It’s been more than two years since I started posting about products I find that do good in the world. Personally, I felt a stronger commitment than I had written. I wanted to make my clothing purchases count. This felt particularly important because it is hard to find products made specifically for men. I’ve done well, although I won’t lie to you. I’ve made purchases that aren’t fair trade. I don’t know where many of my purchases come from. I also indulge quite often in chocolate that may very well be made by small, slave hands. I’ve struggled internally along the way with my continued choices to communicate to the world that I find the mistreatment of people to be acceptable. At the same time, I am so encouraged when I recognize the story and impact of the products I have intentionally purchased.
I was recently at a marketing event for work. The topic of the day was “STORY.” There was a question at one point about each of our ability to stand up and share an impactful story. I thought for a second about the technology company I work for and a recent “thank you” video we had received from one of our customers. It’s a remarkable video with each staff member expressing how we’ve been able to improve their work. Very quickly though my mind went to how I had a more beautiful story to tell — and it was all around me.
First, I had my CauseGear bag with my iPad ChildSafe Traveler from Friends-International inside. I was wearing my Brothers We Stand shirt which is still a favorite of mine. My recycled belt from London hung around my waist with my Loyal Workshop wallet resting in the back pocket of my chino pants from Monkee Genes. Pact made an unmentionable non-appearance. Head to toe, where I was wearing a fresh pair of dark grey, suede, Anbesso shoes from Oliberté, I was literally wrapped up by story. Had I been given the opportunity, I would have spoken for a half-an-hour easily of the impact I had just by showing up.
Little choices I have made over the past two years have added up and now are part of my life regularly (actually daily). Unfortunately, I would hardly call my efforts “impactful.” If I had the ability to weigh out the global impact on people and environment of my life and the collective purchasing decisions I make, my hunch is that I’d find I am a long way off from truly supporting others by the way I live.
This post is about those new Oliberté shoes I mentioned, and it’s appropriate to talk about this while sharing about these shoes because Oliberté was one of, if not the first company of its kind — creating sustainable business for the improvement of our world by becoming the world’s first Fair Trade Certified™ footwear manufacturing factory. This social enterprise, supporting workers’ rights in sub-Saharan Africa, Now more than 8 years in operation, Oliberté employees over 70, 60% of which are women. That’s a beautiful thing, but no one is claiming this important investment has had a dramatic impact on the almost 3.5 million people in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where the factory operates. I can only imagine how daunting the task may feel at times, and how insignificant my struggle, as I sit and type comfortably, must be compared with those in the midst of it all.
I’ll get to my impression of the shoes soon, but Oliberté is doing a fantastic job. I don’t mean to detract from their impact. They are a beautiful company and well-worth investing in the quality they deliver. The reality is that I and so many others continue to choose against products that support others, and I’ve been thinking through WHY we don’t buy more products that do good in the world. Is it price? Availability and convenience? Maybe it’s the articles out there challenging the impact of Fair Trade and social enterprise.
I might write about that sometime in the future. Not sure.
Whatever the reason, the need is greater than the difference I can make. THAT SUCKS! I want to believe that the impact I have on others is AT LEAST greater than the impact the stories of the products I purchase have on me, but it’s so easy to let the massive needs and pains experienced by others get to me. Anything I do is just not enough.
Alright. None of us WANT to enslave children. I know that regardless of your purchasing choices, you would do whatever you could to protect and help a child in need. Why don’t we do more to take action, and at the very least, when I’m buying more than I need, buy products that have a positive impact on our world? Is it because of the disconnect between the store shelves and the mistreated hands involved in assembly?
Maybe it all comes down to believing I don’t make a difference.
I’m going to take a bit of a different approach. I don’t know if my purchases do make a difference. I don’t have data, and frankly, I don’t believe researching and presenting the data would change many minds. I’m not an expert in this area. Hey, most of us don’t really care about the truth anyway.
Here’s the question I want to ask: What kind of a person do I want to be?
What kind of a person do YOU want to be?
All of the purchases I may ever make may only impact a life for a week? A month? A year? I need to answer this question because it has the power to impact my life today, tomorrow, and moving forward. Why should I choose to make purchases that do good? I want to be the kind of person that looks for an opportunity to positively impact others. Changing the world isn’t my job. Choosing to love today is my job. That is the kind of person I want to be.
Suddenly the problems of the world look a little different. Still massive problems — so many problems. They should drive me to my knees to pray for intervention, healing, and peace. My job is to take one foot and place it in front of the other and choose to move in the direction of progress.
I’m learning to allow myself to live in the struggle. I have so much work to do, but I can learn to accept and love what I am today because I know where I’m going and what I want to be. It’s not alright that I’ll most likely buy ice cream with massive chunks of chocolate from who knows where. I’m not endorsing some kind of negotiation here, but I need to push forward while understanding that I am in the process.
I’m just a person. I want better and I believe in better. I live in today and I hope for tomorrow. It is just too hard to fix today. But particularly when we join together, we can believe in days to come where women are children are treated like human beings. We can look forward to a day when we all have an opportunity to thrive without threats of violence and abuse.
It’s important to enter into the process and take control of what I can control.
Have you heard Macklemore’s new album, Gemini?
Coming home from that event I had mentioned earlier I listened to the song “Intentions.”
I don’t know if a warning is necessary, but this song addresses our daily struggles head-on. It’s not crude. It’s not gratuitous. It’s just honest. That’s what I love about it. Check it out.
“I’m okay with who I am today”
I’m not satisfied with yesterday and I am not yet what I want to be… but today. Today I am alright. Today I can rest. Today I can find the strength to take that next step and allow tomorrow’s struggles be for tomorrow.
This is helpful for me. Maybe it’s helpful for you. Maybe you’d be willing to join me in asking what you want to be. If your answer is the same as mine, can you find the strength to take your next step? Maybe you’ll join me in purchasing something in the next month that does something good in the world. Maybe you’ll look different at that person one day and discover the beauty of human life — even in THAT person.
What do you think? Can we find our hope in our collective decision to move in the direction of love? Can we also trust in our impact together and know that TODAY we are what we are, but tomorrow, together, we’ll be something different? I’m up for it. Would you join me?
And now the shoes.
Dark Grey Suede
On sale for $55 as I type.
Oliberté is not a cheap shoe. It is a quality piece of craftsmanship. The retail price for the Anbesso is $110, but fortunately, there are often sales that might make your purchase a little easier. I bought mine for $55 which is honestly cheap for shoes of this quality. The retail price is fair. The sale pricing is a deal. Check out Oliberté’s social media and subscribe to their newsletters to keep an eye on their specials.
These shoes are solid tanks! It’s a bit of a shock to go from the feather-weight Tom’s and minimal shoes I normally wear to a substantial shoe. They are beautiful in every detail and feel like they’ll last forever. Seriously, wear these on your fishing trip, attach the shoelace to your bow, and toss them overboard as your anchor. These things will hold up!
Fit & Feel
I ordered size 11 and that’s what they are. I’d say they are a bit narrow if you have wider feet. These are not the most comfortable shoes. They feel like soft dress shoes. You know what I mean. When you wear dress shoes, you feel like you are tacking a wood board on your feet. These aren’t that bad. It’s more like a soft strap holding your foot to a board with a bit of padding. Hey! They aren’t tennis shoes.
Here’s what I’d say… These are business casual shoes. They look great when you really need something more than your everywhere shoe, but they aren’t going to give you blisters when you are on your feet all day. It’s nice to have shoes like this in your arsenal. They remind me a lot of the blue dress shoes from Tom’s shoes from a while back. These can be a dynamite daily shoe if you work in a business casual office.
They are what I ordered with one exception. I ordered the dark grey, and I feel these head in the blue a bit too much. They are louder than I had hoped. I grabbed the shoes that looked like they had a stronger attachment to the sole and the body of the shoe because that’s where my shoes fall apart. They split in my heel as the sole pulls away from the shoe. My hope is I’ll get a bit more out of these.
They feel like they’ll make good on that promise. Again, the details are fantastic. I’ve had a number of people comment on the Africa map on the sole. I like it. The shoes tell their own story, and I’m proud to wear them.
Oliberté is the standard for sustainable shoes. This is a great place to shop. I highly recommend checking them out. Even if you need to save up for your purchase, it’s worth it for the opportunity to support workers’ rights in sub-Saharan Africa and get exactly what you paid for — a high-quality piece of footwear.