From the Archives of the Manolo: The Cheap and the Ugly

By Manolo the Shoeblogger

Manolos says, the Manolo he is often asked the question, “Manolo, what sort of the shoe should I absolutely not wear?”

This question, it is so easy to answer. Under no of the circumstances should you ever wear the ugly shoes or the cheap shoes.

The Manolo, he knows that the temptation for the cheap shoes, it is great. What with the rent and the foods and the many different bills, you are finding it difficult to get by on what “the man” he pays you.

So, you are the shopping when you see these boots, selling for under fifty of the dollars.

Gabriella Rocha - Hedy (Black) - Women's   Manolo Does Not Like!   Do Not Click!

Yes it is the knee-length boot, in the black. It’s not the best looking boot, but you only have fifty of the dollars, and like all of the super fantastic girls you need the boots in the black knee-length, so you ask the shopgirl to get it for you in the your size.

Manolo shouts, NOOOooooo!

Do not, under any of the circumstances, give in to the temptation and buy this boot!

It is the cheap, cheap, cheap, manufactured in the China with the plastic and the leather made from the roadkilled pets! It will not fit properly, it will fall apart quickly, and it looks only okay, not the super fantastic.

Manolo says, you will always regret the purchasing of the cheap shoes.

Manolo he reminds you that the cheap it is different from the inexpensive, from the bargain. Who does not love the bargain? The bargain, it is the classic, super fantastic shoe at the good price.

The cheap it is the the awful shoe at any price.

Manolo says, the second sort of shoe you should never consider the wearing of, is the ugly shoe.

Birkenstock Boston Microfiber   Manolo Hates!  Do Not Click!

The Manolo he does not need to say any more.


31 Responses to “From the Archives of the Manolo: The Cheap and the Ugly”

  1. incredulous Says:

    400 dollars? That’s luxury, perhaps at a bargain, but still luxury and irresponsible spending for most. You can get a gorgeous boot on sale for say, $100 that will also last years.

  2. VeddyVeddyBadAng Says:

    But Manolo! I have been trying to follow your rule, and I have indeed bought a few of the good-quality, more expensive shoes (for me). But when I go to my closet to pick something to wear to my job, populated with approximately seven people, zero of whom know anything about super-fantastic shoes, and I think “Why WASTE my beautiful shoes and risk scuffing them when no one knows the difference anyway?” So instead, on my feet go the Target shoes. Same thing for a night out on the one-horse-town. “Oh, my $225 sandals – they are not worthy of the streets around here. I will SAVE them for such a time as I can wear them around people who know.” Unfortunately, that time rarely comes. So I go to my closet to visit my pretty shoes, and then shut the door and head to the store in the flip-flops.

    What to do?

  3. Annalucia Says:

    VeddyVeddyBadAng, I think you should wear the superfantastic shoes even if you are surrounded by people who do not appreciate them; you will feel better, your back will be straighter and your strides longer, and your eyes will sparkle for the sheer joy of wearing them. The Annalucia, she has much the same reaction when she wears her underwear made of silk. Nobody can see it (except her husband, after hours) but the pleasure of having it on improves her mood tremendously.

  4. Mary Says:

    The Mary, she hangs her head with the shame… I have partaken of the shoes of the ugly… Not willingly, however. I beg the Manolo for the forgivemess. I broke the pinky toe and was forced by the doctor to wear the sister’s ugly shoes so as not to bring the injury back to the toe. The soul, however… very injured. The sister… disowned. But at least I spent none of then dollars for the ugly, right?

  5. Phoebe Mittens Says:

    Meh, I’m with VeddyVeddyBadAng and Incredulous. The superfantastic shoes, worn every day, become the superfantastic expense and the major row with your bank manager.

    There’s nothing wrong with having special, beautiful things sometimes, and I agree that shoes of uncommon cheapness are probably a false economy, not to mention ethically dodgy. But not everyone can take a taxi to work, and there are plenty of shoes, clothes, and handbags that are of good, lasting quality and comfort without necessarily being a flight of perfect designer fancy. There is, I feel, a middle ground, and it is not necessarily one that involves subjecting oneself to The Ghastly Sales.

  6. The Scarlett Says:

    VeddyVeddyBadAng, The Scarlett agrees with The Annalucia. Don’t save the superfantastic shoe for only the special occassion. With that kind of attitude, nothing will measure up to the shoe; you said yourself “that time rarely comes.”

    If you have a closet full of pretty shoes, you owe it to yourself and to your feet to wear them. I believe Joan Didion said, “Everyday is all there is.” The Scarlett is the kind of gal that wears Ferragamo to the grocery and uses her Sterling everyday. She would rather have one pair of superfantastic shoes than five or six pair of cheap shoes. The Scarlett is also secretly the kind of gal that looks at the shoes quickly when she meets someone new; the shoes tell her stories that the wearer will not immediately reveal.

    Be like the Joan Didion: Embrace that ‘everyday is all there is.’

  7. fashoenista Says:

    Thank you Manolo for encouraging people not to buy shoes made in China. There are plenty of shoes out there that are of good quality and are made in countries that you know have a tradition in shoe-making, for example Spain and Portugal. Even Brazil produces good shoes. These days you can’t even trust designer shoes or bags for many of them are made in… China. Keneth Cole, Ralph Lauren, etc. Check the labels!!! If it’s made in China, don’t buy it. Wait for the sales or go on ebay or check out some of the online outlet stores! You may need to call customer service to figure out where the shoe was made. I find it disturbing that many online websites do not list the origin of the product, so ask away and maybe one of these days they’ll start listing it.

  8. deja pseu Says:

    Having just purchased two lovely pairs of Italian-made shoes from the J. Crew on the superfantastic sale, (half of the original price), the Deja is of the mind that while the Extra Special shoes are always nice to have and are indeed an investment, the Very Nice Everyday shoes can be had for less than $100 of the American dollars. Those Bruno Magli boots are indeed lovely, but alas the house needs painting and I must close my ears to their siren’s song for the next few months.

  9. Lori Says:

    The cheap shoes aren’t so cheap when you have to go to the podiatrist, as my friend did. His doctor advised him to stop buying his shoes at Wal-Mart.

    And yes, you get what you pay for, but in some cases you’re paying for designer label prestige.

  10. McSarah Says:

    I believe that I have found the shoe that both The Manolo AND the podiatrist will agree should never be worn.

  11. Tia Nieve Says:

    The Tia agrees with the Annalucia and the Scarlett. One’s everyday wear should always be superfantastic, of good quality, and fit properly. Caring for one’s superfantastic shoes, by cleaning and polishing them and making sure the soles and heels are properly repaired is by far a smaller expense than the indiscriminate purchase of poor quality and ugly shoes.

    The Tia asks VeddyVeddy to reconsider whether her coworkers are worthy of her superfantastic shoes. Cannot people be taught, by example, to appreciate the things of finer quality? Can the VeddyVeddy not be the means by which her uncivilized coworkers be tamed and brought into the embrace of beauty?

    Finally, the Tia gently corrects the Phoebe Mittens on her perception of the superfantastic. as a “flight of perfect designer fancy.” Impractical and frivolous clothing is never superfantastic.

    The Phoebe is perhaps possessed of the simple casual style, with her good, comfortable clothes and accessories of the good quality. These too, dear Phoebe, are superfantastic, and thus, so, too perhaps is the Phoebe herself.

  12. Rob D. Says:

    McSarah has found clear hooker heels. The kind of women who wear that kind of shoe are usually not on their feet for long periods of time.

    As people have said previously, you get what you pay for. The expensive shoes are not just for special occasions, they’re for every occasion. You are not only paying for a name, you’re paying for a particular quality. Something which hopefully, will stand the test of every day wear and fashion. Scuffs can be polished, straps can be fixed, but a broken foot can haunt you until you die. Even if your friends or coworkers can’t appreciate your beautiful shoes, you should at least take the time to enjoy them yourself.

    Speaking as a man, it’s better for me to buy one pair of $360 shoes instead of four pairs of $90 shoes. My feet will appreciate it, and in the long run, I am paying less for shoes.

  13. Nancy Says:

    I live in a very small city in Northwest FLA, and I wear my superfantastic Yves St. Laurent, Michael Kors, MiuMiu’s etc. EVERYWHERE and ALL THE TIME. You wanna live your life in rubber flip flops and shorts just because you’re a freakin’ parrothead, you go right ahead. Not this girl…and if you need superfantastic boots, wait until the end of the season and buy yourself some Galo boots at 75% off. I’ve got a closetful and they are timeless. If you can get something superfantastic that was $600 and is marked down that much, who cares where you live and who will see them? Trust me, your soul will resonate with the fabulousness of your footwear and people WILL and DO notice. My mother always said you can buy your dress from the $10 store, but you’d better wear superfantastic shoes. And she was right!
    I can bang up my hurricane shutters in a pair of Daisy Dukes and 5″ wedges right along with the best of ’em. Now excuse me while I go fire up the El Camino. In some fine footwear.

  14. Tinuviel Says:

    Agreed that Super Fantastic shoes are meant to be worn. This also goes for Super Fantastic anything, actually. I never understood the idea of putting things away because they are “too nice” to wear.

    Agreed also that high-quality shoes are a better investment in the long run, as they can often be infinitely polished, re-soled, re-heeled, etc.

    I recently discovered cedar shoe trees, which extend the life of a fine shoe even more.

    And Mary–been there, broke that, bought the ugly shoes, alas. Also–is there any way to wear sandals in Europe and NOT get massive blisters?

  15. jrochest Says:

    And the plastic shoes, they make the closet smell like dead cats in 72 hours, minimum.

    Cheap shoes corrode the soul and the feet in equal proportions. They look good for two hours and hellish for three years. This is because they wear out , but not enough to throw away, within two weeks of purchase: because they are “still good” you keep wearing them for a year, despite the fact that they look like piles of crap, in the hopes that they will look shabby enough to throw away — but they never do.

    Good shoes look fabulous for a year or so, broken in but still good for another year, and even beyond this — when they are elderly and incredibly comfy, are still obviously Todds or Prada or Choo.

    Buy the good shoes. Only buy the crap if you throw it away at the end of the evening.

  16. Miss Clairol Says:

    I agree with the fashoenista. So many designer goods are made in China, it’s disturbing. Coach stopped making its bags in the U.S. and shifted almost all its production to China. The quality is worse and yet the bags are even more expensive. (Many Coach shoes, however, are made in Italy.) Hell, that “it bag,” the Kooba Sienna, is $600 and it’s made in China!

    And while an “imported” designation on a Web site should raise red flags that the shoe or bag may be from China, it’s not a foolproof code word. For example, on Fridays I got a pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes at the Nordstrom sale, made in Spain. But at, they’re listed as “imported.”

    Nothing beats a pair of Italian-made shoes. But Spain, Portugal and even Brazil are all vastly preferable to China. I like my fine leather goods to come from a place with a tradition in making fine leather goods. My feet do too.

    Oh. At, the “advanced search” allows you to search for shoes by country of origin. A great feature that other shoe sites (like the otherwise fab Zappos) should look into getting.

  17. incredulous Says:

    But there is something between Walmart and Couture. I disagree that a $360 shoe necessarily will last longer than my $100 ones, when the $100 shoes I purchase tend to be half off and well chosen. No matter how fine the shoe, the toes and sides of my heels DO get scuffed walking to the subway, winding my way through the station, trains, transfers, sidwalks through Times Square… That, and I am saving to buy an apartment sometime before I retire. Of course, when I rule the world, I will purchase myself luxury shoes, which is why I love this blog, but until then…

  18. The Charlotte Allen Says:

    The Charlotte must add her voice to those of Tia, Annalucia, and The Scarlett, who say: Buy and religiously the very best shoes that you can possibly afford. Agreed, it is important to save for the future, and if I had kids (and, sadly, I have none), I’d go barefoot to provide for them the things they’d need. And there are good bargains to be had among the well-made products available from J. Crew, Eddie Bauer and the like, especially if you look good in a classic-casual sort of shoe (which I don’t, although many women do).

    But I can’t tell you how much a pair of elegant, high-fashion shoes will improve whatever else you’re wearing, no matter how cheap or old. I’m writing my doctoral dissertation, so, in my currently impoverished state, I’ve bought scarcely any new clothes in years. But I do carefully invest in a few, just a few pairs of designer shoes each year, along with a tiny collection of Coach bags (all bought on sale or at Loehmann’s or Filene’s). They turn my 10-year-old skirts and five-year-old blouses into eye-catching outfits. Designer shoes get scuffed and worn, but the fine leather polishes up beautifully, and a good shoemaker can replace soles and heels. Furthermore, well-designed shoes are classics–I’ve got a couple pairs of Charles Jourdains from the early 1980s that I still wear (some I had to throw out when my feet grew a half-size), and most of my party shoes date from the 1990s. You can keep Manolo Blahniks forever.

    Sure, some of the lower-end brands produce high-fashion shoes–but they wear out and go out of style overnight. They’re great for teens, tweens, and young, gorgeous college and working things who’d look good in anything and for whom fashion changes hourly (and if I had a teen-age daughter, my rule would be Payless or go get a job)–but not for gals my age who need all the help we can get.

  19. VeddyVeddyBadAng Says:

    Aha, thank you Charlotte Allen. I have been reading the comments and learning and absorbing – thanks everyone. But I think Charlotte hits it on the head – I’ve been wanting the trendy, most up-to-date shoes, and have a hard time explaining a $300 bill for shoes that will be out of style in two years.

    But the funny thing is, even my $30 boots from Target, I think “They will be out of style in a year, and I can just pitch them.” But I am such a miser, that I forget how much they cost, and hang on to them for five years anyway!

  20. Texasexile Says:

    I sit here in a pair of $400 Kate Spade (purchased on sale for around $100) pumps, paired with the $10 dress I purchased from the Gap approx eight years ago]. I am surrounded by people in Payless shoes who would likely be horrified by my annual shoe budget. Who cares? The superfantastic shoes make the day better!

  21. Jessica Says:

    The commentors of the Manolo, especially here, are like the very nice buttercream icing on the very rich cake — many thanks to the Scarlett, the Annalucia, the Tia Nieve and the Charlotte Allen for their comments, and the Miss Clairol for the information about Shoebuy.

    Sadly, it is my experience that “cheap” and “available in wide widths” frequently go together (though the Stuart Weitzman is good in making shoes for wide feet). One gets disheartened fast by being limited to the Naturalizer and the Trotters.

    I also wanted to ask the deja pseu how one takes care of the cute J.Crew suede made-in-Italy shoes. Besides not being available in the wide, they look like they’d crumble at the first drop of rain.

  22. jj Says:

    One of the keys to keeping superfantastic shoes is to find a good shoe repair man and take them in for regular maintenence. While I don’t do a bad job cleaning them up, my shoe man works absolute magic on scuffs and worn heels… and for a fraction of the cost of a new pair at Payless. If you treat your good shoes like investments, buy classic and take good care of them, the superfantastic shoes will live with you for many happy years. Plus, they may not be as comfortable as the birkenstocks, but well made shoes offer better support and comfort.

    Although, the jj too, she buys the more moderately priced superfantastic shoe and haunts the Nordstroms sale rack for bargains.

  23. deja pseu Says:

    The first thing with the J.Crew and any other shoes with a leather sole is to get them to a shoe repair and have the half sole added and the heel tip replaced with the rubber ones. Even the good shoes often have the plastic heel tips, which is shameful. The Deja also has the wide foot, which was why she was extra delighted to find the J.Crew shoes to be comfortable as well as stylish. The Deja is learning that often the shoes in “regular” widths can accommodate the wide foot with comfort. Having seen nothing in the construction of the J.Crew shoes that would lead one to believe that they are the water-soluble variety, the Deja will reserve judgement on the durability.

  24. Tinuviel Says:

    Jessica–Salvatore Ferragamo makes fine shoes in a C width as well.

  25. Jessica Says:

    deja: ooh. thanks for the info on the J.Crew and the shoecare in the general. The shoecare has been a concern of mine (which is why so many of my shoes are cheap cheap cheap).

    Tinuviel: True! Will have to save up for these.

    I must admit that today I am wearing Old Navy jelly flip-flops. And they are very comfortable Old Navy jelly flip-flops.

  26. woodcock Says:

    To add to all the sensible comments here, the Isabella Blow (the McQueen’s and the P. Treacy’s friend and the fashion stylist), has admitted that after the divorce and the disinheritance, she can only afford to buy two pairs of the shoes a year, but the only shoes she will wear are by the Blahnik and the John Lobb. As the stylist, a lot of the swag probably comes her way, but still, this statement comforts me. She could probably buy twenty of the cheaper shoes from the high street, instead of the two of the Lobbs and the Blahniks, so if she can resist the cheap shoes, I can.

    In addition to the J. Crew shoes, I also recommend the somewhat affordable, comfotable and well made street shoes by the French shoemakers, Repetto, which primarily does the ballet shoes, and now are distributed in some of the NY Stores and some of the recent ladies’ shoes by the Brooks Brothers. The Serge Gainsbourg was a fan of the Repettos.

  27. AskMom Says:

    AskMom, she sympathizes with those who must traverse the streets and undergrounds of the NYC and other gritty treacherous metropolitan jungles. She too has worried about the hazards her fabulous shoes faced there. One idea the AskMom can share is to have a pair of “subway shoes” – not the obscene out-of-place “athletic” shoes that demean the wearer and the observer both, no, but a pair of worn, even tattered yet unmistakably fine shoes used to spare the others. If you have no old faithfuls that can fulfill this mission for you, accquire some from the wise auntie or the jumble sale at the church in the vastly magnificent neighborhood. Shoes connect you to reality and transmit to the world what you think of yourself. Be super fabulous every day!

  28. kibbles Says:

    Something to be noticed about the more expensive shoes, and the more expensive clothing.

    Classic shoes, and often, classic clothes, well made, tend to be more forgiving, size-wise. Real leather fits your foot better than the unyielding plastic of the Target shoe, just like the seams are well made on decent clothing and don’t pucker and make you look like the sausage as cheap clothing does.

    So it may be worth a little bit of time to try on the superfantastic shoes of quality, to see if the regular widths fit the foot that would be considered wide when encased in plastic or leather made from roadkill.

  29. VeddyVeddyBadAng Says:

    I love the Manolo and his readers! Everyone is so gracious and helpful.

  30. EvanaJoy Says:

    I must admit to being one of the cheap shoe wearers. Although I must admit that I have never owned any of the REALLY expensive shoes (Ecco shoes on sale are a rather big investment to me), I have often found that more expensive shoes last just about as long as the really cheap ones. (I probably buy 4 to 6 pairs of shoes a year — usually either at Walmart or Sierra Trading Post.)

    I have large feet — 10 1/2 to 11 — and the shoes need to be wide so that I don’t repeatedly turn my ankle that was very badly sprained several years ago. I don’t wear heels, because I live in a four story house and climb through two to three stories usually at least 10 times a day. I’m a genealogy and history researcher, and the courthouse where I spend a lot of time has high bookcases and I have to climb on chairs and stools to get to the things in the upper shelves.

    Besides all that, I’m blessed to live in a “walking town” and usually walk about a mile a day as I go to the library, courthouse, and post office.

    But, I know that I’m in unusual circumstances — and more power to those who have the situation, physical build, and money to buy the expensive heels!

  31. Italian Chic Says:

    I love my cheap shoes, but I went with my husband to NYC this weekend and we went to the Manolo store and he bought me a sexy pair of black pumps ( only the 2 1/2 inch heels) it was like putting my feet into splender!! I wore them today at work and i feel so sexy with them on (not that i need to be sexy for work)! I will still be wearing my cheap shoes but my Manolo’s are the cream of the crop!! The sales girl told us that Manolo’s are like Lays chips, you can’t have just one pair!! She’s right, now i can’t wait till my next wedding anniversay in hopes of getting another pair!! So between my Burberry purse and my Manolo’s, you can’t tell me i am not sexy!!!

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