Keeping the faith, and walking the walk
Talk about voting with your feet. . . .
After church last Sunday, I was walking down Melrose in Los Angeles with the friend I was visiting, bemused by the artsy boho and scary goth types who were trying out their Halloween costumes a few hours early, when something even more unusual in a shop window caught my eye.
No, it wasn’t one of those, erm, adult-themed retailers.
It was a shoe store.
“VOTE FOR THE PEACEMAKERS,” a big red-white-and blue poster with a blown-up picture of the bottom of a rubber sole shouted from the front window of the Fluevog Shoes store as we strolled past. “It’s hard to know who the real peacemakers are. Compare John Kerry and George W. Bush to the Peacemakers on our soles. You may find we all need to change. Get out and VOTE for Peace.”
Imprinted on the bottom of the giant gum-eraser-colored sole was the following provocative statement: “Peacemakers. Buddha Jesus Gandhi You.”
And on the heel, a passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew: “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
OK. I’ll bite.
“What’s the deal with these Jesus shoes?” I asked the clerk. She explained that they were the latest brainchild of Canadian shoe designer John Fluevog, who, troubled by the current state of the world, has designed a line of shoes each named after a famous peacemaker — Teresa (as in Mother), Mandela, John Paul (as in the pope), Luther King and Dalai (as in “big hitter, the Lama”) — to raise consciousness for peace.
And, oh, she added about Fluevog, “He’s really spiritual.”
Had Fluevog’s funky leather Peacemaker shoes not ranged in price from $189 to $245, I would have snapped up a pair on the spot, just to support the team, as it were. But that’s a little steep, even for a shoe hound like me. I took a pass.
Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about what Fluevog was doing and wondered if there was more to it than simple savvy marketing. So when I got back to Chicago earlier this week, I drove up to the Fluevog Shoes store on Milwaukee in Bucktown to do a little more investigating.
The clerk there, an affable fellow called “Oz,” told me the Peacemakers were selling briskly, although one customer balked when she noticed Buddha’s name on the bottom of the shoe. Apparently, she didn’t want to “walk on Buddha,” Oz said.
Are people really buying the pricey Peacemakers for the message?
Probably not, according to Melissa Drennan, who manages the Chicago store, one of eight in the United States and Canada.
“For the average person, it isn’t so much the message that’s on the shoe, it’s that they’re so comfortable,” she said. “The message is an extra bonus. . . . You can have your belief on your shoes.”
This isn’t the first time Fluevog has put his soul in his soles.
Fluevog’s got one “family” of shoes that have soles inscribed with a biblical passage from First Corinthians, that reads “But now faith, hope, love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Another of his designs admonishes its wearers, known as “Fluevogers,” that, “To Love or To Hate, The CHOICE is Yours. Choose Love.”
And his “Angelic” line of clunky, work-type boots, the kind my father would call “brothel stompers,” have soles that read: “Resists alkali, water, acid, fatigue and Satan. Walk in peace.”
As for the Peacemakers, they were a reaction to the war in Iraq.
“The whole world is crying for peace, ya know?” Fluevog, a Christian who attends a Pentecostal church, was telling me by phone from his home in Vancouver the day President Bush clinched a second term in office. “We all are. We all want peace. It’s a natural endeavor. And we look to our world leaders for peace. I really think that if we all look within ourselves and change who we are and started there, the world would be a peaceful place.
“Right now, there’s a move amongst the American government — one for sure, and others — that the way to achieve peace is through force. I actually don’t believe that,” Fluevog said. “I’m a Christian, personally. That’s my faith. And when I see people who are Christians in America and voting that way, I’m confused.
“Well, it’s not what Christ said, is it?” he said. (Jesus was the one who said “blessed are the peacemakers,” after all.)
Fluevog figured the basic theological statement on his Peacemakers was fairly benign. Apparently not. He says some Christians are upset with him because, they say, “I’m putting Christ as a deity against two people who aren’t.”
“I say to them that I don’t believe Christ has an identity crisis and he never did and he never will,” Fluevog said, adding that he’s not trying to convert anyone with his shoe messages. At least not in a sectarian kind of way.
“I just hope that somebody will think about it, look and see that there is some scripture on the bottom and wonder. Hopefully they will look at that and go, ‘What does that mean?’ And they might look it up,” he said. “That’s fine for me. That would be mission accomplished.”
Blessed are the shoemakers.
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