If the Shoe Fits, Wear It by Gary Matheny

I was a shoe salesman before Al Bundy made the profession famous. So begins Gary Matheny’s humorous recollection of his youthful days in the profession that changed his life and set him on the path toward many of his life’s major goals. If the Shoe Fits, Wear It: The Life and times of a Shoe Salesman, is a happily remembered journey to a simpler time, a time when a young man on a mission to make his mark in the world could start a business before he turned twenty, finding business success at an age unheard of today. It was also a time when women, especially young women, came to the malls every weekend in search of the latest fashion for the feet. On arrival they found not only a glorious array of footwear, but young men eager to slip that delicate little foot into the newest styles, make a sale that might include handbags and various shoe polishes and best of all, eager to make a move on a pretty young thing. Matheny’s recollections of those days in Macon, Georgia, from 1969 to 1976, come alive on the page, as he recalls his first days in the ladies shoe business, at the tender age of sixteen. Realizing that bagging groceries would never bring him close to his goals of being cool and meeting lots of cute girls, Matheny began looking for a change. His future was sealed when his best girl, Brendaneeded a new pair of penny loafers and asked him to accompany her to Butler’s Shoes at the new Westgate Mall. The rest, as they say, is history. Matheny moves quickly from being a shoe store employee to becoming a shoe store owner, in moves that take him out of his hometown all the way to Greensboro, North Carolina, where he becomes a Marilyn’s Shoe Store Assistant Manager at age nineteen. He was on the way to the top. Eventually he and his brother, Mickey, make their way back to Macon and have quite a run with stores that bear their name, Michael’s of Macon. These were good days, happy days. But after three years the economy took a downturn and they decided to close the stores. They’d had a good run, but now it was time to get a job! Matheny’s life as a shoe salesman, he makes clear, paved the way for all his future business success. He learned the price you must pay to be successful in any field - the long hours, the being away from home and family all those self-denials that prepare the person for life’s hard knocks. It is a story told through the long lens of history (this was more than thirty years ago) but the nostalgia is neither syrupy nor sweet. It is funny as only good things can be funny.


If the Shoe Fits, Wear It by Gary Matheny
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