Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fall Shoe & Boot News From Serbia & Croatia

No one except other shoe-lovers will appreciate this post, so if you are not a shoe-fanatic, then skip it.

This post is based solely on personal observations, so it may be entirely wrong. But I've got a keen eye for footwear whereever I travel, so I bet it's at least partly correct.

Firstly, unlike what upscale stores and shoe advertising here are showing, most young women (by which I infer they are hip to what's real in fashion vs what's hyped) are wearing no heels at all. Above you'll see an absolutely typical flat-heel slouchy boot being sold and widely worn for fall in Sombor Serbia and I presume elsewhere. The only thing that's not typical about this boot is color -- the totally-in color for all shoes and boots I've seen in both Croatia and Serbia is a deep rich chestnut brown suede. I'd be so bold as to say chestnut brown is the new black.

There's just one exception on the commonly worn flat boot front, and that's in Croatia's capital city Zagreb. Here's a snapshot I took of the park and buildings outside the main train station. If you squint at the giant billboard ad on that main building, you'll see a pair of female legs in cowboy boots. "Do they have a Texas fetish here in Zagreb?!" I asked my husband in astonishment. No, not at all. Turns out Zagreb is well known as a fashionable cowboy boot capital for Europe and the natives have made the boot their own, especially upscale, urban versions of it for women. And yes, after we saw this sign I did look around carefully for women actually wearing cowboy boots on the street, and spotted a live one. (Felt a bit like spotting a man in a kilt walking down the street in Edinburgh.)

However, most young women in Zagreb weren't in boots. As you can see from the pic below of three typical young women, most were in comfortable flat sporty shoes. The girl in the middle is wearing the ultimate in young women's foot fashion in Croatia right now -- an old fashioned-style high top sneaker. Converse high tops in colors other than black are really the most popular, but she appears to be wearing a nike version of the same style. I've never seen so many Converse hightops in one place in my life as I saw on young women and girl's feet throughout Croatia.

However, if you're a bit older and have wads (and wads and wads) of cash to burn, the streets of downtown Zagreb are lined with little, glossy shoe boutiques. Here's a typical one in a neighborhood akin to Boston's Newbury Street.

I saw far more of these little jewel-box-style shoe stores than I did jewelry stores. I guess shoes are a Croatian girl's best friend.

Or maybe it's a slavic or Balkan thing, because the streets of downtown Sombor also have far more shoe stores than practically anything else. Part of that is due to the fact that the Boreli shoe factory is located on the outskirts of town. So Boreli has at least four shopfronts downtown that I counted and possibly more. Unfortunately the shoe styles are ... stodgy. I asked a 20-something Serb girlfriend if she would buy shoes from Boreli, she said, "Well no, but my mother might."

Compare this snapshot of a typical Boreli shopfront to the Zagreb jewel-box above. It kind of sums up the differences in the two countries right currently. One is glitzy, fresh, but overpriced. The other is beat up, old fashioned, but rock solid at heart.

Lastly, if you are a middle aged or older person in either country, you're more likely to buy your shoes at the greenmarket than in a shop. Here's a snapshot of a Croatian granny trying on rubber boots at an outdoor stall in downtown Ogulin.

By the way, aside from rubber boots and hundreds of Puma and Nike knock-off sneakers (mainly in blue for men) Ogulin's stalls also featured a lot of office-style shoes. All were nearly flat, perhaps a half inch heel at most, mainly a wide version of princess style. And every single one had a rounded toe. I guess the merger of ballet slipper and formal pump is now universal.


elektrokuhinja said...

I think cowboy boots are coming to Serbia. Here in Novi Sad all the girls wear them. Even if it's hot summer time outside. With mini-skirts especially.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't agree on the differences between shops. Boreli is for older ladies. There are lots and lots of shops all over Serbia that look as fancy or fancier than the one you photographed in Zagreb.
I do agree that people (Serbs and Croats) are obsessed with shoes. Clothes as well. It bothers me that my people go so far to judge you by the brands you wear (mostly in Belgrade). Often times when I enter a nice boutique, the seller will look me over up and down, I feel her judging me from my hairstyle to my socks. What do you think about this? How do you perceive that part of Serbian culture, and what is your reaction to it?
Awesome blog, by the way. I am a Serbian girl, dating an American. He agrees with most things. Actually, we both do :-D