Wednesday, May 31, 2023

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    Goods & Services Will Bring Your Old Sneakers Back from the Dead

    One pandemic night two years ago, I was scrolling through my phone, brain matter liquifying into a goopy slurry, when I came across a photo of an old pair of Nike sneakers that stopped me in my tracks. They were beautiful, strange, lightly biophilic, and while I knew they came from the brand’s outdoor-focused ACG line, I knew nothing else. After some light sleuthing, and with some DM help from a friend fluent in rare shoes, I learned they were the Nike Air Terra Albis IIs, which were released in 1998. A few googles later, I located a deadstock pair in my size at Rooks BK (technically a slightly bigger woman’s size, but the colorway—described as a “tidal blue/aquamarine”—was too good to pass up). Added to cart. Checkout.

    They quickly became the favorite child of my shoe rotation, and I wore them everywhere we were permitted to go at the time: to walk the dog. Out on hikes. To walk the dog again. At one point I even managed to sneak them into a GQ spread, which led to the fulfillment of a personal lifelong dream when an Instagram stranger asked “ID on shoes?” in the comments. 

    Then, not even a year later, catastrophe struck when I was going up some stairs and one of the heels broke off. The Zoom foam—two decades old at this point—had started to crumble, and the outsole had begun to peel off like a large scab. I cabbed home and haphazardly attempted to glue everything back together to no avail. The shoes, I thought, were gone—but for whatever reason, I had a hard time tossing them. For the next few months they just sort of sat there on our shoe rack, unworn. 

    Then one day I saw an Instagram Story that featured the work of Goods & Services, a new kind of cobbler shop based in Los Angeles. Except Goods & Services doesn’t exactly work like your average shoe repair shop. Instead, it has attracted a devoted following by doing some truly out-there reconstructive surgery: Birkenstock Bostons retrofitted with shark-like ripple soles. Rick Owens Dunks, rescued from the piss-yellow abyss with clomping new outsoles. Merrell Hydromocs, which are somehow attached on top of chunky Vibram treads. It’s a veritable Frankenshoe laboratory, where dead sneakers are somehow reanimated and reimagined. 

    Maybe the shop could even work some magic on my ACGs.

    “With your shoes and most 10-plus year old ones, the biggest issues are the dried out glue and disintegrating midsole.”

    “When it dries out, it turns into a crusty film that flakes off and can get sticky when you heat it or sand it. It’s a pain in the ass the clean off, but has to be done.” 

    The mad scientist behind Goods & Services is Rory Fortune, a fashion industry veteran who picked up cobbling in 2016 when he relocated from New York to Los Angeles. “It’s like learning to play the guitar or something,” Fortune tells me. “You just keep going, you get a little better, you watch YouTube videos, you pick up tricks.” Eventually, he bought his own treadle machine—an old mechanical sewing machine—on Craigslist for $500 and practiced his stitch. 

    Then he bought a few other large and unwieldy machines that he didn’t have space for, and decided to open up Goods & Services as a physical studio in 2019, and is currently based in LA’s Arts District.

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