Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, becoming a vegan opens one up to all sorts of sometimes-ludicrous feedback from an expansive peanut gallery. You know, the sort of people who like to see others trip up in their personal politics. I imagine these are the same people who watch Rock of Love or giggle when someone stubs their toe.

Here’s an example: an acquaintance of mine recently asked me if I had thrown away all of my leather products, namely shoes and belts, since going vegan. The thinking behind it being sure, why not add more garbage to the planet in order to propagate a lifestyle which, in part, focuses on environmental sustainablility?

My answer was no. Sure, I could give the stuff away, but I don’t really see a pressing need to do so. After all, I don’t imagine the cows will come plodding back to life in absolution. What’s done is done.

During my trip to the Centre of the Universe (a.k.a. Toronto) a couple of weeks ago, I checked out a few stores carrying several vegan brands of shoes. Sure, several chains carry synthetic shoes, but often the quality isn’t so hot. Emerging from both independent manufacturers and the bigger shoe companies are lines of leather-free shoes made with quality in mind, as well as a kinder, cleaner production.

Outside of the bigger metropolitan areas, you’re less likely to find good quality footwear that don’t use animal products, but this is beginning to change. Companies like New Balance, Simple, Dr. Martens and of course, Birkenstock, have carried vegan editions of their shoes for several years. (Crocs, anyone?) Many upscale hiking and camping gear shops are on board as well. 

If you’re looking for something a little jazzier outside of your favourite hiking trail, I’ve found several online boutiques carrying everything from the sort of 5-inch toemunchers preferred by your neighbourhood pole-dancers to the most dapper brogues sure to charm the pants clear off your significant other’s dreary grandmother. 

MooShoes.com: A clearinghouse of vegan clodhoppers, carrying everything from the Adbusters Blackspot line to the pioneering Vegetarian Shoes UK. 

Alternative Outfitters: This L.A.-based shop has been providing veggie footwear for years. Also carries lovely bags, purses and several favourites from the burgeoning vegan cosmetic industry.

Matt & Nat: Okay, these folks don’t sell shoes, but they make fantastic vegan purses and bags for men and women. Each item is lined with materials reclaimed from recycled water bottles. Pricy, but splurge-worthy. Canadian to boot.

Downbound: Earth-friendly mini-mall with a lovely selection of sturdy shoes and sandals. Lots of hemp to be found. I can practically smell the patchouli through my computer screen. 

I’m including this link to make sure everyone is still paying attention. 

Last but not least, Adbuster’s Blackspot line: “Culture jamming.” “Brand liberation.” “Buy Nothing Day.” The kings and queens of soundbyte activism are making shoes and they’re actually quite rad. Union-made, and the soles are made from reclaimed car tires. 

Here’s to walking the walk.