From Ferragamo to Flexi

It’s no secret that Red Shoes are Better than Bacon likes her shoes. Cool shoes always held a fascination for her. From Cinderella’s glass slippers to her mother’s yellow satin wedding shoes to the pair of shoes she’d select for that one school day each week when she would wear the non-corrective kind, shoes were magic. Red polka-dotted patent leather flats, shocking pink cowboy boots, black velvet rhinestone-trimmed Mary Janes, kitten heels, French heels, Spanish heels, Cuban heels, blue suede shoes.

She would take measure of another’s worth by shoes and teeth. The wrong shoes or malocclusion were deal-killers.

She would go on to water buffalo sandals, fringed Indian moccasins, Earth shoes, platform shoes, Jack Rogers sandals, high heeled boots, Charles Jourdan pumps, and Gucci loafers (a spare pair still unworn in the original box). One day in 1989, a cast on her leg and in search of Mephistos, she happened upon Frost Brothers’ going-out-of-business sale in San Antonio, spending an extra day en route to Mexico and stockpiling endless treasures which included multiple pairs of the most beautiful shoes in the world in lace-trimmed gold and silver, which still repose unworn.

Finally, she settled upon Ferragamo Vara (priced then at $145 USD) in practically every color and fabric ever manufactured and Mephistos, which she first learned about through J. Peterman, who sold them for $180. By 2013, the same Ferragamos which once sold for under $150 had skyrocketed to just under $500 USD, and Mephistos, once made in France, were now made in China and leaped over the $300 mark.

She had spent years snickering at the Mexican-made sensible shoes which looked like they were made for schoolchildren, old people and lesbians, not that there’s anything wrong with those people, mind you, but she was neither a schoolchild, nor old, nor a lesbian. And then one day, impelled by nothing more than curiosity and time on her hands, she dropped by a Flexi store. And life would change. Not the least of it was being able to find shoes to fit size 9.5 or 10 feet. These shoes were pure, natural leather, inside and out, well-made, light, and rubber-soled.

She bought a pair of what were marketed as School Shoes, simple round-toed, solid, good-quality black pumps. They were instantly as comfortable as old shoes, and she wore them all day long, almost forgetting to take them off before going to bed. And they cost less than $50 USD. She could never imagine that inexpensive shoes could feel so good. She would move on to sandalias pata de gallo (“Rooster feet sandals” sounds much better than thongs.) in three colors, plain and jeweled. She found a favorite pair of bronze ultra-lights that carried her through three continents. Fearful they might be discontinued, she stockpiled an extra pair.

 

58910_NEGRO_DER FlexiNR1 photo391

 

Now, there is a real problem with Flexis. They never wear out. Walk over cobblestones and adoquined streets, walk through puddles in the rain, drive in them, wear them to the market and to a fancy restaurant, subject them to abuse that would have Ferragamos crying for mercy, and they just kept on going. Flexis are the Everready Bunny and Timex of shoes.

Once a week at the mall in Morelia, she would walk past a Mexican version of Michigan Ave.’s Hanig’s Footwear, a store selling fine shoes from Spain: Pikolinos, Hispanitas, El Naturalista. And she would admire the glove-soft leather, gawk over the constant markdowns, almost always coming to the hard realization those shoes seldom came in sizes that would match their price. And she would walk to the next block of the mall, stopping in at the Flexi store just to see what was new.

She would marvel at quality of Flexis, even if most did come in a color palette designed by Henry Ford. “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” But then there were suede moccasins in purple, bright pink, cobalt and red. There just weren’t a lot of styles in bright colors. This is a conservative shoe, after all. High quality at an affordable prices does have its limits.

Grupo Flexi is a genuine Mexican success story. In 1935, 18-year old Roberto Plasencia Gutiérrez started up a small workshop with very little money to make children’s shoes under the name “César,” changing the moniker along the way to “Duende.” In a decade’s time, production increased to 300 pairs of leather shoes a day, and by 1965, the company came to be known as Flexi. The nearly 300,000 pairs of Flexis produced each week in factories employing over 4,300 people in Leon, Dolores Hidalgo, San Luis de la Paz, and San Diego de la Union are not only sold in Mexico but exported to the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Japan. And the company’s still headed up the founder’s own son, Roberto Plasencia Saldaña.

Flexi has 335 stores, and, if those are not enough, Flexis are sold online through its U.S. and Mexican sites.

Red Shoes are Better than Bacon bids farewell to Ferragamo and Mephisto for now. But she really, really wishes that Flexi would come up with red school shoes for her. Maybe she’ll just write the company president and ask.

 

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21 comments on “From Ferragamo to Flexi

  1. Carole Kocian says:

    Similar in looks and materials to San Antonio Shoes. I have several pairs of sensible closed-toe shoes and sandals that fit perfectly and come in wide widths (for small peasant feet) which are becoming easier to find than ever. Styles have evolved from orthopedic looking to fashionable. I wonder if SAS and Flexi are related in the corporate sense. Couldn’t find the Flexi brand shoe on line in SAT but whenever a trip is planned where lots of pavement pounding will happen, SAS shoes are always in the luggage.

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  2. You are soooo girly. You remember what you paid for shoes in 1989?! I can’t remember what I paid for shoes last month.

    I have never bought a pair of Flexis, but you have turned my head. Alas, within the past six months I have purchased two pairs of new shoes (boots and loafers), which means — given my age — I may never buy another shoe in my life. But if I ever need more shoes, I will give Flexi a try.

    How much did Flexi pay you for this post?

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    • Felipe, give Flexi a try. Its stores cater to different consumer bases; what you see in Patzcuaro or Morelia’s Centro is much different from what’s available in Altozano. And if your size is not available in the store, they’ll make it available within 8 days or so.

      Flexi is to the shoe world what Mexican dentistry is to the world of teeth: an unheralded aspect of this great country.

      Flexi doesn’t even know that I published this post.

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  3. Barbara says:

    These are very nice looking and red. Check them out. FLEXI – TELMA 21901 RED I will try a pair of Flexi – had not known of them until your post. The most to-die-for comfortable shoes I’ve ever had the joy to wear are the Shake style from Hotter. Made in England and oh my….unlike anything I’ve ever known existed.

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    • Those moccasins came in red, purple, cobalt and shocking pink, very well-made and comfortable. I’ve tried them on, considered buying them, but the style really wasn’t for me.

      Those Hotter shoes looked very nice, and, by Estadounidense standards, were reasonably priced, but they still were more expensive than Flexi.

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  4. deborah says:

    flexis rock!

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  5. Joana says:

    Great topic. Wonderfully written. Love the reference to Michigan Ave’s Hanig Footwear. That was my place for shoes. Here in Oaxaca I love the Flexis. They are carried in many zapaterías and there is a stand-alone Flexi store too.

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  6. Don Cuevas says:

    This is inspiring. Maybe I won’t have to buy my shoes in los Estados Unidos. I believe that there’s a Flexi store in Galería de Zapatos, next to Sam’s Club original warehouse, on Av. Enrique Ramírez in Morelia.

    If only they have my size. By the way, I hate shopping for shoes, but will do it if there’s no way out of it, and as long as we don’t spend more than 30 minutes in the shoe store.

    Saludos,
    Don Cuevas

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    • Wherever you go, there is a Flexi store nearby. See http://www.flexi.com.mx/ubicacion.html for a directory. I only which the web designer would learn geography and put the Altozano marker where it belongs.

      Not all Flexi stores are the same. They’re very much geared toward their market, but they will order in the style or size you need. Yes, there is one at the Galeria de Zapatos, but I think you might enjoy the Altozano store more.

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  7. Peter says:

    If you’re ever in Vancouver try this place…

    http://www.fluevog.com

    Cheers!

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  8. babsofsanmiguel says:

    Flexi manufactures and sells in the USA under the namebrand of Hushpuppies! Yup, and I”ve heard but have not confirmed that they are the ones making Merrill’s in Mexico, which I have found to be the best, best walking shoes for the cobblestones of San Miguel and other places.

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  9. Merrell is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wolverine World Wide. Take a peek inside those shoes sometime, and you’ll find that they’re Hecho en China.

    Flexi’s directer general has been very outspoken about the threats Chinese imports have made to the Mexican economy.

    I would find it very interesting that Flexi would have manufacturing operations in the US, under any license, and I think Flexi might find that interesting as well.

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  10. I only wear Flexi’s and would love a few really fun colors…I always check for in Flexi stores when I travel! keep up the great info and fun blog.

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  11. Victoria, let’s ask Flexi if they could make shoes in good colors? What are the two or three styles you’d like to see in fun colors?

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  12. Tancho says:

    Unfortunately Flexi doesn’t provide shoes for my size, that of EE or EEE which Mephisto does. Luckily, Mephisto offers a program where you can send in the worn shoes for a complete redo for around 75 bucks. The Mephistos I purchased 10-15 years ago are still being used and I think that since i am not a fashionista, they will last me until my demise…
    Had Flexi made a extra wide, I might have been tempted to purchase one…
    But no.

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  13. Mephisto’s basic resole job is now $95 with complete refurb going for $140. And for those of us who are without a US mailing address, it’s tough.

    But I’m with you, because I wish that Flexi made narrower sizes for delicate Cinderella feet.

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  14. Monica McGloin says:

    I wear nothing but Flexis, latest pair in red suede, the most divinely comfortable shoe ever! Thanks to a series of surgeries, right leg is considerably shorter than the other, hence, a major problem in walking, let alone asthetics…My fine orthopedic shoe man here in Morelia adapted the right shoe to something that almost looks stylish and very mod! I’d never wear anything else!

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  15. In the middle 90’s Flexi used to sell ugly but atomic bomb resistant shoes. They are now in the “bueno, bonito y barato” category (good, pretty and affordable) and keep their mythological durability. I have several pairs of Flexis and I love them.

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