I nabbed this pair of North Star sneakers at my local Salvation Army for a mere $3 in 2009. North Star was and is a Bata company, and these particular kicks were popular in the late '70s and into the '80s. I know they have a hipsterish vibe, but I love them. If you want to rock vintage sneaks like these, without looking like a twenty-something street rat, you can. If the rest of your outfit is simple and grown up (basic jeans, simple tee or blouse) they work. And they're comfortable! Good for long shopping missions, chasing small children, walking dogs. Think about it.
Anyone who knows me knows I buy more than 80% of my stuff second hand. I do this for a lot of different reasons, not the least of which being that I love when an item has a little history to it. I also love owning things that are relatively unique. (Nobody likes a muffin/sheep, do they?) Finally, shopping vintage allows me to afford an abundance of things, but also allows me to feel less guilty for participating in a culture of consumption and capitalism. Often, second hand shops have charitable affiliations, and in not buying new, I'm keeping stuff out of landfills, essentially recycling. Right? (RIGHT?)
But enough of all that high horse stuff. The truth is that I just love vintage.
That said, it's one thing to buy a shirt that you can throw in the washing machine and another to stuff your tender tootsies into a pair of old (potentially sweat soaked, and athlete's-foot-infected shoes. Don't be squeamish! Fixing up old footwear is actually easy.
Step 1: if the exteriors are a bit soiled, use a foam furniture cleanser, just on the surfaces, to tidy them up. DO NOT put shoes in the washer. You'll most likely wreck them.
Step 2: Spray the insides with bowling shoe disinfectant! It works. Alternately, I quick, light swipe of the inside, or a light misting with a solution of rubbing alcohol and water should also do the trick. Even a quick shot of Lysol should work. That said, I really wouldn't worry about it. Most things aren't really as toxic as you might imagine. Chill about it. Your feet will be fine.
Step 3 (If necessary): If you found a pair of vintage shoes you absolutely love, but find they have some major defect like a broken heel or sole, consider buying them anyway. Look for a local cobbler to fix them up. New soles or heels can be had for $10 if you've got a good shoe guy. When I was in Vancouver, I swore by Jimmy's Shoe Renu. In Toronto, I haven't yet found a perfect place, but I'll let you know when I do.