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Opinion: Something is fundamentally wrong when your kid’s shoes cost more than your own

I’m half waiting for my children to be shoe-jacked in the playground.

Image: Leszek Maziarz via Shutterstock

MY THREE YEAR old needs new shoes at the moment. I know this from the fact that she has been wearing her current pair since May. And because I checked two months ago when I got my son’s first pair, and was advised to check back again in six weeks’ time. Which I haven’t done. Because I still haven’t gotten over the €65 quid I shelled out on his. For two pieces of leather, three inch square…

Today a mummy mate of mine saw me my 65 quid, and raised me a tenner. She’d been charged €75 for a pair for her four year old last week. The only pair of shoes I possess that cost more than that are my runners. And at this stage they have put in more miles than Apollo 13.

Seventy-five quid. It’s sheer lunacy…

Bad enough that their travel system is worth more than my own (have checked – an 02 Polo with a few too many close shaves with concrete objects comes in at around €1,300. Our Phil & Ted ensemble cost more than that). But when they’re not being chauffeured around by yours truly in their own private three wheeler, and decide that they can actually make use of the two legs God gave them, they’re swanning about in footwear which cost more than my own. I’m half waiting for them to be shoe-jacked in the playground.

In fairness, my daughter’s shoes have turned out to be virtually bombproof. They have survived many’s a muddle puddle – but at €69.99 they’d want to be capable of surviving a bloody nuclear war. And come complete with gold cladding to preserve their memory, to boot.

‘What your little angels deserve’

How appropriate though, and in many ways completely unsurprising, that from the soles of their feet up, we are made to feel that shelling out exorbitant sums of money is expected, usual, and what your little angels deserve. I fell hook, line and sinker for the sales pitch back last May when I invested in my daughter’s last pair. I walked in looking for a replacement pair for her, and somehow walked out with a pair for him, even though he wasn’t even walking at the time! Something to do with the risk of his feet getting cold. And ‘the absence of support for his instep’, if and when he did decide to get up off his backside. Yes, I am a mug. But then so many of us are.

These costs are made all the more insane when you consider that children’s shoes don’t have VAT added to the price, whereas our own have 23% hiked onto each pair. So really, whilst my shoes typically cost maybe €40 a pair, and my children’s come in at more like €60, in reality I’m paying more like €30 for mine versus twice that for theirs! How could this be?

What’s even more laughable is that back in 80s, a Fine Gael coalition actually fell over a failed proposal to place VAT on children’s shoes. Apparently in a modern day, civilised society charging a premium on children’s shoes is so unpalatable to the public consciousness so as to bring down an entire Government – but having parents routinely ripped off at the check-out is perfectly OK. Perhaps they should just go ahead and put VAT back on children’s shoes? If I’m to be expected to routinely pay over the odds anyway, I’d rather the premium went back into Government coffers rather than lining our retailer’s pockets. The current system just seems to be facilitating us parents getting fleeced.

And yes, of course I should shop around. But there are a few challenges to that:

1. Kid’s shoes have length and width measurements. Meaning it can be tricky to find one pair in the shop that fits them, let alone the style your three year old has become fixated on.

2. Pester power operates in the same way with shoes as with the likes of, say, check-out sweets, ie ‘I’m three years old and love my new shoes’ (remember that great Clark’s ad – ‘New Shooooess’. It was a tag line for a reason). ‘I’m trotting around happily in the shop with them on, and enjoying all and sundry oooh-ing, and ahh-ing over them. Hang on a second – why’s mummy taking them off me and arguing with the nice sales lady over a tenner? Well, we’re not having that…WAHHHHHHHHHHHHH’.

3. Getting to a kid’s shoe shop in the first place can be tricky (there’s not that many of them) particularly with an army of kids in tow. So once you find a pair which fit, and aren’t immediately vetoed by your little Imelda Marcos, the option of leaving said shop with your little girl’s toes wedged into her ill-fitting ones for yet another week, versus sucking it up, handing over the card and taking a deep breath, tends to win over.

4. Particularly for teeney-tiny feet, impossibly cute miniatures simultaneously make your heart melt and your brain cease to function. And before you know where you are, you find yourself home, with your baby chewing on a pair of shoes he has zero intention of wearing, and a fifty quid receipt to hide from his dad.

Of course every parent wants the best for their child, and are willing to pay whatever they can afford to get that. Particularly when it comes to something as fundamental as their feet, which are going to, quite literally, support them for the rest of their lives. But when it gets to the point that us parents are having to shell out literally hundreds of euro every year to clad a few square inches of child, I’m sorry, but there is something wrong.

Not-so-Happy-Feet.

Claire Micks is an occasional writer. Read more of her columns for TheJournal.ie here

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