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Graphis magazine has honored D/C’s campaign for Sanita, the original Danish clog, with a gold award in its 2011 “100 Best in Advertising” annual. Founded in Zurich in 1944, Graphis is one of the world’s most influential graphic arts publications. The competition was judged by a prestigious international jury whose US contingent included Rich Silverstein. All of which ain’t exactly chopped liver, a D/C spokesperson was heard to remark.

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It has been a long while since these tired feet have felt the loving grasp of a new pair of shoes. How they have longed to be held closely by a new pair of hand-crafted cowhide uppers and cushioned by fresh man-made, air-filled soles. But it is 2009, after all – the Great Recession – and like you, I’m learning to live with less. So, I’ve actually resisted the urge to buy a new pair of shoes — and not once, but several times.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve tried them on. I still browse the shoe stores, where the desperate sales people are more than happy to get me another pair of 10.5’s in brown from the back room, only to gaze at my back, crestfallen, as I leave empty-handed.

I’m also likely on Zappos’ most-hated list, cause I keep taking advantage of their generous offer of free shipping both ways to try stuff on. But, despite a regular flow of large white boxes, nothing has succeeded in separating me from my money in a long time. And, frankly, my feet are pissed. They’re getting bored. They think I don’t love them anymore.

So what is a shoe-a-holic to do in such a crisis? How can I get my feet to feel loved again, without getting that look from my wallet? Well, dear reader, there is always a way.

Two years ago, my feet and I visited an excellent outlet mall in Cabazon near Palm Springs. At one particular shoe store, they were selling Skechers at the bargain basement price of “Buy one pair and get 50% off the second.” Having no need whatsoever for two pair, I immediately and impulsively purchased two pair: casual, low-top shoes — one brown lace-up, one black slip-on — with a groovy European vibe I thought might work with jeans.

Turns out the black ones got a lot of use. They were comfy and cool, and I found myself wearing them more than I expected. The browns, on the other hand, not so much. Not sure why, maybe I had a lot of brown at the time and just didn’t need another pair. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them, it’s just that they never seemed to earn their way into the first-string rotation.

Well, faced with the new economic reality of our times, I recently went to the guest room closet (the official last resting place of shoes on their way out) with the hopes of discovering something exciting in there that maybe I had overlooked. And there they were – worn only a handful of times and looking as good as the day I bought them.

Hmmm, could they temporarily satisfy the urge for “newness” my feet had been craving?

Well, they are on my feet as I type this and all seems well. I’m not sure they’ll ever rise to the first string, but they are definitely moving into the bedroom closet – and off the termination list. And, because they haven’t been worn much, my feet are living the snug, supportive existence of their pre-recession selves.

Crisis averted. Fiscal sanity preserved. But will it last…?

If you had told me four months ago that I’d soon be hurtling across the middle of Denmark in a high-speed train wearing a pair of clogs, I would have said you were high.

But here I am, in seat 26 of the IC121 train, speeding across the snow-covered countryside on my way to a meeting in Herning, Denmark. And the weirdest part is that I am actually wearing clogs. Not the old-timey wood clogs worn to repair a hole in some errant dike. No, I’m wearing a pair of slick black Sanitas – the original Danish clog, made here since 1907. They are quite comfortable and actually quite cool looking – a two-tone sole and steel toe ensure they are sufficiently butch for my idiom. At a glance, they sort of look like boots. But trust me, they’re clogs.

So how, pray tell, did I end up in this unlikely predicament? Interesting story (to me, at least). A few months ago, I was contacted by a friend and former client who had recently assumed the role of CEO at Sanita USA. We’d worked together before on another European shoe brand — 50 cents if you can guess which one — and after a brief discussion of the situation, he and I came to the conclusion that Sanita needed an entire brand overhaul. He subsequently engaged our services and off we went.

For me — a shoe lover, but never a clog-wearer — the biggest challenge of the whole endeavor was to grok what this clog thing is all about. My wife has been a fan for years, but something has kept me away. They look great on women. On men, I’m not so sure. Maybe on a chef or a surgeon. Maybe. But being neither, I was not interested. Still, when it comes to shoes, as you know, my curiosity is sure to get the better of me — especially if there is a discount involved. So, in an effort to better understand the brand, I agreed to try them out. I sorted through the styles and finally settled on the manliest pair I could find — the Leo steel-toe.

So?

I find them quite comfortable, especially for standing — which I guess explains the chef and surgeon thing. I’m not too keen on long walks in them yet, but who knows, maybe after they break in a bit more. The biggest challenge is that the height of the sole makes them dangerous for the clog neophyte. I have literally fallen off the heels several times, and I feel it’s only dumb luck that has kept me from badly spraining my ankle. However, I’m confident this is a temporary risk, suffered by only the greenest clog rookies, and will soon be overcome. The positive side of standing atop a 2” heel is that for a guy who stands 5’11” on a good day, even on a bad day I’m over 6 feet tall with these puppies on. Pretty cool. The other obvious benefit is that they are quite impervious to almost all forms of animal droppings — at least ones we are likely to encounter in our daily travels in the good old US of A. Having seen wild elephant poop in Africa, I’m not sure they’d survive that encounter unscathed. But that’s a story for another time. Anyway, all things being equal, I’m quite enjoying this new shoe adventure.

Weirdly, I haven’t seen a lot of clogs on Danes since I’ve been here. Maybe it’s like Corona in Mexico — only for the turistas. Either way, I’m feeling good – about my feet and about being in Denmark, a beautiful and unique place, where the people are as friendly as can be and they all speak perfect English. (Details from our Danish adventures will appear in the next post of Tripping on this very website.)

And now the sales pitch: if you think you might be interested in your own pair of Sanita clogs, why not help a friend and his agency out by visiting your local clog retailer? Or after February 12th, stop by sanitaclogs.com for a browse.

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For those beset by an unusual obsession, there is often a physical place in the world that brings that obsession to life in a vivid, almost erotic way. Whether it’s a walk in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater, a visit to Cooperstown, or even a road trip to Mt. Rushmore, there are places in the world that obsessive people dream of visiting one day.

For those who love shoes, there is single block in New York City that is precisely that — the Mecca of shoes — West 8th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Some know it as the heart of shoe Mecca, others simply as West 8th. Whatever you call it, it’s unbelievable: a single block that somehow supports upwards of 20 shoe stores, all jammed with footwear and other leather goods and outnumbering the head-shops that are the other main industry of this block 3-to-1. (But don’t worry — there are still plenty of head shops.)

I was lucky enough to pay West 8th a visit on a recent trip. With a business colleague and friend from Europe in tow, I walked the Village, had lunch at the Mt. Everest of pizza joints — John’s on Bleecker Street — and then took my sweet time shopping W8th. As we walked the block from west to east and scanned the crowded window displays, the sheer number of shoe stores threatened to become overwhelming. To the untrained eye, many look like they are carrying the same shoes. And while some are indeed the same, the trained (obsessive) eye knows that many of those “same” shoes actually reflect subtly different lines and styles. So the first challenge for the discerning shopper is to find just the right store — one that offers the styles and the prices to meet your needs. I was looking to continue down the pointy path and was hoping for something in the $100/pair range. My European friend was looking for something in an American shit-kicker.

We eventually settled on a store called Mind Boggler (a shoe store that, judging by its name, should have been a head shop, or once was). We’d browsed several others, but were still unsure we’d be able to find what we were looking for. But there in the back, past the racks of leather jackets, was an extensive inner sanctum of shoes. Jackpot!

We spent 45 glorious minutes auditioning styles. I ended up with not one, but two pair. The first, Steve Madden, side-zip, black, square-toe pointy boots with clean lines and a low heel. The other pair shared the silhouette with the Maddens, but had double goring on top of the arch and a subtle wing tip pattern on the toe. This pair is a deep and beautiful brown and apparently a private label brand “hand-made just for us in Italy,” the salesman told me.

I’m sure.

Regardless, they are beautiful. My European friend found her perfect American shit-kickers in a pair of Georgia Boot brown-suede cowboy boots, with harness straps and ring. They are awesome.

After getting our fill, we strolled the rest of the block feeling like you might if you strolled through San Francisco’s Ferry Building after eating lunch at Boulevard — completely satisfied but still surrounded by mouth-watering and delicious foods. It was positively decadent.

So, if you’re ever in Manhattan and have a hankering to feel up some footwear, head directly to W8th Street, walk from Sixth to Fifth Avenue and revel in the Mecca of shoes.

If you can’t wait, click here.

This just in: Birkenstock greenlights TV spots as part of rapturously received “political” campaign. But hurry. (And we did.)

The major party candidates blab about bringing America together, but now there is a footwear company that literally walks it like those guys talk it.

What began as a fun mini-campaign touting Birkenstock’s presence at the WSA trade show was so well-received it has been expanded into a national consumer print and online campaign. Judging by the flood of email feedback, the campaign is instantly gaining traction, especially as presidential marketing slips into negative mode.

While a political theme — even if it’s non-partisan and tongue-in-cheek — may seem unexpected, Birkenstock has long been assigned political connotations (e.g., the reporter’s shorthand for committed progressives, “Birkenstock-wearing liberals”). At the same time, research shows the brand is overwhelmingly associated with good feelings, which tend to start in a consumer’s previously aching feet but rapidly travel to his or her overall mood.

So perhaps it was not so far-fetched for Birkenstock’s campaign managers at Duncan/Channon to bring politics and positivity back together on behalf of this perennial candidate for your comfortable, casual choice of sandals. But, of course, we invite all Americans to vote with their feet.

Birkenstock political buttons

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