Talking about the history of Chinese shoes series No. 53 – the story of plastic shoes

Part 53 of the series on the history of Chinese shoes

The story of plastic shoes

Plastic shoes, because of its cheap, durable, dirty, breathable, convenient, easy to repair characteristics, has been favored by the majority of consumers, in the era of material scarcity of low living standards, it is listed as one of the “four shoes” together with leather shoes, cloth shoes, rubber shoes. Nowadays, under the conditions of extremely rich market economy of footwear products, plastic shoes are still a beautiful landscape in the footwear market with their fashionable styles, exaggerated shapes, bright colors and attractive atmosphere.

The famous writer Ma Dingsheng, in his “Obscure Age”, described a story about plastic shoes in a pure tone. The first sentence of the opening sentence is “In the 60s of the 20th century, middle school students in Beijing were indispensable for a pair of plastic sandals.” ”

In those days, plastic shoes were cheap, durable, dirty, breathable, convenient and easy to repair. Say it’s durable, it’s no problem to wear it for two or three years; It was said that it was cheap, it was only more than 2 yuan a pair at that time, and cloth shoes and leather sandals suddenly took a back seat; It is said that it is resistant to dirt, stains and ashes, and it is clean and new when washed with water on the feet, and it is cool; It is said that it is breathable, eight-sided ventilation, and it is naturally not plastic sandals; Say it’s convenient, and walk barefoot; It is said that it is easy to repair, as long as the iron sheet is burned red, it is “welded” with a hot squeeze at the crack, and a piece of plastic skin can be repaired in the same way.

Plastic shoes have a short history, compared with 5,000-year-old leather shoes, 2,000-year-old cloth shoes, and 100-year-old rubber shoes, plastic shoes are just children who stagger. In the 40s of the 20th century, the United States first made polyvinyl chloride plastic shoes; In the mid-50s, French injection plastic shoes came out; In the 60s, Desheng Plastic Factory in Shanghai was the first to produce plastic shoes, which became popular throughout China. Without plastic, there are no plastic shoes. Speaking of plastic, it is closely related to precious ivory and billiard balls that have swept the world. Ivory, billiards, plastic, one is animal teeth, a billiards ball sports ball, the other is a new synthetic resin material, at first glance, the wind and horses are not comparable, in fact, there is an intrinsic connection.

In the 14th century in the Victorian era of England, the princes and nobles liked billiards, not only luxurious billiard rooms, but also expensive tables and equipment, strict dress and etiquette, civilized manners and environment. As far as billiards is concerned, it was first made of hardwood or brass, and later inspired by Indian ivory ornaments and high-end utensils, it was made of ivory to highlight the aristocratic character of billiards elegance and luxury. One ivory can make five balls, and more than 10,000 elephants are “dedicated” to it every year, which is amazingly expensive. The precise size, precise weight, and high price of billiards limit the development of billiards, and more seriously, behind the white ivory is bloody killing, so that the largest rare animal on land is further accelerating the speed of extinction, and the price of ivory has soared, and ivory billiards, known as “platinum”, is in short supply. By the middle of the 19th century, billiards was developing rapidly in Western countries, and ivory billiards stories were flocking to the story. In order to save costs, a billiards manufacturer in the United States claimed to seek ivory substitutes for billiards for a bounty of $10,000. This $10,000 bounty immediately attracted a lot of attention. John Wesley Haidt, a 28-year-old printer, was no exception, he still quit his career as a printer and began to work on the invention of new materials for billiards, thus making the world’s first polymer polyvinyl chloride resin billiards. Since then, the Haite brothers also invented the plunger injection molding machine, which not only greatly improved the density of resin, but more importantly, created conditions for the wide application of synthetic resin. The billiard ball is hard because it is thermoset; Plastic shoes are soft because they are thermoplastic. Since the application of plasticizers to PVC to produce soft plastics that can be processed, PVC has been widely used. So far, the advantages of PVC in plastic shoes have not changed. Thermoplastic polyvinyl chloride plastic, with light weight, soft, heat insulation, wear resistance, insulation, shock absorption, corrosion resistance, easy forming, low price, wide application characteristics, has become an excellent material for plastic shoes. Plastic shoes have also become a good product that makes consumers shine and is cheap.

The production of plastic shoes in the 60s of the 20th century was to preheat, heat, melt, inject, mold, cool, mold, set and other processes of granular plastics through injection molding machines, that is, to become all-plastic plastic shoes with different forms. The “plastic sandals” under the feet of Beijing middle school students are made in this way. Ma Dingsheng’s plastic shoes at the end of the pen “are first worn and do not need to be changed for two or three years.” The second is the stolen goods, what ink ink, vegetable soup greasy, wiped off. The third is breathable sandals, even socks are saved. Students with sweaty feet, as soon as they start class, they quietly withdraw their feet, and the eight toes are ventilated wantonly, and they can rub their feet against each other a few times when they are happy. Fourth, it is convenient, and the sun and rain are only idle. Going swimming is the best choice, changing clothes without wiping your feet, throwing left and right, pedaling shoes and walking, how dashing?

The most memorable one is saving money. The value of two pieces of eight and five cents, converted to wearing for three years, is a big bargain compared to the four pieces of five cloth shoes that can only be worn for one year. What’s more, if it is worn, you may as well do it yourself as long as a broken saw blade to the guy room or boiler room to heat up, and “weld” the two sides of the broken plastic shoes together, a matter of a second. Broken shoes can be mixed for another two or three months. The word “welding” was “carried forward” by the writer to plastic shoes, which is undoubtedly a coin, because it was originally a metal term. The dictionary word “welding” means “to join metal workpieces with molten metal, or to repair metal objects with molten metal.” Through the creative development of the writer, it has transformed into “joining plastic parts with molten plastic, or repairing plastic objects with molten plastic”. This “welding” in plastic shoes is vividly described by the writer:

Everyone can do the work of “welding shoes”, and it is my classmate Gu Shiqing who can repair it seamlessly. His shoes are nothing special, they look like the owner, ordinary as boiled water, and no one will look at them until the day he is hospitalized for caring for public property… The flatbed tricycle that transported vegetables arrived quickly, and chemistry teacher Song Maigrain volunteered to send Gu Shiqing to the hospital. Gu Shiqing, who was lying in the car, found that there was a sandal missing from his foot, so anxious that he struggled to get up and forced to get out of the car to find it. Song Mai swore to ensure that the sandal was kept for him, and Gu Shiqing reluctantly took the car and left.

Song Mai found the sandals and found that they were really a handicraft. The junction of the crisscrossing plastic straps is easy to crack, Gu Shiqing carefully “welded” with small plastic strips of the same color in advance, the laces were broken, he was not “welded”, but cut the two sides of the oblique barge, so that the “weld” smooth, plus he wore it with love, until the heel was worn by half, and then added a new palm, do not look carefully, it is really the same as semi-new sandals. Looking for replenishment? Who hasn’t thrown a few pairs of broken plastic shoes?

In this way, the method of “welding” to repair plastic shoes is just as Ma Dingsheng wrote, “everyone will”, especially families with difficult lives, burning coal for cooking all year round, plastic shoes are broken hands to capture, repair as they break, and wear them after repair. Traditional leather shoes and cloth shoes need to fly needle threading if they are broken, rubber shoes need to file and glue when they are broken, and only plastic shoes are ironed and squeezed and “welded”, which is the simplest. The reason why this “welding” method is simple is that the uppers, laces, soles, and heels of plastic shoes are all the same PVC material, and there is no problem of foreign material repulsion.

Unfortunately, Gu Shiqing has new plastic shoes and is still reluctant to discard the pair of sandals that have been “welded” like “crafts”. Ma Dingsheng finally wrote: “To say that the skin and flesh of the poor are really vigorous, Gu Shiqing’s legs and belt meat were stitched eleven times inside and outside, and it was only on the sixth day that he came to class on a corner, and he wore new sandals with joy on his feet. But within two days, everyone had forgotten about Gu Shiqing, and only Song Maigrain noticed that he had already put back on those old sandals. What about new shoes? Needless to say, it was given to the younger brother who needed it more. ”

After the 90s of the 20th century, middle school students in Beijing no longer wore plastic sandals, but instead sneakers. Under the conditions of the extremely rich market economy of footwear products, plastic shoe products have not lost their former charm and are still a beautiful landscape of the footwear market. Fashionable styles, exaggerated shapes, bright colors, and alluring atmospheres make consumers love it; Crystal style, air conditioning type, muffin type, cartoon style and other strange styles and decors, consumers are dazzled and full of brilliance. Speaking of materials, there are polyvinyl chloride, ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer, polyurethane, etc., especially degradable environmentally friendly plastics have a broad market; Speaking of structure, there are injection molding type, pouring type, assembly type, etc.; Speaking of uses, there are plastic rain boots, plastic beach shoes, plastic bath shoes, plastic massage shoes, plastic casual shoes, plastic absenteeism shoes, plastic anti-static shoes, etc.; Speaking of varieties, there are flat heel plastic shoes, wedge heel plastic shoes, high heeled plastic shoes, air conditioning plastic shoes, cartoon plastic shoes, foam plastic shoes, crystal plastic shoes, herringbone plastic shoes, cross plastic shoes, etc.; Speaking of production, plastic shoe production has formed a number of production bases, realized large-scale production characterized by socialization and specialization, and become a major producer of plastic shoes; Speaking of the market, plastic shoe products not only meet the needs of domestic consumption, but also exported to the international market. Plastic shoes have never been so colorful and beautiful.

Special mention should be made of plastic slippers and sandals. It keeps pace with the times to adapt to the consumption psychology of consumers’ tense and fast-paced work and life conditions, giving slippers more functions and charms, and giving consumers leisure, comfort, relaxation, comfort, comfort, and fashion… lifestyle. When you put on crystal plastic shoes like white jade, did you think that the people who wore plastic shoes in that era still had a deep love for plastic shoes? It has been reported that a lady treasured a piece of plastic sandals she wore in the eighties of the twentieth century to the present, although it was only three and a half dimes a pair, but she was reluctant to leave it after moving several times, because it was a good memory left by that era, because it always reminded her not to forget that today’s happy life is not easy to come by.

Author: Quan Yue

Editor: Wang Kelin

Originally published in Western Leather Magazine, January 2018

About the Author

You may also like these