handed.
  • There was a cooling off period, and some wandering around to look at soccer jerseys on the sale rack.
  • There was a cautious second approach, reciting the fact that while the Mephisto Dynaforce 3000 shoes did contain super-awesome rare earth metals, they were for indoor soccer, not turf. (E.g., footage of Ronaldo/Neymar/Messi slipping and falling on his ass didn’t make it into the YouTube Awesome Skills videos.)

The Denouement

Finally the effects of the Shoemonger Marketing Charm ebbed slightly, and the Ideal Consumer realized he could get a pair of shoes that would work on turf, and were still pretty eye-stunning — but in a more muted way, like psychedelic lake trout.

But before I could declare victory about saving enough money to buy 10 weeks of beer, the Ideal Consumer hit me with a counter-proposal, in the form of a matching pair of techno-hosiery (cost: 2 weeks of beer), which I felt I had to include to close the deal.

Post-Match Analysis

Hard to say who won this round. Did I get what I wanted? No, the Psychedelic Lake Trout 9000s look pretty flimsy, and the battle cost me 3.5 weeks more of beer than I’d budgeted.

Was the Ideal Consumer satisfied? No, his consumer lust for the Mephisto Dynaforce 3000s remains unfulfilled (though he did manage upsell me on the mint-infused soccer socks).

But fear not: the new, flimsy shoes should self-obsolete before long, and soon we’ll be back in the store to do it all again. In the meantime, if the Shoemonger ever made Mephisto Dynaforce 3000 beer cozies in that shade brilliant orange, I just might be persuaded …